Programming

Etsy API Fail – Well, Ok maybe not.

I’m working on a new project which uses Etsy’s API. As far as APIs go, theirs is pretty neutered. There’s no user authentication whatsoever so the only data you can get from it is what’s available to the general public. Since you can’t authenticate, you certainly can’t write any data, so things like allowing users to add Etsy items to their favorites aren’t possible.

Working with their API I found another “quirk.” If you try to getUserDetails on a username which doesn’t exist it won’t return null or false or an empty object. Instead, it responds with HTTP status code 404.

Wait, what?

This means I have no way of differentiating between an error in my URI and a simple case of a defunct username. In fact, this behavior is contrary to what Etsy’s own documentation suggests. Their sample code dies on any status besides 200, which makes sense although you’d probably want to handle the error more gracefully. Now I have to look up the status code and try to guess whether I got the 404 because of a malformed URI or because the username was wrong. That will make debugging super fun!

404 is an HTTP error. A correctly formed API query with a null result should not return a 404. Argh. In english terms, a 404 means “I don’t have the information you’re looking for.”

You could argue that Etsy simply doesn’t have the userinfo for that user, because it doesn’t exist, and therefore 404 is appropriate. But that’s a cop out. Etsy DOES know that user’s info: it’s empty. If I’m querying a database of all known users, and getting back a subset of said users based on my input, Etsy’s response should be “there aren’t any matching users” not “I don’t have that information.” A 204 error would be more appropriate.

Edit: Apparently this is becoming a common thing. ¬†Although I haven’t seen it with any other APIs I’ve worked with. And let me state for the record that just because other people do it doesn’t make me think it’s any less of a dumb idea.

Edit again: Someone who is less sleep deprived than myself pointed out that the body of the 404 responses does contain useful information, which I had missed earlier. So in this case I will concede to being wrong, although I am still not a fan of this approach because it means my script relies on the exact English wording of their error messages. Carry on.

Business, Etsy

Your Own Domain + Etsy

I’m slowly purging all references to my Etsy shop from my business cards, ads, etc because I want more control over by branding. Although I don’t have any short term plans to set up my own shopping cart I want to be a little more prepared if I do decide to.

I’ve set up http://shop.everythingtiny.com as a redirect to http://kfarrell.etsy.com and thought while I was at it I would write up instructions for how other folks can to – and on the super cheap. I’ve seen a bunch of places that charge a monthly or annual fee for domain forwarding. The cost of my setup is about $10/year including domain registration.

Tools You’ll Need

  • A membership with NearlyFreeSpeech.Net. If you know a little bit about what you’re doing you can use this setup on *any* host, but for the sake of simplicity all my examples are on how to do this with NFSN.
  • An FTP or SFTP client. I like to use FileZilla.
  • A text editor. Notepad will work just fine.

If you don’t already own a domain you can buy one through NearlyFreeSpeech.Net. It’s a little less than $9/year for domain registration and unlike GoDaddy they won’t spam you into getting a zillion of their other service. Deposit $10 into your NFSN account, purchase your domain name (it pulls from your account balance), and you’re good to go.

If you already have a domain name there will be a little extra configuration for you, but we’ll get to that later.

Setting up your site

Ok, there is a tiny cost to setting up the forwarding. While NFSN doesn’t charge any monthly fees for sites, they charge for storage (how big your site is) and bandwidth (how many gigabites of files your site sends to other people). Since you’re just forwarding your visitors on to Etsy, both of these will be very very low. Extermely low. But nonetheless you’ll need to make a small deposit into your NFSN account, $1 should be plenty.

Creating your .htaccess file

A .htaccess file is a special file that tells the server how to handle requests for your site. Open up a new file in your text editor and copy/paste the following:

RedirectTemp / http://yourshop.etsy.com/

Save the file to your hard drive with the name “.htaccess”, making sure there is no file extension such as .txt.

Upload the File to Your Site

Open up your FTP client and connect to your site (the connection information can be found by logging into NFSN and clicking the ‘sites’ tab and then the name of your site.

When you connect you’ll likely see a number of folders such as “logs” “private” and “public”. Upload your .htaccess file into the public folder. If it has a file extension rename the file so it is just “.htaccess”

Add Your Domain as an Alias

To make your domain work with your site you need to add it as an alias. Go to the site information page and click “Add a New Alias” on the right. Enter the domain you wish to use. I.e. if you want “http://shop.everythingtiny.com” to go to your Etsy shop enter “shop.everythingtiny.com”.

If you purchased your domain name through NFSN you’re done! It may take 24 hours for everything to start working, so be patient if it doesn’t seem to be doing anything right away. You can test to see if your redirect is working by going to http://yoursite.nfshost.com, where yoursite is the name of the site you created.

