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Better Categories

by James

In the last three months we’ve been working on a review of categories on Folksy. We’ve read your feedback, reviewed the site analytics and tested our assumptions and ideas. Now, we’re confident that the updated navigation will be better for you and your customers.

Category Review

We used a variety of different methods to analyse category performance:

  • Google / web analytics – to see how people enter and exit (and move around) categories. Good for existing category performance.
  • User testing the site – to see how people use categories and describe their browsing experience. Good to test out existing and planned categories but only in small groups as very time intensive.
  • Card sorting – a method to determine how people group together concepts / words. Good for testing out existing and planned categories. Scales reasonably well.

Each of these methods has its own benefits and also its own weaknesses but when taken together they provide a good means through which to assess performance.

What categories ‘do’

Categories act as a pointers to the kinds of thing a site sells: they are one of the ways to navigate around.

In sites where the stock is well known then categories are relatively easy to determine. If you sell footwear for example you might have Men, Women, Children as your top categories followed by different styles for example, casual and formal, or type such as trainers, boots, shoes, loafers, slippers etc. In a marketplace like Folksy where people could feasibly make just about anything (lunar spacecraft might be a challenge) it becomes slightly harder. We have to prioritise and adapt according to what people search for as well as what people list. We mediate between the two parties of buyers and sellers and try to reduce the friction involved in discovering things people might want to buy.


Last year we implemented a new pattern for categories to Folksy. We followed the standard e-commerce model with the main section headings acting as a funnels to a much greater number of associated categories. This pattern widely used by department stores (for example see John Lewis).

The new categories were driven by sellers explicitly deciding where their item should go and putting their work ‘into’ a category. This replaced a hybrid category system we used to have that worked on keywords to determine categories.

We tested the ecommerce navigation pattern before releasing it and it worked well. It was familiar to people and it made them feel comfortable. However, there were also some issues. The most significant issue was that it forced jewellery makers and people making bags, sleeves and accessories to choose between a male and female audience when their products were often unisex.

These are the ‘headline’ things we have discovered through our analysis:

Many item and shop pages perform better as landing pages than category pages do. This is not entirely surprising as some items get shared widely and may become ‘viral’, shared amongst friends of friends on sites like Facebook and Stumbleupon and services like Twitter.

“Men” and “Women” as labels do not act as good ‘wayfinders’ into the kind of content Folksy has. Approximately one third of everything for sale on Folksy is a jewellery or accessory item. Yet neither are mentioned in the core navigation. For people coming to Folksy for the first time (wherever they land) this isn’t particularly helpful – more useful pointers would, we believe, provide better jumping off points into the content.

A formal taxonomy / category system is only part of the solution to browsing a marketplace. A common browsing behaviour on Folksy is often referred to”wilf-ing” or “what was I looking for?”. Having landed on Folksy they scan the content then follow interesting links, creating random trails of exploration. They aren’t necessarily guided by a premeditated decision to search for something specific, rather they want to be inspired or to discover something new, something unusual. So whilst categories work to help people browse, other prompts and features are also important such as search, tags / facets, editorialised content (gift guides, featured sellers) and also best sellers.

More labels are helpful. Category labels often act as prompts. Many people don’t know what to look for so are looking for prompts. The benefit of seeing lots of prompts needs to be balanced against the ‘overhead’ of processing all the labels (we can only hold around 10 things in our heads at any one time) and the space a large site-wide navigation would take up.

Makers don’t tend to make many things for men. There are roughly eight times more items available in the Women’s section than in the Men’s.

Labels/categories don’t need to be ‘logical’. Due to the type of work available through Folksy (and the number – over 130,000 items as I write) people don’t always think ‘rationally’ about particular categories. Combining practices (sewing, silversmithing) with items seems to help rather than hinder browsing. Some people want to explore through a variety of different views on the data (the items available).

New Categories

As a result of the review we have decided to change the category system to the following core section headers.

  • Jewellery
  • Clothes and Accessories
  • Home and Garden
  • Weddings and Parties
  • Art and Cards
  • Craft Supplies

The main changes are obviously using Jewellery and Clothing and Accessories instead of Men and Women. The other significant changes are:

  • Bringing Babies and Children under other relevant categories, so for example nursery will become a room in Home and Garden just like Kitchen and Dining, and babies’ clothes and shoes under Clothes and Accessories.
  • Pulling out party and event items from Babies and Children (which wasn’t performing well enough) and putting these within a section “Weddings and Parties”.

