Big Cartel CSS customization

Jon Kruse from Mediocre Clothing has started what will hopefully be a series of posts on how to customize shops on Big Cartel. It’s definitely a quality read and helpful if you plan on tweaking your Big Cartel store. Check it out here!

5 Tips That Will Improve Your Online Store

Places like Big Cartel make it easy for anyone interested in selling their custom merchandise to folks in InternetLAND. Big Cartel offers a slew of options and the ability to customize individual stores. Here I offer a few easy tips that people can use to enhance their online stores, like the ones on Big Cartel, and a couple of more complex tips that can be used by people that have coded their own shops and built their sites from scratch.

Each of these tips will hopefully increase user interaction and improve the way that people browse and purchase tees from your site!

1. Large Previews. One of the things that annoy me the most about online stores are small previews. If I can’t get a nice large view of the product then chances are I won’t buy the item. Thumbnails are too small to get an idea of the detail of the design. Threadless uses nice and large preview images for each of the shirts that they sell. They use previews that are 640 pixels wide – this is a nice size, anything larger might be overkill. 

2. Actual Product Shots. Photoshop mockups are great and look nice but what’s even better are actual shots of the printed item to supplement the mockups. You can do this by doing you own photo shoot or you can make it interactive by encouraging buyers or fans of your brand to send you their photos. Another idea would be to set up a Flickr account for your brand and have a Flickr group so that your customers who are Flickr users can upload their photos directly to your group. 

3. Make Your Site Social. Comments are great to building a community. Why not have the ability for users to make comments on individual product pages. iTunes does this quite well by allowing members of the iTunes community to comment and rate tunes that they purchase. Wouldn’t it be great if you could leave a comment and even rate tees that you purchased on the product page of the design you loved? 

4. Top Sellers List. Having a section that lists the top 5 or 10 designs in your store is a great way to sell even more of your most popular items. People tend to gravitate toward items that they know are popular. These can either be based on sales, ratings or a combination of both. Having a Top Sellers or Popular Items list points these customers in the right direction! 

5. Out of Print Gallery. Indie tee designs are pieces of art and they should be treated as such. I often wonder what out-of-print designs from my favorite designers looked like. Why not have a section set up that showed off your designs that people can NO LONGER buy. Make people want what they can’t have! This will make people want to buy items that you currently have in stock (in fear of them being sold out and gone forever) and will provide word of mouth (they’ll start talking about your old stuff that they can’t have).

Do you run your own online store and have tips that you would like to add? Feel free to mention them in the comment section below! Think these ideas suck or wouldn’t work – let me know why!

5 Twitter Tips To Get Brand Exposure

This is a follow up to a post that I made last month regarding how you can use MySpace to market your T-shirt designs. I continue with the social network theme and describe 5 handy tips of how you can utilize the micro-blogging tool, Twitter, to maximize exposure of your personal brand. 

1. Engage in conversation. This tip is probably the most important when trying to use Twitter to gain exposure for your brand. The more you interact with the people you follow and your followers the more engrained you will become in the collective conscious. The more you @ reply and dm (direct message) people the greater the chance that they will remember who you are. The ultimate goal is not only to build on the relationships of those you follow but for you to develop strong relations with your followers.

2. Automate Twitters Across Platforms. It doesn’t make sense for you to tweet a message and then type out the same message to update your status on other platforms like Facebook, FriendFeed and Pownce. Make these platforms work with each other. For instance, every time you make a tweet you can instantly have your Facebook status updated with the same message. Similarly, when you Pownce, you can have that Pownce message automatically made into a tweet. FriendFeed is a cool aggregator of social networks so you can have your tweets automatically appear in your FriendFeed profile as well. Now instead of typing the same thing 4 times across 4 different platforms, you just need to do it once. 

To auto update your Facebook status with your most recent Twitter tweets:

1. Install the Twitter for Facebook application
2. In the Twitter for Facebook application 
3. Click the “Allow Twitter to Update Your Facebook Status” button just above the text box.

Check this post out to see how you can sync Twitter with Pownce. 

