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6 Ways to Validate New Designs for Your Print on Demand Store

Victoria Greene, 04/25/2018,

With any business idea, it’s important to verify that there’s a market for your products before you invest too much money. This applies to print-on-demand designs just as much as physical offerings. Thanks to the web, there are plenty of ways to gather helpful feedback on your design ideas, and if you ask the right questions, you’ll find it to be a hugely valuable part of your process.

It’s easy to create something that we like ourselves, but without input from other people, it can be hard to identify what’s commercially viable. Read to discover six easy ways to validate your POD designs before you add them to your online store.

Related reading: Design Trends for Print on Demand Products in 2018

Start with social networks

Gone are the days when you need a custom platform to help you market and test your product designs – now there are almost limitless free tools you can use, namely, social media. With social media, you have a gateway to millions of potential customers, as well as friends and industry professionals who can give you notes and advice. Start by finding out which social media platform you target audience spends most of their time using, and post sketches or mockups to get a feel for what’s popular.

Beware of only asking your friends for feedback, as chances are they will paint their reactions in an overly positive light. Take note of which designs got the most likes, comments, pins, etc. and take all feedback on board, making adjustments to the samples as necessary.

Post them on Reddit

Reddit is an amazing platform for users of all kinds to connect, share and discuss ideas. There’s such a wide range of subreddits, that it’s possible to find all sorts of useful niches – and that’s what makes it such a useful tool for validating your POD designs. There’s the design subreddit, the graphic_design subreddit, and even the design_critiques subreddit, all of which provide focused communities for graphic designers and design entrepreneurs to share and solicit feedback on their work.

Reddit allows for all sorts of content, but it still has rules about what is and is not acceptable to post. One of these rules is that you cannot ‘use Reddit to solicit or facilitate any transaction or gift involving certain goods and services’. In other words, you can’t openly try to sell or promote your products here. Likewise, individual communities within Reddit also have their own rules, so be sure to read them before you start posting.

Some other great tools for collecting feedback include:

Create a safe environment for feedback

Ideally, you want to receive feedback from people that’s going to be useful, insightful, and actionable. “Looks fine” is of no use to anyone. To get quality feedback, you need to make the process easy and comfortable for the people you’re asking. When we’re feeling stressed, we’re less able to think critically and may find it harder to clearly articulate what we really think.

When you send or post work for the purposes of getting feedback, take the following steps to get concise and actionable information:

  • Give people plenty of time to review your work – don’t rush them
  • Let them know what type of feedback you’re looking for, beyond a simple yes or no
  • Provide a small number of options – too many makes it hard to choose
  • Show your POD product in real life, if you can. Feedback on the quality of the product and how it feels to use/wear can also prove useful. If that’s not possible, use mockups

Ask deliberate questions

Likewise, to get design validation that goes beyond “this is nice” or “I don’t like this one”, you need to be asking people the right questions. You need to know why this one is nice, and what specifically isn’t working about the other.

Consider posting your design alongside a list of questions, such as the following:

  • Why does this design appeal to you?
  • What would you change about this design, and why?
  • Do you feel there are any unnecessary elements that could be removed?
  • Is the premise of this design in any way unclear?
  • How does this design make you feel?
  • Who do you imagine would be interested in this design?

Try it out for real

One of the best things about print-on-demand is that it’s so low risk. It’s not as if you’re going to be left with boxes of unsold stock left to shift if some of your designs prove less popular. So if you want to know whether your new designs will sell or not, you can set up an online store with a POD integration and test it out.

If you decide to use Shopify, which has a free two-week trial, Gooten offers an all-in-one ecommerce print on-demand solution that gives you hundreds of options for testing new ideas and products. You can theoretically set up a functioning store in a matter of hours, or alternatively, you can upload your designs to a POD marketplace like Redbubble and see what kind of traction you get on there.

Copyrighting your designs

Worried about other people stealing your designs when you post them online? Legally speaking, copyright protection is automatic when you create a piece of original work. But that won’t necessarily stop others from pinching it. Whether you want to register a piece of work is up to you, but it’s necessary if you decide to file an infringement suit.

To register your work with the US Copyright Office, you’ll need to submit an application form, along with a non-refundable filing fee and a copy of the work in question (this will not be returned). You can apply both electronically or by mail, but it’s faster and easier to do it electronically.

What methods of validation do you use for your POD designs? We’d love to hear what’s worked for you and what hasn’t. Leave a comment below and share your experience.

Victoria Greene is a branding consultant and freelance writer. On her blog, VictoriaEcommerce, she shares tips on ecommerce and how companies can improve the way they represent their brand. She is passionate about using her experience to help brands improve their reach.

Victoria Greene

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