How can Make A Killer T-shirt Experience?

February 1, 2007 - Get free updates of new posts here

Grouporation = Group + Collaboration

Update: Miles from Innertee said he will give out 2 free shirts to the first 2 reasonably good comments.

innerTee is a t-shirt remixing community that lets anyone mix their own apparel using approved artwork provided by other community members. The apparel design can be purchased, shared and even remixed by your friends.

Our apparel printing method is done using screen printing so we can offer the same level of quality that you would expect to find in a high-end retail store. The problem is that we are limited online to some of the more flexable things digital printing gives you – mainly color changes, image overlapping and scaling artwork. This leads to some confusion when using our mixing tool and submitting artwork for approval.

question for you:

How do we balance the online limitations that our printing process creates with the user expectation of what the site should do?

Please leave a comment and help if you want your site, product or service to be reviewed in the future.

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25 responses to “How can Make A Killer T-shirt Experience?

  1. Jon Tzou Reply

    Hi Noah,

    I’m a friend of Tony’s who frequents his blog, and subsequently yours. He and I went to high school together, performed at the same school events, and now appear to have similar interests in technology and music.

    Regarding you problem, I’ve actually had a similar experience. In the end, it comes down to deciding what it is that your community values most in its designs to establish a base, and working around customizing those few things – a top-down approach.

    What designs are being used most? Which the least? If you are having problems with coloring, why not set standards for color use in the initial designs? That would significantly reduce your issues in that department.

    Scaling is always tough, especially with shirts. My only advice would be to have a minimum resolution requirement so that you’d only have to scale down =).

    For things that you simply cannot fix e.g. overlapping, set the guidelines and keep them firm. Users will have expectations, but don’t be afraid to restrict the possibilities a little to minimize operational issues.


  2. Miles Reply

    Thanks Josh!

    Jon – good point on the community. They are really helping up figure out what needs our attention first. We are working on some overlap restrictions and more messagiing in the mixing tool. I think that will help a lot.

    Messaging is one area we struggle with as its hard to explaing at times or maybe I’m just so close to it its harder to know how others are perceiving it.

    Thanks again for taking a look!

  3. Alaska Miller Reply

    Since silkscreen processing is pretty limiting it all boils down to how you design your software. Collision detection, overlapping, color tone mixing, etc. etc. needs to be prebuilt into the software.


    I think also what you have to embrace is the stenciling community, and etc. Talk to them, tell them you want to do something with them. You have the capabilities of mass producing shirts, have the tools of converting art into designs while stencil sites and communities have passionate users who are into art and design and usually reserved to just making one-off shirts.

    I think ultimately what you have to worry about is establishing a way to reach the right community foremost.

  4. Miles Reply

    Alaska – I think you are 100% right. Getting the site in front of the right community is huge, I”ll check into as I know we have some great street & graffiti artists already involved.

  5. Wil Everts Reply

    Nice idea… we’ve all seen a lot of artist tee-shirt communities/companies spawn since a certain Chicago-based company came on the scene (GO BEARS!), but this is the first one I’ve seen that does a great job of actually improving on the concept. Basically, when you’re not first to the market you have to be able to answer the question “Why wouldn’t I just go to the established site X for your product?” with a reasonable and cool concept, and I think these guys did… Clickity, click-click… where’s my credit card?

  6. Marshall Middle Reply

    I have minimal experience making tee-shirts, but I suggest limiting the colors (until you can offer to offer more options). Also I agree with the other commenters in that you should find out what the customers want and give it to them. The community will determine what designs are popular and which are subpar. You could set up a page with the most popular designs, and get rid of designs that don’t get any attention. The community’s will should shape the direction your company takes, because they are the ones who will hopefully be buying and using the products.

  7. udandi Reply

    I agree with Marshall, it’s a tricky thing to figure the right balance between offering a variety and offering so much the shopper cannot make a decision and in turn decides not to buy.

    and while I think getting the site in front of the right community is key, you have to make sure you’re going to hook them upon landing in the web site. I clicked on the ‘how it works’ font thinking it was a hyperlink to a page that would give me the low down and help me get started but I assumed incorrectly.

    what is innerTee? How do I participate in this experience as a shopper? As an artist?

    As a DIY-er/crafter and supporter of indie artists, I want to “get” this but it isn’t immediate to me and prevents me from spreading the word. I encourage you to make spreading the word easy for your visitors and customers. make it apparent from the start. make it something they cannot wait to turn around and talk about on their blogs, myspace, message boards or wherever. unless you’re going for the “we’re so obscure, it’s cool” route.

    good luck!

  8. Miles Reply

    lol – I hadn’t thought about the ‘we’re so obscure, its cool’ idea but I think you are right on the point of doing a better job of helping people ‘get’ it right away.

    Would love some more specific feedback on the ‘how it works page’ as it should link here:

    Thanks again to everyone for taking a look at our site & Noah for posting, all of the feedback is super helpful.

  9. Josh Reply

    Do you want feedback on the WORDING of the how-it-works page, or just overall?
    Once your artwork is approve or you’ve found
    *approved ๐Ÿ™‚

    Looks good! Mabye some more screenshots…?

    Well, i’m off to go join! ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. Miles Reply

    doh – good catch thanks!

    We’ve though about a flash or video as well that might be a little more instructional but not sure how many people would watch it.

