Something I have always wanted/needed on our website is what is called a personalization engine. It would allow customers to visualize what their chair will look like after designing it. This is pretty standard on printing sites where you can design a Christmas card, or a flyer, and sign making sites… but finding one appropriate for our business proved to be either very expensive or difficult.
If you have been to our site and looked at the personalized chair listings, then you would see that we presently have a designer. About two years ago, we found a program that we thought would do what we wanted, but it turned out to be limited in it’s functionality, and difficult to implement. However, there were a few good lessons that we learned in the process. First of all, of course there must be a product picture uploaded as the backdrop to personalize on. This program relied on different layers, one being the chair frame (which did not change color), and on top of that the various colors of chair fabric that would change when picked. Well, this required pretty good photoshop skills to make it look decent and also sizing was critical. We have tried to photoshop colors in for the different choices, but the chair ends up looking like a cartoon. Not good if a realistic representation is the goal. Secondly, it was very difficult to install fonts that we needed for both imprinting and embroidery.
This year, my new year’s resolution (for business, that is) was to implement a chair designer. I soon discovered that there are quite a few companies out there who have turn key solutions for doing this. But the price tag! Some wanted monthly fees, everyone wanted big setup fees (even with us taking the pictures) and finally there were limits on the number of products you could have. I knew there was better way. I started searching… and searching… and searching. My breakthrough came when I started looking at t shirt designer applications. T shirts are similar to chairs in that you are customizing on fabric, and the fonts and colors are limited.
I think that I started looking on YouTube, since there were a lot of instructional videos for these programs. Yureka! I found one that seemed to check all the boxes of the features I wanted. A developer in Thailand had come up with a designer that had a clean, simple interface that had the capability of choosing multiple colors, fonts, uploads and even clip art. And all for the amazing price of $49! You have always heard you get what you pay for, well in this case we got a whole lot more that what we paid for. After spending another $49 for addons that expand the functionality, we have all the bells and whistles we need.
The road has not been easy and even with this program there are some technical bugs that had to be fixed. Support has been wonderful in fixing these… I just wish they had a night shift since I am asleep when they are working and any problems get pushed to the next day until we can communicate. We are now adding customizations that are necessary for specifically my business. When it is all done, I see a site where a customer can choose fonts and color combinations, upload personal photos from home of Facebook, add clip art like a movie camera for that budding director – and then see it on the chair or even share it via email, pinterest, facebook or instagram. I have included a screen shot as a teaser, so stay tuned for exciting things. We will keep you informed!