Yes, another POD review. I am a POD shopkeeper after all, so these things do interest me. The guys from Wordans contacted me to let me know about their site and ask me to do a review. Reviewing a POD is not like reviewing a regular t-shirt store. You really have to get in there and get your hands dirty. You need to play around with all the features and try to figure out how it works. It’s fun but time consuming. Well, I better get down to it then.
Wordans is a fairly new enterprise having opened in October of 2007, if I am correct. I had come across it a few times before but it didn’t make much of an impression on me. I imagine they have made some changes though since I had last looked at it because it is a pretty reasonable POD with lots of potential. By potential, I mean potential for shopkeepers like me to make money.
For the shopper it has an interface more like Spreadshirt than Cafepress or Zazzle. Maybe that is where they drew their inspiration from. First you choose the design and then are given the opportunity to choose the shirt it goes on and you can even choose the print location and add text if you want. They have a neat little product designer to help you do this. Unfortunately though, you can only add one image per product. Also you can’t be sure if your design is centered and the text function is pretty weak. You can’t control spacing between lines or curve the text and there are also a very limited number of fonts to choose from. The good news though, is that they are aware of these issues and hope to resolve some of them soon.
The center option + more fonts should be up next week, and the text placement does need work.
One really good thing about Wordans though is that it looks like you can print almost anywhere on the shirt. Although I imagine because of the limitations of the designer that you might get some unexpected results. The print area looks large too but I don’t know the actual specs. I find that sometimes it just looks large on the screen.
I think they should totally re-organize their front page and perhaps change their strategy too. The front page does a lot to promote their product designer and not enough to promote shopkeepers designs. Whatever the reason for this is, the fact remains that most shoppers are too lazy/nervous/busy to create their own t-shirts. They want something that has already been designed and made and preferably by professionals. Another thing to note is that people are attracted to images first and text later. When you look at Wordans front page it is mostly text. In fact only ten designs are shown above the fold and I have a 21 inch monitor at 1280×1024. Some people may not even see those 10 designs.
If you are a POD shopkeeper or if you are considering starting out in that business you will want to know if it a good place to start and I have to admit that I don’t think it is and for many reasons. One reason is that is slow to even upload your images. It says it takes up to 24 hours but both times I uploaded images it took much longer than that. The last image took 43 hours to become live. It was just one image. I wonder how long it would take if I had uploaded hundreds of images. They do know this is an issue that needs to be looked at though.
The 24 hour validation is a bit long I agree, especially come time the weekend. We are working for a faster turnaround, but we have to validate and clean up all the designs for them to be suitable for production.
Another point to look at is the fact that we are not given an opportunity to add descriptions (read SEO) which added to the fact that they don’t really promote the designers and their designs it will be very difficult for people to actually find your shirts. You could release your designs into the Wordans marketplace and hope for the best but they will only give you $2 every time someone uses it. I wouldn’t waste my time with that. And even if you you were happy to get $2 per item sold I don’t think they have really optimized their marketplace for search engines either. They say they are quickly improving their ranking in Google but I wonder for which search results and how well they convert to sales. I imagine that the shopkeepers stores don’t even rank at Google as apart from the title of the shirts they are almost identical.
I would also worry about scalability. I haven’t uploaded enough designs to worry about it at this point but I don’t see any options for categorizing your products or designs or to search within your own store. We can’t expect our customers to browse through pages and pages of designs in the hope that they might just find what they are looking for. Of course they would have to find the pages first.
In my communications with the guys at Wordans they didn’t really want to be compared with Cafepress, said they were less square. I think they were referring to the fact that can print almost anywhere on the t-shirt but if you look at their site as a whole they are totally square. Their stores can be customized but the core is very strict and very badly arranged. It’s even worse than Zazzle with a lot of space wasted with unnecessary fluff. Take a look at these three Rude Retro stores from Wordans, Zazzle and Cafepress.
You can clearly see that Cafepress offers the most regarding customization and branding of your store. (If you really want to have your own brand store while still using a POD you should definitely check out MyBrand at Printfection.)
I don’t mean to be so negative about Wordans but think of me as an investor who thinks that Wordans would have to improve on many levels for me to risk investing my time and energy. Even though they have very cool features like a designer that you can put right into your website ( see here) and the fact that they will manually try to make all your images t-shirt ready it all comes down to the question of whether I can make more money with Wordans than at my current PODs and the answer is that I don’t think so.
On the other hand I wouldn’t be surprised if great things happened at Wordans very soon and hopefully it will push them up to the level of Cafepress or Zazzle. They talk the talk. Hopefully they will also walk the walk.
We are actually in the process of upgrading our site, and we will bring some great changes that will make this version look primitive.