3. Friend Up. Do you have a particular niche that you’re interested in? Let’s take for example T-shirts. If you blog about T-shirts then it would make sense for you to be friends with people on Twitter who are also interested in the T-shirt culture. Here’s what you can do, you can actually search Twitter by going to search.twitter.com. Look up key words related to your niche. For instance, I am interested in tees so I did a Twitter search of people talking about Emptees and Threadless. Once you find these people, follow them. Chances are that they will follow you and then get your Twitter updates as a result. Now that you’ve found these people, chances are they are friends with other people interested in T-shirts, so be sure to check out who they follow as well. Also remember to search for friends feature in Twitter to check your email (i.e. Gmail) for contacts who are already on registered on Twitter. Find your audience and be friends with them. Feel free to add me @cotygonzales!

4. Sync Blog Posts. This is a no brainer. Every time you make a new blog post, tweet about it. Again, you can automate this process, however, for this instance I do not. I always provide a personal message quickly describing the post and make it sound interesting (hopefully increasing the chances that my followers will click on the link) instead of having just a generic automated link to the blog post. However, if you decide to take the automated approach, check out Twitter Tools for WordPress, it allows you to sync your blog with Twitter and provides different ways of displaying your tweets on your blog. 

5. Be Interesting, Fun and Tweet Outside Your Niche. It’s important for you to Twitter about things related to your blog (see Tip #4) but it also important to tweet about things unrelated to your blog. People like out-of-nowhere tweets that raise an eyebrow or two. Tweet about random and fun things that happen to you throughout your day. Random posts remind people that you are human and not just a robot spamming Twitter with links to your blog!

Twitter is powerful. Learning to harness that power will unleash an invaluable tool for anyone trying to develop a name or brand for themselves in this increasingly social-centered Internet.

By the way, here are some Twitter T-shirts that might peak your interest!

You can also find more Twitter themed tees at Eat Sleep Tweet!

Microsofts New Ad Campaign

Apparently, Microsoft has decided to embark on a 300 million dollar marketing blitz in hopes of changing the image that Apple has portrayed PC users to be with their “I’m a Mac, I’m a PC” ad campaign. They say imitation is the greatest form of flattery, but my goodness, will Microsoft ever be able to come up with anything original?

Instead of trying to defend themselves by repeatedly using a line that Apple made into catchphrase they once again demonstrate a lack of innovation and creativity. This is the story of Microsoft. This is a lame attempt by Microsoft to appear hip. They even tried extra hard by getting Pharrell Williams and Eva Longoria in the commercial, when the recently short-lived and ill-fated Gates-Seinfeld campaign failed. 

It hurts Microsoft even more that Pharrell and some of the other notables in the “I’m a PC” campaign are known Mac users. It turns out that Pharrell has stated as having used an “Apple Power Mac Dual 1.8 GHz G5 with Cinema Display” to produce the album Seeing Sounds. Pharrel has also talked about his love for the iPod on many occasions, here’s an example. 

Microsoft, instead of trying to make yourself look cool and hip by buying out a Mac user, like Pharrell Williams, who has hip-hop credentials and the coolness factor you so desire, maybe you should focus your ad campaigns on your products. I hear Windows Vista makes for a great operating system. Or not.

Update: Further digging by some intrepid people in InternetLAND has found that Macs were used to create the images distributed and posted on the Microsoft’s Web site for the “I’m a PC” ad campaign. Here’s an excerpt form the article:

Several digital images that Microsoft has posted on its Web site to trumpet its new “I’m a PC” ad campaign were actually created on Macs, according to the files’ originating-software stamp.

Four of the images that Microsoft made available on itsPressPass site last week display the designation “Adobe Photoshop C3 Macintosh” when their file properties are examined. The images appear to be frames from the television ads that Microsoft launcehd Thursday.

One of the images is of a real Microsoft engineer, identified only as “Sean,” who resembles John Hodgman, the actor who plays the PC character in Apple’s iconic ads. Reportedly, Microsoft will play off Apple’s own campaign—during which Hodgman introduces himself with the line, “Hello, I’m a PC”—with its engineer saying “Hello, I’m a PC, and I’ve been made into a stereotype.”

Other images posted by Microsoft last Thursday include shots of author Deepak Chopra; Canadian adventurer and educator Geoff Green, founder of Students on Ice Expeditions; and a shark-surround diver named “Meaghan.”