  11. Alaska Miller Reply

    Put it on the Mix page.

    The front page is for browsing and showcasing the top designs. If a customer just wants to purchase he should never be overwhelmed with flash videos or tutorials or policies that says you can mix certain colors and overlap certain designs.

    At the mix page present the tutorial flash video, simple with a clearly enunciated voice less than 30 seconds talk about your available color palette and how to use your Flash design tools.

    As of now I think the design is a bit overwhelming. You’re catering to two sets of folks: the buyer and the artists. For the buyer the front page could definitely be streamlined and less all over the place, bustedtee and threadless just have a simple layout and let the products speak for themselves.

  12. Josh Reply

    Weรขโ‚ฌโ„ขve though about a flash or video as well that might be a little more instructional but not sure how many people would watch it.

    hmmm….mabye on the homepage? With a *skip intro* button?

  13. Josh Reply

    In response to the origional question:
    question for you:
    How do we balance the online limitations that our printing process creates with the user expectation of what the site should do?
    Alaska has a good point. It has to be eye-catching and simple, easy to use at the same time.
    I actually think the frontpage looks good, i mean, you have to have access to everything.
    As for online limitations, i think the more choices the better!

    I just created an account, i’ll post more after I experiment! ๐Ÿ™‚

  14. Josh Reply

    Hmm…It worked but i got the error
    “warning: Cannot modify header information – headers already sent by (output started at /var/www/vhosts/ in /var/www/vhosts/ on line 266.”

    WOAH. I didn’t find a single thing I didn’t like on the site. Just suggestions.
    Mabye a ‘how it works’ page with the video on it?
    This can ruin sites sometimes, but goodle adsense or other things are pretty profitable.
    A button which people can embed into their blog? I’m not a grpahic designer though.
    The whole karma thing is cool.

    Ok, I’ll stop spamming this post with my comments.
    Good luck!

  15. Eric Reply


    Thank you for your honest feedback.

    Josh, thank you for pointing out the error you received. The error issue has been fixed, from what I can tell. Please let us know if you notice anything else. We try to get everything working right the first time, but as most of you know, things happen. ๐Ÿ™

    Josh (or anyone else), if you notice any more issues like the above, please contact me via my user contact link/tab on my profile at innerTee.

    Obviously, this is a work in progress and we are in a constant state of evolution, but that is a good thing. The fluid approach has suited us well and since it is community driven, we are interested in what the community has to say.

    We are very encouraged by and appreciate the incredible feedback you guys are providing. We look forward to more of you being involved as we make the innerTee experience better.


  16. Josh Reply

    Oh my gosh, my spelling has been messed up today! Sorry!

    Here’s my message to eric, posted it here so Mies can see it.

    it’s Josh, from Noah’s okdork post.
    I’ll message ya when I notice things or I have suggestions, is that ok?

    Advertise. The innertee logo is cool-mabye on a button? It’s going on my site.
    User josh earned 1 points! Total now is 2 points.
    If possible, change that to “You have earned another point!” or whatever, more personilized.
    Also perhaps a “contact us” page? I wouldn’t look in the “about” page.
    As I said earlier, the whole “karma discounts” thing is really unique.
    And I know this is out if your control, but there should definetly be more artwork.
    Mabye artisits should have a special artist-only section, with like tips…?
    People could create a ‘request’ pool which artists could bid on the design they wuld get paid to make?
    I’ll post this to okdork as well so Miles sees it.

    Ok, Josh will stop commenting now. I will. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Good luck! (again ๐Ÿ˜› )

  17. Josh Reply

    You are a rock star commentor. Thanks for stopping by. You rock!!

    Was that at me? Praise? That’s a new one.


    You’re welcome, Miles. Great idea you’ve got therr and I hope you go far.

  18. Blake P. Reply

    I think you should preset the sizes of the accepted artworks. Then create screens with multiple artworks per screen for each allowed printable color. These can sit for reasonable amounts of time and you could print them when necessary. Just use a small squeegee for the artwork being printed. I hope I explained this well because it isn’t pretty. Just a thought.

    I like the innerTee concept. Good job guys, keep it up.

  19. Josh Reply

    That’s a really good point Blake. But if you have hundreds and hundreds of pieces of artwork, with 5 colors for each, the costs add up. But it IS easier.

  20. Blake P. Reply

    Answering this question successfully with a complete solution would change the whole industry. There will be good suggestions but no definitive answers. Digital printing quality hasn’t quite caught up to screen printing and is about 3-5 years away from being comparable. Screen printing quality is high but the process is slow and dated.

    I have found that educating the customer on what they are paying for allows them to make the decision of low cost/less quality or higher cost/higher quality. Most digital prints that we do are for novelty shirts that aren’t intended to be worn for a long time.

    This problem is kind of like asking how a computer could do things that would require processing power that isn’t available or economical. It will be……just not right now. ๐Ÿ™‚ In the meantime, taking the best suggestions and ideas will lower the cost but not provide a solution that is revolutionary. To do that you have to look at the equipment/technology/process and not the web interface.

  21. Miles Reply

    Yeah, this was our delima from the start – digital vs screen. We are using a modified screen-printing process but Blake is right – there is no perfect solution today that outputs a great, high-quality tee and gives give all the flexibility of what you can do online.