For a full breakdown of the new categories, please refer to this spreadsheet.

How will it affect you?

Only those people who list in Jewellery will have to re-categorise their work. All other items will be merged or moved automatically.

People who list in Jewellery will have to select a sub-category for their work. This will help people find their work more effectively. When the revised navigation is launched all Jewellery items will be placed in the sub-category “all”. You can then move your work to the relevant category using the bulk listing editor.

Your Feedback

We want your feedback on the proposed categories before we implement them.

Take a look at the proposed changes. The category changes are in yellow and we have included information on how the changes will affect different items.

If you have any feedback or comments please leave it via Suggested Features in Support. Only feedback provided through Suggested Features will be considered in the review.

The closing date for feedback is the 21st September.

When will this happen?

The navigation on Folksy will be changed on or before the 1st October after we have reviewed feedback. The bulk edit facility will enable people to move their work quickly and easily.

There will be no further public facing work released between October and December this year. After the major changes we released last year we appreciate that you’re busy focusing on making and selling and don’t want to be distracted with any new features or functionality. That doesn’t mean we’ll stop developing, on the contrary we’ll be continuing to improve the service but will not release any significant changes until the New Year.


Last year we had a specific category for Christmas items and people have asked for this again. It was a temporary category and meant for things that were part of Christmas, such as Christmas Stockings, rather than potential Christmas gifts as *everything* on Folky is a potential gift.

The Christmas decorations category is now live and listed, as last year, under “Home and Garden” in the top navigation.

The category will be live until the end of January. Anything still for sale after this time will be able to be bought but will only be able to be found through search or via a direct link.

Going forward

We’ll be monitoring the new categories during the busy Christmas period and will provide a review of performance in the New Year.

Other findings from this review will be tested again and it is our intention to continue to find ways to improve the browsing experience with different and interesting ways into the variety of things available to buy on Folksy.

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K Jackson September 12, 2012 - 3:49 pm

Love the proposal! It sounds logical and familiar to me. Looking forward to improved sales (fingers crossed!) Thanks to Folksy for working hard to constantly improve the buying and selling experience.

James September 12, 2012 - 5:59 pm

Thanks Kaye.

Paper Daisy September 12, 2012 - 5:17 pm

Sounds great, but could there be a category for “cards” under the “Christmas” heading? Last year it was a struggle to find any where to put Christmas cards and I think that if I were coming to the site to look for Christmas cards, it would be more intuitive to look under “Christmas” rather than “Cards and Art”. This would reflect the way major stores layout their Christmas stock – their Christmas cards are with Christmas decorations etc.

James September 12, 2012 - 5:57 pm

Fair point. This would mean losing Christmas cards from the art and cards section. We’ll look at this as part of the review and feed back as part of the review blog post.

heather aka NiftyKnits September 12, 2012 - 6:07 pm

Great to see Christmas back again, and I think I agree with PaperDaisy about Christmas cards. I admire your confidence about automatic merging!

James September 12, 2012 - 6:38 pm

Automatic = back end administrative work :)

angie September 12, 2012 - 6:49 pm

I too welcome these changes, I’ve been hoping the categories were going to be looked at for a while as my sales have flatlined and I think these have a lot to do with it. Can I ask that the art section be looked at? I sell prints which because of the categories I have to put under digital art. I’m not sure many people actually wake up thinking I’m going to buy a piece of digital art today…

Also it would be good to know how many people are viewing our items and what keywords are being used to find them. This would help us title our products.

James September 12, 2012 - 7:23 pm

Hi Angie, We believe the global navigation will be better with these changes and lead to more people finding things they want. However, we do know that handmade work and art is something that people don’t wake up thinking they ‘need’ especially – they most often stumble upon things they like and decide to buy it. So we are working on better ways to surface work – for example, practices (illustration, silversmithing, ceramics), ‘popular’ (views today, now etc.), colour, geography. Art is something that is particularly hard to categorise for the reason that many people just know they like something when they see it – they don’t think ‘drawing’ any more than ‘digital art’. Artists, however, seem to have particularly strong opinions about how their work should be categorised, which map to how other artists look to others’ work and have been quite vocal about this. What may be better for art is to have categories like “landscape”, “portrait”, “still life”, “figurative”? We’d welcome your feedback on this through the suggested features link in the post.

