Sep 11 2009
Coin That Phrase has left the building. We miss them greatly. Well, kind of anyway.
I’ve always been one to enjoy finding clever ways of phrasing things. I often keep a quote list of funny, ironic, or memorable things people say. From Proverbs in the Bible, the sayings of Confucius, to quips made by comedians, people love witty or meaningful sayings.
The web is abundant with sites featuring phrases, verses, quotes and the like. Up until now these were random collection of sayings, sometimes quoted and attributed correctly, oftentimes not. Coin That Phrase recently launched a site with a fully functional quote factory. What’s a fully functional quote factory do you ask? It’s a place to read quotes, post quotes, buy shirts or other items with the phrase on them, and make some money in the process.
Getting straight to it, the first quote I submitted was one of my favorite of all time. “Wouldn’t this world be great if being lonely and desperate were a turn on.” I don’t recall where I first heard it but have remembered it ever since. I like it since it’s funny and is a good reminder to never allow oneself to be perceived as needy. Once I submitted it I was given the option to purchase shirts, coffee mugs, key rings or a necklace with the quote printed on it. My first inclination was that this would make for the perfect gift for a boss, coworkers, or the friend you have no idea what else to get. A personal, funny, inside joke can be immortalized forever on a potentially usable item.
This idea is nothing new. Even CNN offers printed shirts with provocative and completely inane titles they think people would like to own a shirt of. I sometimes wonder if living in a trailer park is a requirement to purchase the CNN line of clothing. It would definitely be the case if those shirts were offered on Fox News, but I digress. Cafepress is the leader in creating customized items. Their service allows you to upload an image and then purchase or sell the custom product. CTP has an edge in that their products focus strictly on written information and thus don’t require any graphic design to complete. You simply type in the quote, select the font and a couple other options, and proceed to checkout.
Coin That Phrase’s business model is based on a couple things. First they take a cut of each item sold. Second, each person has the option to purchase ownership of a phrase through CTP. Say what? By checking the box and paying the $2-3 fee you establish ownership of a phrase for life. It even comes with a printed certificate which serves to remove any doubt that this phrase is in fact, yours. It makes a nice touch for those who are gifting a phrase and associated gift items to someone. The third way CTP makes money is by allowing people to join their affiliate program. This gives people the ability to make commissions on the sale of items with their phrase on it. I wasn’t clear on what those commissions would be, which could be a warning sign. It could mean that the phrase owner is allowed to set the commission above and beyond a base price set by CTP. That’s the way Cafepress handles commissions.
I think it’s already clear which part of Coin that Phrase I really enjoy; it provides you the ability to quickly design creative items with a personal touch. I know in office settings there are always inside jokes that go around. The person that puts out a few dollars to CTP and gets a mug and certificate will be famous forever. It’s the same for friends who have a favorite saying or memory. The certificate is the icing on the cake for an ongoing joke or gift.
I noticed a few things about the site I’d improve though. Immediately after submitting a phrase it takes you to this great product creator. From here you can select whether you want a coffee mug, shirt, etc., and design and purchase the product. Once you’re off that page it took me a bit of hunting to re-find the product creator. I saw a list of popular products on the right side of the page, but how the heck do you find the product creator for any of the other phrases? I knew it had to be on the Phrase page, but just didn’t see it. Turns out it’s right where it should be, on the top left of the phrase page, but with a distractingly dismal picture and caption on it. In this case distractingly dismal can be interpreted as a grayed out picture that resembles a gross old man with the caption, “Wear It.” My impulse reflex to gross old men in nasty t-shirts is to avert the eyes and look away. Even when I got past the feeling of being stalked by a potential paedophile I still had to wrap my mind around the idea that “Wear It” somehow also means key chains or coffee mugs. A possible suggestion is to go with say, an attractive female, as opposed to the creepy guy at the bus stop. One way or another it needs to better convey that it is in fact the link to the product creator page.