If you purchased your domain elsewhere

You’ll need to add a record to your DNS to get things working. Check your registrar’s documentation for “how to add a DNS record.” Once you’ve figured it out, you’ll want to add what’s called a CNAME record. It will look something like:
shop CNAME yoursite.nfshost.com.

Where “shop” is the subdomain you want to use (i.e. shop.everythingtiny.com) and yoursite is the name of your site at NFSN. The CNAME record may take a few hours to take effect.

Tada!

Business, Crafting, Etsy

The Secret to Selling on Etsy

Every now and then I peek into the Etsy forums to gather information. It’s a good place to crowdsource… tons of people killing time on the internet who LOVE to share their opinion with you.

Invariably I see a thread asking about what the secret is to sell on Etsy, how people get so many sales, how much to relist in a day, etc. And I think I am fully qualified to answer these questions. I have an active Etsy shop, generally selling multiple items per day. I also used to work at Etsy, so I have an inside view of how the whole system works.

It turns out the secret to selling on Etsy is the same as selling anywhere: hard work and good products.

Ok, maybe that’s not the most helpful answer. So allow me to elaborate with a list of tips.

  • Take better photos.
    I don’t care how long you spent on your photos. They’re not good enough. Mine sure as heck aren’t. You need to do more than just snap an accurate picture of the product. You need to sell it. I’ve seen a lot of Etsy sellers complain that they shouldn’t have to be photographers. BS. You’re a salesman, and your photos are the biggest part of your sales pitch. If you aren’t willing to put serious and continuous effort into them then you’re not serious about selling online.
    For some quick tips, check out my article, Common Photo Mistakes and How to Avoid Them
  • Make something people want.
    Do market research. And no, posting a forum thread titled “do you think people want to buy ____” doesn’t count. Browse the sold items. What’s selling? Read blogs related to what you’re making. What are they featuring? Does your stuff fit in with that? Or are you still making stirrup pants? Stop. Stirrup pants hurt us all.
    Look at not just styles but also what people are selling. Where is there a void in the market? Fill it.
  • Make something other people aren’t.
    I hate to break it to you, but if you’re making snap bibs out of Amy Butler fabric you’re already at a disadvantage. Why? Because there are already 100 other people selling them. It’s like putting a Starbucks up on every corner and then wondering why you’re only getting 1/4 of the foot traffic.

    Do an Etsy search for your product. If you make bibs, search “bibs.” How many of the search results are the same as what you make? What makes yours different? It’s going to have to be something. Better photos, better prices, better selection, better construction, different style, whatever. But it’s got to be something or you’ll just be lost with the other 20,000 search results.

  • Build a cohesive line.
    Lets say you make pouches. Rectangular zippy pouches out of pretty fabrics. Great. So now you’re “that girl who makes pouches.” It’s pretty nondescript, and when I search for “pouch” on Etsy I’m going to get a ton of other people’s stuff, which I might like better.

    Pick a common theme and run with it. Make pouches in different shapes. Now you’re “that girl who makes round pouches,” and that already sets you apart from other people. Or maybe all of your fabric features skulls on it. Or flowers. Or math equations. Or your pouches all come with built in flashlights. Whatever. Transform yourself to “that person who makes generic” to “that person who makes specific.” You’ll stick in customers’ minds better, be easier to find, and sell more.

  • Give up.
    The flip side of building a line and putting all this effort into your products is you have to be able to let it go. If it’s not working out, you may just need to move on to something else. Not all of your ideas are going to be million dollar sell outs. That’s OK.

    A few years ago I had a line of jewelry that I liked, my friend liked, it went well together without being boring… and it didn’t sell. Anywhere. And for whatever reason I just kept trying to sell it other places instead of moving on or changing it. Needless to say it didn’t work, and I’ve still got a ton of stock for it lying around on a shelf. If you really want to sell, at some point you have to evaluate what you’re doing and change if it’s not working.

  • Take better photos.
    No really, it’s important. And yours still aren’t good enough.

Those are the big secrets. As far as relisting and other nonsense… I relist whenever things sell out, which is once a day or so. By selling something unique I find that even days later I’m still on the front page of search results

There’s also a lot of chatter about twittering/blogging, and whether those are good at driving sales. Yes and no. If you have something interesting to say, eventually people will read it, and if you’ve got your products showcased next to what you’re saying then it’s free advertising. But starting a blog and just posting when you list a new item isn’t interesting to anyone except you.

But it all comes back to your products. You can blog, twitter, and photograph all you want but it isn’t going to do a damned thing if you’re not selling an interesting product at the right price. So get off the Etsy forums and take a hard look at your products. Then fix them and try again.