Hi, I’m William 🤘 — Designer based in Chicago, IL

Artist Shops User Research

A user research project to understand the needs of users on Artist Shops to help guide the product road map of the platform.

ForThreadless RoleProduct Design Intern

The Problem

The team at Threadless had been working to grow Artist Shops and wanted to make sure it was supporting the real needs of the users.

We started with the problem statement, how might we capture and present user needs to inform the direction of the platform?

For this research, we decided to do both a survey and interviews to gather insights from users on Artist Shops.


To kick off our research, we wanted to capture some broad insights about the Artist Shops experience from people on the platform. We sent out a typeform survey and got 726 responses from users.

After analyzing and synthesizing those results, I designed a report of the survey to be shared across the company.

From the survey, we were most surprised by two responses:

How successful do you feel about promoting your Artist Shop? The average was 2.10 out of 5 (1 being not at all, 5 being very successful).

What features do you use? 86% use customize shop, 47% use about pages, 44% use collections for their products, 21% set discount prices on individual items, and 21% use shop updates.

Internal Interviews

We interviewed Threadless employees in order to capture common themes when it comes to the user experience on Artist Shops. Different teams spend a lot of time working on the platform and we wanted their expertise to fuel the roadmap of Artist Shops as well. The insights we captured came from customer experience, brand, product and digital teams along with select stakeholders.

Customer Experience Team
Shop Owners contact support the most during beginning stages of shop set up. The customer support team spends most of their time hand holding shop owners during onboarding.
Common Questions They Hear:
-File requirements, image placement and optimization
-Fit and feel of products
-Need help finding resources and/or don’t know they exist at all
-Art ownership rules
-Big request: lifestyle photos instead of flat product shots

Product Team
-Color, opacity, sizing, and placement information need to be more accessible.
-It should be easier for users to add newly released products to existing designs
-Show or explain how designs get printed on products

Brand Team
-Threadless has a more creative brand and is very active on social media while the Artist Shops brand is more vague and less active. Should this change?
-Lifestyle shots would help shop owners feel like their brand/shop is legitimate
-People get confused and think that having an Artist Shop means that they are on Threadless. We need to make this distinction more clear.
-It’s easy for artists on Threadless to make the switch to Artist Shops and be successful.

Digital Team
-Artist Shops brand is undeveloped because we weren’t sure how it was going to grow. Now is a great time to explore this opportunity.
-Threadless related options in the dashboard navigation could be confusing to new users.
-File setup and prep is a big barrier for new users.
-Onboarding should give users a quick view of the core features.
-Keep constant communication with shop owners.

-Artist Shops needs to have a better mobile experience
-Onboarding should be focused on creating a product, publishing your shop, and learning to market it.
-Wants users to go from zero to launch with no customer support.
-It should be dumb to not choose Artist Shops over other services.

Artist Shops User Interviews

We interviewed 20 Artist Shop owners over the span of two months. We asked them questions in order to understand their pain points on the platform. We got context around each users by asking how long they had their shop, what their long term goals were with their shop, and what are their aspirations are for their shop.

Out of 20 Artist Shops Users
12 have had their shop for a year
4 use the platform to support their full time occupation
11 use a competitor service
14 are independent artists
3 use the platform to showcase a brand
2 use it for an organization they work at

Users who felt successful about promoting their shop was due to them having an already established following on social media as well as in their local community.

Main pain points were associated with:

  • Artist Shops not being searchable on Threadless.com.
  • Excessive and confusing file requirements.
  • The speed of the platform when editing and managing products.

Generally people love customer support, the store front design and the ease of the fulfillment and shipping products.

Card Sorting

About a third of the way through our shop owner interviews we noticed that users were not using several features like Collections, Shop Updates and the Custom Pricing Tool. When we spoke with the customer experience team we also learned that users did not know about the Launch Guide, an extremely dense, yet useful document that offers tutorials and guidance about setting up your shop and creating design files.

In order to better understand how users see things and what their expectations are we conducted a card sorting activity. I wrote and printed out cards with common tasks that users would need to complete in the dashboard. I asked users to organize the cards into groups that seemed natural.

The most common groupings seemed consistent with the current dashboard navigation, with one exception. Users grouped content associated with collections with customizing their shops logo, colors and fonts.

The cards that were most inconsistently grouped with cards were ordering samples, file sizes, design templates and creating new products. They all seemed to fall into their own natural group.

Research Results

From the survey, internal interviews, user interviews, and card sorting we created a slide deck and presented our findings to the team. At a high level, we found areas the platform is excelling and some areas we can readjust focus as we develop the product road map.

What People Love

  • High profit margins
  • Trust that artists retain rights to their work
  • Customer service
  • Fulfillment/Product QA
  • Shop layout/design
  • Transparency of business

Pain Points

  • Lack of shop traffic creates emotional risk
  • No awareness on Collections & Shop Updates features
  • Color management of products
  • Speed of editing/creating products
  • Lack of understanding around file requirements