The other way to find the product creator is to click the link, “Shop this phrase” which appears next to the phrase search or browse listings. The trouble with it is that I first read it as, “STOP this phrase” and glanced over it. I thought it was a button to click for particularly offensive phrases and didn’t give it a second thought. I’m not sure, “Shop this Phrase” is the best moniker for, “Hey come buy a mug, necklace or shirt with this phrase on it.” My suggestion is to find some wording that works a little better. Once that’s settled then use the same theme, idea, image, color, button style and what not in both the phrase listings page and the Phrase page (in lieu of the creepy guy). That way the users will be taught and then reinforced that the product creator exists and where it can be found. The path to the product creator page is the door to financial success for CTP so let’s leave it as open and welcoming as possible.
I did get tripped up on the navigation to browse phrases a bit. It’s works like a grid with an X and Y axis. The X axis is the top navigation including Most Popular, Classics, Originals and Most Recent. The Y axis includes categories, tags or alphabatized. The default X axis is Most Popular. By default the Y axis isn’t selected. Once you select a Y axis option, category/tag/alpha, then it will continue to filter based upon the one selected. So you’re only getting the intersect of the X and Y axis, or one square within the grid. Perhaps this is what you want, but there’s no way to clear the Y axis without pressing the Home button and starting over. It’s kind of a nuisance and a bit confusing. What you end up with is a category or tag following you around long after you wanted it there. One possible solution is to clear the Y axis every time someone clicks a different X axis option. So if someone’s looking at the Most Recent phrases under category Joke, and then they switch to Most Popular, then the Joke filter will be removed. That’s what I was expecting it to do and would be easy to implement.
Another observation is that the quotes I found quickly began to resemble some of the brain sores found on Yahoo Answers. Recently it’s been rumored that a significant minority of internet users rallied to rename Yahoo Answers to, “The Most Inconsequential Destination on the Web. TM.” I personally neither supported nor opposed this alleged initiative, but note the general trend of disdain for mediocre content online. I think CTP has made a good effort to defend against this by listing the most popular phrases by default and on the front page. Another way CTP could battle against the mutterings of imbeciles is related to something I think they’ve done best- the fact that they’re integrated with Facebook. CTP allows users to sign in with their Facebook id, and I suspect that gives them access to their Facebook user profiles. If that’s the case they can gather the age of many of their users. Whether via Facebook or by asking directly, I propose that CTP gathers the age range of their users during registration. Then they should allow users to filter which phrases they’ll see based upon age range of phrase submitter. This would help ward off the neurotic impulses of the younger crowds. In short, I really don’t care about the wisdom or humor my aunt’s 14 year old daughter has to impart unto the world. My ideal filter would be both based upon age ranges, but also have the option to override that filter when a phrase reaches a certain level of popularity.
A final tidbit, I would rearrange the listing of the X-axis navigation and add tooltips offering a bit more explanation. My preferred order would be Popular, Recent, Classics, Originals. I would explore the option of dropping the word “Most” prior to Popular and Recent since it’s a bit redundant and intuitive. The tooltips would serve to give a bit more explanation for the Classics and Originals headings since they’re not 100% clear right at first. The words classic and orignal are related words per the thesaurus. CTP uses them to mean classic phrases that weren’t created by our users, and original phrases that were created by our users. In this case tooltips should be used for all the browsing headers to stay consistent. Another option is to find a better name for Classics as it’s the least intuitive of the bunch.
Coin That Phrase is a great site for viewing quotes, phrases, pieces of wisdom, or mockery. It’s can provide ten minutes of entertainment during the day, a small side business, or iconic gifts for friends and associates. The ease of use is excellent and thoroughness of design is impressive. The Facebook integration gives it the prospect of taking off in a big way. As the Biblical Proverb goes, “A man finds joy in giving an apt reply— and how good is a timely word!” And Confucius reminds us, “Wheresoever you go, go with all your heart.” Therein lies the impetus and sagely wisdom that will drive Coin That Phrase’s success.