Elaine September 12, 2012 - 6:56 pm

sounds great to me – thank you for working so hard on this. Thanks too for the Christmas category – will make life a lot easier! Elaine

Heidi September 12, 2012 - 9:18 pm

I welcome these changes and agree with Angie about the art categories being difficult – I make embroidered and appliqué artworks which I guess should be classed as textile art, but I do think textile art is considered by buyers to be more specialised ( and also more abstract) than my pictures, which puts me in the strange position of not wanting to call my pictures textile art, as I think people have preformed opinions of what textile art is. At this point in time I don’t have definitive suggestions though, but will certainly be putting my thinking cap on… Perhaps the features in folksy emails or on the homepage might present more opportunities.

Paul September 12, 2012 - 11:31 pm

Sorry James. I think your assessment of the art categories, and what buyers want, is way off the mark. Art buyers are a little more savvy. You need to create a fine art print section, because, at the moment, us artists would be forced to put our prints in a inappropriate section. Some people the look of paintings over traditional print art (lino, etching etc), but cannot afford an original piece, so where do they look? ‘Paintings’ or ‘other prints’? Do you see what I’m driving at?

James September 13, 2012 - 8:31 am

Thanks for your feedback Paul. Have you any evidence to back this up? I’d love to see it. We don’t do things off instinct but test our ideas to make sure they are sound. My feeling for how people search for art was just that, a feeling, which I wanted to get feedback on and then test so your evidence would help, thanks.

Paul Bailey September 13, 2012 - 9:17 am

Hi James. It’s my experience that I’m drawing on. I’ve stewarded a few decent art exhibitions (I also had work on display) – interacting with the art-buying public is invaluable if I’m going to push my own business forward in the future – and I also participated in an art fair recently. Buyers recognise the difference between original art and a print, although, to the eye, they can look identical. Some people, and patrons, cannot afford my original work, so they opt for a print. Some people buy a print to see if the original painting will match their interior colour scheme before they ‘splash-out’! All we’re asking for is a small tweak in you categories. Could it adversely effect the sales if the ‘tweak’ was implemented? My sales, on here, have also ‘flatlined’ contrary to my experiences elsewhere.

P.S. I forgot to mention, it would be good to have the ‘landscape’, ‘portrait’ etc., sections too.

Rachel September 13, 2012 - 9:41 am

Hello Folksy, I love the changes! You’ve done a fab job. Just a little aside, in the cuff sub-section you haven’t really catered for anything like pearl and crystal cuffs for example. I understand that many of those items would probably be listed under ‘weddings’ but perhaps you should add an ‘occasion jewellery’ section for people who want something special? It’s a bit of a pain from a potential customers viewpoint to have to look under everything to find something they want for a special occasion, or have to look under weddings when it’s not really somewhere they need to be. Does that make sense? :-)

James September 13, 2012 - 10:06 am

Hi Rachel, good point. Could you suggest them in the suggested features link? There are 25 items when search for “pearl cuff” and 42 for “crystal cuff” as it is. We’ll have a look at searches for these terms too to see what people are looking for around “cuff”. Thanks.

Helen Rawlinson September 13, 2012 - 1:58 pm

Hi James,
could we please have a ‘lighting’ subcategory in home and garden that’s on view from the drop down box rather than having to click view all, I find it slightly confusing when only some titles come up on the main drop down box and not others and lighting is quite an important one (biased viewpoint I know!)

James September 13, 2012 - 11:16 pm

Hi Helen,
We’ll look at that – could you add it to the suggested features thread via the link in the post (then it will get picked up). Thanks, James

Cat September 13, 2012 - 3:32 pm

Hey guys

I’ve been a little inactive as of late thanks to more boring commitments but I’m really glad this changes have come into place as I believe it’ll really help in making Folksy more accessible to new customers, especially with the festive season fast approaching.

My main feedback with it would be to look at how accessible categories are and how they are displayed on mobile devices because it feels a bit messy at the moment – especially as there is no app to use instead.

Fingers crossed I can get some time to play with it myself soon!

Wellydog September 14, 2012 - 9:53 pm

Hi James, I have to agree with Paul. Although relatively new to having a B&M gallery, I have exhibited and sold art for a number of years and buyers definitely know the difference between original art and prints. People like to buy prints when original art is out of their price range or like Paul says as a test before splashing out on the original, especially online, when they can’t see the work close up. I haven’t yet gone down this route but if I did, I think it would be important to have a separate category to put them in.
It would also be great to break down categories for easier searching into landscapes, seascape,portraits,abstracts etc

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