When Policies Change: Writing Product Descriptions

Full control over projects and enterprises is always nice, particularly creative projects. Or at least, it always feels nice. A nice thing about Zazzle then (and presumably other print-on-demand companies), is that Designers have full creative control over their work. Sure, Zazzle does have a few restrictions for art and photos (for instance, nothing that can reasonably viewed as discriminatory, nor anything that encourages drug abuse, is excessively violent, nor obscene or pornographic in a non-artistic way), but in all reasonable and understandable ways, Designers are free to create whatever they want. Of course, this extends to whichever products to post as well, plus, how to organize and present them.

Yet one is always well-advised to re-evaluate their work and practices at times, and as with being part of any community undertaking, overseen and managed by a third party, sometimes, Zazzle makes changes that encourage, or even force, Designers to react. Zazzle does these things, of course, not only in their own best interests, but those also, ultimately, of their Makers and Designers. And while such changes can understandably be frustrating at times (and granted, not all changes will directly benefit all Designers), taking time to adjust to and occasionally limiting what one can choose to do, if nothing else, they are, again, simply a part of creating and selling in conjunction with a company.

Essence of Autumn Leaves Thinking of You Card, product at The Draw on Zazzle

Essence of Autumn Leaves Thinking of You Card
© 2015 Darren Olsen

Consider, for instance, the following. From the beginning, when writing descriptions for products, I quite often included suggestions for customization (sometimes even helpful hints on using the design interface), plus information on style options and related products. Zazzle did not require this. Rather, I felt that perhaps at least occasionally, a prospective buyer would find such additional information friendly and helpful.

Essence of Autumn Leaves Thinking of You Card

With the autumn season comes many things. Colorful leaves, cooler days, longer nights … and thankfulness for all we have. For the *people* you care about in your life, show your thankfulness with this “thinking of you” card, featuring autumn leaves on front, and a customizable message inside!

For what distinguishes the seasons from your caring of others? The gradual yet inevitable changes that the seasons bring, versus the continual and steadfast love you give all year!

Let someone special know you are thinking of them with these swirling, stylized autumn leaves and card, and may you both enjoy the season before it falls way to winter!

(Image source hand-drawn in colored pencil; copyright © 2015 Darren Olsen in all copies, depictions, and modifications.)

Make it your own!

Suggestions: Customize by changing the message in whatever way you would like, perhaps the wording itself, or even simply the font or color. Also consider changing the background color on front to any of your choice, perhaps to any orange, brown, or similar color.

Style Options: Available as a standard, note, or big greeting card. Simply pick your favorite!

Related: Also see matching Essence of Autumn Swirling Leaves Stickers and Postage Stamps!

Essence of Autumn Leaves Thinking of You Card, product at The Draw on Zazzle, The leaves have changed, and now they swirl, in cool cold winds, as trees unfurl, A darkening drift, as days fall to night, 'till seasons play out, back to warmth and light, Yet seasons aside, always it's true, never subject to change, oh how I love you!

Essence of Autumn Leaves Thinking of You Card – Wording
© 2015 Darren Olsen

Nonetheless, a couple changes that Zazzle made over the past several months gave me reason to abandon this practice, in favor of just describing the design. First, some months ago, Zazzle stopped allowing hyperlinks in product descriptions, as well as most other HTML. (Presumably, people were abusing the privilege by including lots and lots of links in their descriptions, rather than an occasional one or two for strictly-related products, as I was.) Due to this, I came to find one day that all my hyperlinks had been stripped (as had all other Designers’), and so too had been the “Related” text that the links were part of, plus all “Style Options” and “Suggestions” text. (I had always used bold for these things by means of an HTML tag–just the phrases themselves, not the ensuing text–which is why I imagine Zazzle likewise removed these portions of my descriptions.) Now, of course this did not mean that I could no longer include URLs at all, and so despite the clumsiness of plain text ones, I spent some time re-adding my handful of links, now as just plain text ones, as well as all the “Suggestions”, “Style Options”, and “Related” text.

The Gathering Colorful Songbirds Patterned Mug, product at The Draw on Zazzle

The Gathering Colorful Songbirds Patterned Mug
© 2016 Darren Olsen

Then though, a short time later, Zazzle also removed the option to put spaces and returns in product descriptions, meaning everything in a description now had to be a single block of text. Needless to say, this did not make my multi-part descriptions look very pretty, though for the time being, I still continued with them.

