So its been 5 months (time really flies huh?) since my first 7 reasons Threadless postwhich prompted a fair bit of discussion on the burdens of popularity. I thought now was as good a time as any to review whats happened since that post and revisit my original arguments. Below are the alexa and google trend data. I dont think these are worth anymore than one minute of your time, that’s my faith in their reliability but i’ll put them here and you can draw your own conclusions:

The original post from last year is here.

The main summary of the problems I saw were:

1. The Community is getting messy
2. Shipping times
3. Bad tee quality
4. Artists should be better compensated
5. Printing too many of each design
6. Too popular
7. Er, I cant think of anymore

I’d say they’ve had a pretty good stab at tackling at least 2 of those.

1. The community is getting messy
The blog forum got a nice facelift with an attempt to seperate out the topics, so you can see product, critique, and sub’d design. While this doesnt completely work, its a good start. The critique feature is really great. Threadless is a good place to learn design, as much as it is to appreciate it. Giving users the chance to co-create and collaborate was something that came out of the research from my dissertation. Now they can work on a design and get feedback before submitting it. Its also an example of delegating tasks back to users, so now rather than trawling through a weight of submission’s you have to reject, you let the community gently nudge the designer in the right direction. You get better submissions, and a clue what the community thinks of a design before it makes it into a contest. The artist gets support, a chance to learn new skills and less frustrated if users say his idea than threadless (I would suggest). This education will keep designers on the platform longer and brings back some of the more serious discussion.

Conclusion: Big improvement

2. Shipping times
Still to long. Made to order sites can produce from scratch and ship in 48hrs, so should threadless. Now its showing as 0-3days extra procesing time due to high demand? There’s a big difference between 0 & 3 days, and no mention of the standard time, all a bit vague. I’ve seen less complaining in the forums though, so things seem to be improving.

Conclusion: Slight improvement

3. Bad tee quality
I havent actually brought a Threadless shirt since they launched their own line, I have too many already. So I’ll open this one up? Are the new ones better? I’ve heard some positive and some negative things.

Conclusion: you tell me ;)

We are currently supplying t-shirts for Lincoln Escorts which is very exciting!

4. Artists should be better compensated
My feelings on this havent changed. Re-payment on reprint is a must for me, its not necessary but in my eyes the right thing to do for the artists. As I said last time if something is popular enough to make it financially viable to reprint it, knowing its already sold out and the risk is 0.1% then why not share the love. Competitively it would do no harm at all.

Conclusion: Same

5. Printing too many of each design
Print less, of more was my main message last time. Thats not happened, but at least they are printing more which helps. Now that i’ve moved to germany I can’t really comment on this one, Leipzig isnt Cambridge or London so the only Threadless I see are at Spreadshirt HQ (oh and randomly a barmaid at a depeche mode night at the weekend).

Conclusion: Same

6. Too popular
My main gripe, somepeople might dis-agree with me that when something gets too popular you’re less likely to wear it, but for me its a big problem. The reason you go online and buy internationally is because you dont want to shop on your highstreet. Well threadless could become the h&m of the e-highstreet in the not too distant future. Two Boing Boing posts this week, a webby’s nomination (alongside cafepress). Should Threadless care? Probably not, its certainly wont hurt sales per se, but it will hurt sales to certain demographics eg elitist, snobby people like me.

My personal theory is that those demographics carry an under-appreciated amount of weight in the trends of all other consumers (something I talked about in my original post) lets call it reverse-tipping point effect – those consumers get you big by starting the party, those consumer’s tell you when you’ve jumped the shark by moving on.

Conclusion: Same

What else has been going on:

Kids platform? I’m lukewarm on this one, I know its aimed at parents but theres something about it that leaves a sour taste in my mouth. For one it opens the door to some horrific matching parents and child outfit synchorisation crimes, but also because I like the idea kids are left to get dirty, terrorise old people, put things up their nose and generally be totally oblivious to what they wear until they’re at least 15. Maybe i’m an old-fashioned idealist, or I need kids to get this one.

What does everyone else think about the ways things are developing over at Threadless?

My Disclaimers re-cap:

1) I love Theadless
I owe Threadless a lot, Ive been collecting tshirts for years but it was my introduction to Threadless from a messageboard link a few years ago that kick started this blog, helped me get an excellent degree classification, my current job. They are like a website version of The Simpsons, absolutely everyone loves them and if you don’t you should rightly be outcast by society like some kind of social leper.

2) I work for a competitor in Spreadshirt
I can see why people would think Im biased, Id think that too. All I can say is I wear a Threadless tshirt at least two days a week into work and see at least 5 others during the working day, we are pro Threadless, this is a big marketplace!

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