Not all of the images on the PressPass site were generated on Macs. The sample print ads, which highlight the campaign’s “Life Without Walls” slogan, were produced using the Windows version of Adobe Photoshop, according to their files.

The originating software and platform can be found in downloaded versions of the files using built-in tools on either a Mac running Mac OS X or on a PC running Windows.

In Windows XP, for instance, users can view the tag by right-clicking the downloaded file, selecting Properties from the drop-down menu, then clicking the Summary tab. “Adobe Photoshop CS3 Macintosh” appears beside “Creation Software.”

On a Mac, after opening the downloaded file in Preview, users can see the tag by choosing Inspector from the Tools menu, clicking on the middle More Info tab, then clicking on the tab marked TIFF. “Adobe Photoshop CS3 Macintosh” appears beside “Software.”

Microsoft’s campaign is the creation of the Crispin Porter + Bogusky agency, part of a $300 million effort to revamp Windows Vista’s reputation.

iFlix 2.0 Released

A couple of weeks ago I blogged about how the iPhone app, iFlix, was Netflix Heaven on the iPhone. I’m happy to announce that heaven looks that much brighter for us iPhone touting Netflix subscribers! The iFlix team has been pretty busy as they have just released iFlix 2. And I have to say that every criticism that I had with iFlix version 1 has been addressed in the version 2 release. 

First of all, the iFlix interface has seen an uplift in version 2 courtesy of Alex Marchuk (iFlix interface and website developer). The upgrade to the interface is not only pleasant to the eye but also made managing my Netflix queue that much easier.

One of the major gripes I had with the original release was the inability to select movies by format (DVD or Blu-ray). Now, when you search for a movie title, the search results bring back detailed information about each movie, including whether or not the movie is available in Blu-ray format. Being able to see Netflix ratings and MPAA ratings alongside the search results are added (and welcome) bonuses. Oh yeah, you can also browse by Blu-ray now as well. 

 

I’m a bit envious of the people who can use the Watch Instantly feature on Netflix (I run a Mac and Netflix currently does not support Watch Instantly on the Macintosh). With Watch Instantly, you have access to movies and TV shows that you can watch directly on your PC or 3rd party media player like an XBox 360 or Roku Player. iFlix 2 now not only supports the regular Netlfix snail mail queue but also supports instant queue management, which means adding movies to view on your PC, Xbox 360, or Roku Player is that much easier. 

iFlix has also improved on the rating system. Not only can you easily rate a movie from within iFlix but iFlix is intuitive enough to tell you which movies you’ve already rated by marking those ratings in yellow rather than the standard red. 

I was fortunate enough to have a word with iFlix developer, Brent Jensen. Here’s what we talked about.


Coty: I noticed that Brent Jensen is not listed with the rest of the team of the iFlix 2 website, is Brent no longer affiliated with the project? If not, why?

Brent: That’s just me being modest. My name’s on it for the App Store, so I wasn’t too worried about the site. It looks like Alex took note after your question and has added my name to the site.

(Update: Alex has added Brent’s name to the footer of the iFlix homepage. We can all sleep better now, LOL.)

Coty: The iFlix homepage also has changed, from the specific iFlixMobile.com to the more general and encompassing iPhonevine.com. Does this mean that there will be more iPhone based apps coming from your team?

Brent: For now, Alex Marchuk is hosting the site because of his amazing skills with design (and my lack of love for website development). You may see more apps hosted here, either made by me, or something that Alex has collaborated on. I’d love to have time to work on a lot more great apps, but for now my day job and iFlix keep me too busy to take on much else. I am working with my brother on a word search game for the iPhone, but it’s got a ways to go.

Coty: iFlix has definitely helped to fill in the gap for Netflix users wanting a mobile solution. Why do you think Netflix has not released a native application on their own?

Brent: Larger companies are always going to be more hesitant to jump right into a new platform. Since releasing an app represents a commitment to the platform, especially for a big company, they’ve got to pick and choose where they’ll invest. I would love to work with Netflix on improving the application, or even releasing it oficially, if they were ever to express interest.

Coty: iFlix 2.0 has added some killer functionality, such as the ability to view and add Blu-ray titles to your queue, a new interface and the ability to have detailed info like ratings literally at our fingertips. Where does iFlix 2.0 go from here? What are some things that you still would like to improve on?