The Gathering Colorful Songbirds Patterned Mug

Here we have a gathering of beautiful, colorful songbirds. Why have they gathered? Perhaps they’ve met up before flying south for the winter … or maybe their mutual presence is just a highly unusual sight. (After all, in real life, these birds would almost certainly never be all together in the same area!) Either way, who doesn’t like the sight of such beautiful birds? Whenever you feel you need a break, a little quiet moment with a comforting beverage, let these beautiful birds add to that comfort. Flips of the image feature on either side, and the rest is filled with patterned repeats of greenery, and of course further, tiny birds. (When the central bird is facing right: Going clockwise, starting in the upper-left corner and finishing in the center, the featured birds are: male Eastern Bluebird, female Painted Bunting, Cedar Waxwing, male Northern Cardinal, male Purple Martin, male Pine Warbler, male Red-Winged Blackbird, female Northern Cardinal, male Varied Thrush, and male Painted Bunting.) (Image source hand-drawn in colored pencil; copyright © 2016 Darren Olsen in all copies, depictions, and modifications.) Make it your own! Suggestion: Customize by shrinking, expanding, or moving any of the three images in order to find your personally most-comforting view. (Keep in mind, the repeating background image is tiled by default. You should be able to find it in-between the two main images. And if so desired, tiling may be turned off by selecting the image, then clicking the gear icon and unchecking ‘Tile this Image’.) Style Options: Great as a ringer mug (and perhaps the lime is the ideal color for the rim and handle), but how about as a two-tone or even just the regular? See what you think, and pick your favorite!

Finally though, in the meantime, Zazzle further began implementing a new and re-designed look for its product pages (plus the design interface), and with that, I chose at last to stop including supplemental information in my product descriptions. Now I have to say, I think the new look is pretty awesome, actually. Whereas before, for instance, the Designer’s description was way down the page, and everything was more or less vertically-organized down the left, now, both the Maker’s and Designer’s descriptions are side by side, just below the product photos above and to the left, and the purchasing and customization buttons above and to the right. Nevertheless, while this compact, streamlined look is much more elegant (and the matching design interface is much more convenient), it makes cluttered descriptions just stand out all the more. As such, I feel that just sticking to basic design descriptions, free of supplemental text, is now the better choice, and so for all my recent items, this is precisely the approach I have been taking.

And this illustrates fairly well, I think, the reality of full control versus mandatory changes in an “overseen community” setting. I still feel that my original approach to writing product descriptions was better for customers, even though it certainly cost me extra time and effort during the product-posting process. And so it might be said that Zazzle’s withdrawn support of HTML in descriptions, then spaces and returns, and finally the overall product page redesign did not benefit me as a Designer, and maybe not even my prospective customers.

Yet the new look is undeniably more appealing, and surely this is the reason why Zazzle is implementing it. They must surely feel that the new look will attract more customers and increase sales, and while the redesign and preceding changes are really not compatible with my own, “enhanced” product descriptions, who can say, perhaps they are indeed an improvement. (I do have to say, despite my thoughtfulness and best efforts, I do wonder to what extent anyone really paid attention to my descriptions anyway. Browsing does not require in-depth looking, and so for simple print-on-demand products where the main thing is simply whether one likes the look, perhaps such in-depth looking is not often undertaken.)

Either way, such is, again, simply the nature of selling in an environment such as Zazzle’s. Curiously though, note that I had a choice throughout the whole time. Zazzle did not require me to write “enhanced” descriptions, but nor did they require me to not write such descriptions either. (Granted though, they did prohibit me from using HTML in said descriptions, most notably hyperlinks.) And this leaves the question: should I go back and remove all supplemental text from my old product descriptions, the ones I had written prior to the changes, before deciding to no longer write such ones? Up to now at least, I have felt, “no”. While they do make the descriptions much more cluttered, there is still very good reason why I wrote them that way to begin with, perhaps just enough that to retroactively change them is unwarranted.

This does mean, of course, that I really should go back and ensure that my hints on using the design interface, for instance, are still accurate, and that whenever new product styles are introduced, I go back and update the relevant descriptions for those as well. (If there is one thing I can say about selling on Zazzle, it seems there is always some “administrative” task to be done, whether this means the routine work of uploading and working with images or readying items for sale, or “special” tasks, like updating certain existing products or otherwise systematically revising dozens and dozens of products en masse. For me, of course, this means working with the product listings themselves, plus the entries in my offline spreadsheet.)

Such is just the nature of selling on Zazzle, where the aim is to give the best experience possible to customers, Makers, Designers, and Zazzle proper alike.

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