RedBubble vs Zazzle vs CafePress

A brief rundown of the three services

[4 minute read]

Less a review, more an experience.

At the suggestion of my girlfriend, I decided to start selling mugs, shirts, and other such things with the RefactorsaurusRex logo printed on them. I had recently found this shirt for sale on RedBubble, so for no real reason other than gut instinct I decided to open up shop there. I think I figured anyone with enough gall to sell a shirt like that must be pretty particular about his choice of stores to use. Like I said, it was a purely visceral impulse. Anyway, I was quite pleased with the process of setting up my store on RedBubble. Not including the time it took to create the artwork I wanted to use - illustration is not one of my core strengths - from the time I loaded redbubble.com into my browser to the point where I had a viable store was less than 30 minutes. The site is clean and simple, design characteristics that I universally cherish. However, after I had finished setting it up, my girlfriend asked, “Are you SURE it’s better than Cafe Press and Zazzle?” Alas, I was not sure.

I was sure I liked RedBubble, but she had a good point: I hadn’t given either of the other two stores so much as a fleeting glance. Although I am very often obsessively analytical when facing choices of even minor consequence, I really didn’t want to spend much time on this one. My to-do list(s) are already infinitely long. But egged on as I was, I couldn’t not at least take a peek at Zazzle and Cafe Press.

- Disclaimer -

I want to say right here, right now that I ended up sticking with RedBubble. Turns out my instincts were spot on this time. I basically poked around on Zazzle and Cafe Press looking for an excuse not to use them. I found plenty, but please don’t take that to mean I think they suck. I just think they weren’t appropriate for my specific needs. As I said above, this is less a review and more just my personal experience.

I started with Zazzle. I like Zazzle, and have had good experiences ordering one-offs from them in the past. However, I felt a little lost trying to set up my own store there. If there’s a clear path, marked with lots of helpful signage, pointing out the way from their main page to creating your own storefront, I didn’t find it. Perhaps my expectations were a little skewed by the very streamlined experience I had with RedBubble. Regardless, it took more poking around than I would have preferred to figure out how to start selling stuff. On the other hand, during this process I made the discovery that I could upload vector images. That was very exciting! Why other stores only accept raster images, I can’t explain - especially given the necessity of resizing the image to fit a wide range of merchandise surfaces. I have to give Zazzle a big gold star for that one. They also offer a huuuuuge array of items you can sell, which is awesome. The problem is that the website didn’t seem to make the process of slapping your logo on all those myriad products - and have them look good - very easy. The thought of customizing item after item made my eyes glaze over. The website itself has a very nice veneer, but my admittedly knee-jerk impression was that it could do a better job of simplifying a truly dizzying number of options. The thrill of being able to use vector images thoroughly eclipsed by the complexity of setting up a store, I moved on to Cafe Press.

I would estimate I spent no more than three minutes looking at Cafe Press. It was just too… busy. Like Zazzle, I’ve ordered a few items here and there from Cafe Press in the past and have always been happy. But while looking at their site all I thought about was how sharply it contrasted with the clean, minimal, streamlined experience at RedBubble. And so back to RedBubble I went, confident I could now report back to my girlfriend, “Yes, I’m SURE it’s better than Cafe Press and Zazzle.” At least for me it is. Your mileage may vary.

By the way, go buy a mug from me! They’re cute! (Men can use the word ‘cute’ like that, right?)