Brent: The major focus right now is on performance and stability. As far as new features (e.g. iFlix 3.0), those are all still in the brainstorming phase. I’m certainly open to suggestions. A big fix is on it’s way that drastically improves scrolling and drag reordering, along with a nasty bug that’s been keeping some users from enjoying the “Detailed Queue” feature of iFlix 2.0.

Coty: There have been some controversy over the way that Apple has handled the App Store, specifically with developers. For instance, Apple has received some flack for not allowing developers to openly discuss program development with other developers. What are your thoughts on this?

Brent: There certainly are some frustrations, for me mostly with the inability to have more control over updates and responding to reviewers. A lot of times a reviewer will express frustration, or say they wish there was this or that feature, and the feature is in iFlix, or there is a work around for their issue, but I’ve got no way of contacting them. It would also be really nice to be able to build a customer base with a contact list, but the App Store doesn’t allow for that. For the most part though, I think Apple has created a fantastic platform, and given me a way to get my software out there to be enjoyed by more users than might have ever been possible with the App Store.

*I’d like to thank Brent Jensen for taking the time to talk to me (much appreciated!) and Alex Marchuk for letting me know of the iFlix 2 updates (much appreciated as well!). Keep up the great work, iFlix team!

Obama Taps Into the MySpaec, errr, MySpace Generation

Kudo’s to Obama’s publicity/marketing team for reaching out to generation Web 2.0. In an ingenious move, whenever an intrepid Myspace user types in the url to their favorite site, MySpace.com and inadvertently misspells the url as MySpaec.com (go ahead try the link) they get forwarded to Obama’s campaign site. 

This just goes to show how ingrained social networks like MySpace has become in society. In the 90’s candidates tapped into MTV. In 2008, they utilize Web 2.0. Both Obama and McCain have official MySpace and Facebook pages. Obama has more Twitter followers than Kevin Rose. More Followers than Digg king, Kevin Rose? Say what?!

How long before we see interactive political debates via Web 2.0 upstarts like Ustream and Seesmic? How long before viral videos, like the popular Barack Roll video, are initiated by the candidates themselves. The technology and networking tools that we have available to us today makes it possible to reach millions of people at the click of a button. These are powerful times. I’m glad to see our presidential candidates embracing the technology. 

By the way, if you’re typing in a url to a site you probably visit multiple times a day then shame on you. It’s all about the bookmark bar. 

*Cheers to Emptees user JacobPlague for pointing this out!

FTW! What Does it Mean?

Young people talk in strange code, it’s always been like that and it always will be like that. Like doctors and lawyers and most other professionals, young people have their own brand of lingo. The lingo may change from generation to generation, but nonetheless, the lingo is ever present. 

Having said that, I’ve noticed a lot of people using a seemingly innoculous piece of strung together letters to go along with their online statements. If you’re a gamer, belong to an online community such as a forum, or are a member of one of the various social networks like Facebook or Twitter, then you may have noticed an influx in usage of a particular three letter acronym. FTW. Heard of it? I’ve been seeing and hearing (on podcasts) the use of FTW a lot as of late. The problem is, unlike other popular net acronyms like LOL (laughing out loud) or ROTFL (rolling on the floor laughing), FTW is very cryptic. Nonetheless, it seems to be the hip term to be using nowadays in the ever vast InternetLAND. Here are some recent (as of this posting) examples that I found by doing a quick search on Twitter for the term FTW:

“Shakey’s Pizza FTW… even though my stomach doesn’t agree, ugh *gurgle*!”

“Joe Dirt FTW”

“”Dorkmeyer” = 1990’s slang. Yeah. THAT didn’t age at all. And Steve Sanders blackout drunk FTW!”

“First beer in about 6 months – Sapporo FTW.”

“I can’t say enough about Hamlet 2. I feel so inspired in the strangest way!@brandonpierce & I were LOL through 90% of it. Sexy Jesus FTW!

“Ugh, my roomate just ate all my food I had planned to eat for work and home for the next two days. Backup ramen FTW! :-(“

But what does it mean? When I was growing up, FTW meant “Fuck The World.” I’d see it written on walls, would hear it used as slang in school and occasionally would here it in popular culture. There have also been a few songs, titled FTW, in reference to “Fuck The World”, like the one found on The Vines album Winning Days. 

