Developing and Promoting Aid to ArtisansU


Mackenzie Banker, Vanshaj Chowdhary, Michael Finbar Prindle, Yang Xu


Aid to Artisans


James Hanlan, Stephen McCauley


October – December 2016

Project Outcomes

Final Report


The goal of our project with Aid to Artisans was to enhance their nascent web platform, Aid to ArtisansU, by increasing its functionality and user base. We interviewed artisans from seven countries and evaluated website analytics to understand site usage and gain insight into the ideal web-platform for craftspeople. In addition, we created a tutorial video and a course on importing, observed an immediate increase in user ship, and provided recommendations for future projects with Aid to ArtisansU.

Executive Summary

Across the world, artisans making handcrafted goods have difficulty competing with the mass produced goods created with modern manufacturing. While artisanal goods are very high quality, artisans face difficulties in successfully marketing their crafts from the lack of marketing and business knowledge. Many organizations, such as Ten Thousand Villages, the Alliance for Artisan Enterprise, and Aid to Artisans, make it their mission to provide assistance to artisans around the world by helping them reach wider markets and improve their livelihood opportunities.

Aid to Artisans (ATA) is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to improve the lives of low-income artisans in developing nations by providing them with design, leadership, and marketing assistance. ATA was founded in 1976 by James and Mary Plaut, with the goal of providing artisans practical assistance in selling their products. Since then, ATA has worked in more than 110 different countries helping artisans improve and sell their craftwork. In October 2015, ATA launched Aid to ArtisansU (ATAU), an e-learning platform designed to teach artisans skills necessary to succeed in marketing their products such as communication, business development, effective writing, and leadership. ATAU provides users with access to many courses, and enables artisans around the world to connect with other users through discussion groups. All of the features on the ATAU site are free to any user. The site also aims to provide a communication platform to link artisans, potential buyers, and organizations, allowing  artisanal producers to create, share, and spread their own content.


The goal of this project was to help Aid to ArtisansU connect artisans all around the world by improving the existing platform to make it more effective for current users and promoting the platform to anyone who would be interested in learning about the craft sector. We aimed to broaden the site’s current user base and implement new functions to improve user-friendliness for current members, empowering to Aid to Artisans to continue connecting artisans with new markets across the world.

In order to accomplish our goal we created five main objectives as shown in Figure 1.


We achieved our objectives by surveying and interviewing current ATAU users to understand their perspective on how ATAU can be more beneficial for them. In addition to the surveys and interviews, we analyzed the site usage through Google Analytics. Lastly, we went to different craft shows and events to introduce ATAU to the artisans there.


From performing our methodology, we were able to identify the basis for our deliverables and recommendations.

Users are struggling to use Aid to ArtisansU to its full potential.

A large theme we noticed during our surveys and in-person interviews was that users have trouble understanding how Aid to ArtisansU can be beneficial to them and how to use the features on the site.


From our survey responses as shown in Figure 2, we saw that most of the new features added to ATAU such as uploading images of products were not used, while courses and articles were used and liked by the majority. We also noticed this during our in-person interviews where the users were having trouble understanding how to use the different features on the site. Because of this, we performed a demonstration on how to use the site during our in-person interviews. After the demonstration, the users seemed much more comfortable using the site and started using it more frequently.

User prefer personal communication as opposed to surveys.

When we sent emails to the users on Aid to ArtisansU requesting them to fill out our survey, our response rate didn’t meet our expectations. However, when we sent users personal emails as opposed to a general email requesting for a Skype interview, we received a significantly higher response rate. A number of respondents expressed preference for face-to-face communication.

Regular curation and promotion of the site leads to more sessions on the site.

Our last major finding was that the activity on Aid to ArtisansU spikes significantly whenever there is an individual or a group of students working on the site. As shown in Figure 3, every time there wasn’t anyone managing the site, the activity on the site dropped immediately. However, when there was a group working with ATAU by either promoting the site to new users, updating existing users on ATAU updates, or adding new content on the site, the activity on the site increased. This increase in activity is entirely from new users or existing users going on the website, as any activity performed by the group in charge was filtered. Many of our interviewees also informed us that all of our emails and communication with them reminded them about ATAU and led to them checking the website again (Personal Communication, 2016)


Deliverables and Recommendations

We were able to create three significant deliverables addressing the expressed needs of the users. These included a list of site improvements, a tutorial video for the ATAU platform, and a course on the topic of importing artisan goods to the U.S. retail market. In addition to the deliverables, we created a list of recommendations for future work on Aid to ArtisansU.

We created a prioritized list of site improvements for Aid to ArtisansU.

From our assessment of the site, we created a list of improvements that addressed minor changes like misspelling or capitalization errors to major changes like fixing features that are not working properly. In order to make sure the web team addressed the most important improvements first, we prioritized the list based on the significance and impact the change would create for ATAU.

We created a tutorial video that highlights the different features of Adi to ArtisansU.

The tutorial video was developed based on interview feedback, where a number of users said that they felt that the site had more to offer them than they fully understood how to access; the video walks a new or returning user through the basic site functions such as adding a product to their profile, enrolling in a free course, and joining a group to communicate with others. This video was posted on the ATAU site where all site users can view it.

We created a course on importing artisanal goods to the United Sates a market.

The course was developed at the behest of ATA to the desire to start inviting ATA’s buyer and retailer partners to join the site, following the aforementioned addition of product catalogs to the site. With the addition of both the product catalogs and the course, ATAU can attract more buyers, retailers, and trade networks.

We recommend implementing an advanced search feature on Aid to ArtisansU that allows for searching users by their country and their products.

The advanced search feature would allow for users to search for other users or products by qualifiers such as region or type of good; this would help to improve ATAU’s ability to showcase artisanal goods.

We recommend adding an additional set of categories for the products on Aid to ArtisansU.

The product categories recommendation addresses a similar issue as the advanced search; products cannot currently by categorized into relevant categories, and are as such difficult to search. With the addition of product categories, searching for and organizing products will be an easier task.

We recommend implementing a discussion forum to allow for more communication and activity on Aid to Artisans U.

The discussion forums seeks to add more of the user-desired interactivity to the site, by allowing any user to post questions or news for all other users to see and comment on, without needing to join a specific groups to do so, as is currently the case.

We recommend Aid to Artisans to continue having interns or staff members work directly on Aid to ArtisansU, by having them regulatory update the site with new content, as well as make social media posts about the site on a frequent basis.

We succeeded in more than doubling the site activity from before we arrived during our short seven weeks with ATA, using mostly simple promotional strategies, and we believe that this is both the easiest and the best way to ensure the continued growth of the site. We are confident that, with dedicated effort, the site can grow to become an immensely useful resource for artisans across the world.