Turns out, that the above Tweets are not cries to “Fuck The World.” Instead, FTW, or the FTW used by this generation of Internet users means “For The Win!” A lot more pleasant sounding than the ill-fated sounding “Fuck The World,” but still, very cryptic. 

So that leads to me to usage. “For The Win”, ok, that’s all dandy, but how do you use it? None of the above tweets make any sense. Sapporo FTW! Sexy Jesus FTW! WHAT? HUH? 

It turns out that to understand its usage, one must historically understand the FTW term. FTW was initially heavily used by online multi-player game enthusiasts (i.e. World of Warcraft). It was often used during game chats or in forums. Here’s a few examples of how one would use FTW if they were a gamer:

“Oh yeah, baby, double mega hydro shock spitgun, FTW!

“polymorph, FTW!

“druid hurricane, FTW!

As you can see, the FTW presented in the above gaming examples are excitatory proclamations that a particular weapon (i.e. double mega hydro shock spitgun) or tool was useful in executing a winning maneuver. 

However, as we saw from the previous Twitter examples, FTW usage has moved beyond just exclaiming the virtues of a particular weapon. Instead, it is now used to exclaim the virtues of a particular idea, food, process or device that leads to a satisfying or excellent outcome.

Recently, a user on the Washington Capitals forum board (I’m not a member, I stumbled upon it while researching FTW!) went off on the term. He called for an all out ban of the term on the Capitals forum board:

“For the win”? What does that even mean? It seems to be used to imply that something is good, if I am interpreting the context correctly. But can’t one simply say that something is good? Why obfuscate with an acronym or a nonsensical phrase?

Back in my day, we would use the term “awesome” in a similar manner to this “FTW” nonsense– but at least “awesome” made a littlesense, even if it was rather hyperbolic to suggest, for instance, that Pac-Man actually inspired awe.Prior to all this, the only times I have heard the words “for the win” used came when watching sporting events. But, see, when a sports announcer says “for the win”– as in “Jordan, for the win…!”– the outcome has not been decided yet. The phrase does not reflect whether the outcome was good or bad. So how can one use this phrase to imply that something is good when the phrase itself does not imply anything?

So there you have it folks. You have now been educated on the virtues of FTW. Use it wisely and if you do use it beware of Washington Capitals fans. Definitions, FTW!

 

Image From Commierobots-ftw.com

Image From Commierobots-ftw.com

iFlix is Netflix Heaven on the iPhone

I’ve mentioned in the past how much I adore Netflix (despite the recent Dexter debacle I experienced last week). But now I think I’ve found a reason to love Netflix even more. And that reason is called iFlix. 

iFlix is a native iPhone app, created by Brent Jensen, that is marketed as “easy queue management on the go.” Having had a chance to test out iFlix for a few days, I must admit that this is a killer app, especially if you are power Netflix user. 

Of course, you can do everything you can do on iFlix using Safari on the iPhone. However, accessing the Netflix website on the iPhone can be quite cumbersome and difficult to navigate, especially with the small text and having to zoom in and out of the browsers screen. With iFlix, everything is ten times easier. You can easily rearrange your queue the same way that you can drag and drop contacts in the iPhone address book. You can view recent activity and see what movies you currently have at home and the last movies you returned. 

Something that I like to do whenever I’m at Wal-Mart or Best Buy is peruse the DVD section. Before I had iFlix, I would use the Notes app on the iPhone to list what movies I wanted and then when I got home I would add those movies to my Netflix queue. Well, no more of that multi-step mumbo-jumbo. Now, I simply use the search function on iFlix to find the movie I’m interested in and I can add it to my queue, instantly, on the fly. Awesome. Even better, you can browse discs on the go by genre, top 100, or new releases directly from iFlix, so, theoretically, you don’t even need Wal-Mart or Best Buy to peruse!

iFlix does have a few faults. First of all, the “For You” recommendations function did not work me. It did not return any movie recommendations for me. Secondly, you can’t choose between formats (DVD or Blu-ray). The movies you add will be added in DVD format. 

At $1.99, the iFlix app is a steal for what it does. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love a freebie version direct from Netflix, but until Netflix gets their Apple act together (no native Instant Watch on Macs, WTF!) I am more than happy using iFlix.

 

 

 

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