Hi, I'm Dave Mulder. This is my website, where I write about user experience and product design.

Originally Published: November 3, 2009

A better Threadless gifting option: Let them choose a tee

I love Threadless. (If you don’t know what Threadless is, check it out! They sell cool t-shirts.)

It’s easy to fall in love with Threadless because the interaction and experience of their website invokes a strong sense of presence (heightened interactivity). You browse through awesome t-shirt designs and generally have fun right through the end of the checkout process.

Even though I love giving the gift of Threadless (in the form of word-of-mouth evangelism and specific shirt purchases for friends), I have never bought a Threadless gift certificate. It’s probably because I’m not a big fan of gift certificates myself. Why is that? Consider the Best Buy gift card.

Have you ever gotten a Best Buy gift card? I’ve gotten quite a few, anywhere from $10 to $100. Unless I know something specific I want to pick up, it’s difficult to get excited. I start thinking about what exactly I can get for that amount, and it leads to paralyzing indecision. Any gift certificate with cash value takes some effort to consider and convert into a tangible item. Thanking the gifter is also problematic (after you eventually use the gift certificate). “Hey, thanks for this flashlight and set of blank CD-Rs!” That’s way too awkward.

Here is what Threadless’ gift certificate page looks like today:

Given how the company has worked tirelessly to create a friendly, fun, presence-driven interactive experience, it seems like they could do more with their gift certificate option.

My idea: “Let them choose a Threadless tee”

Let’s say I wanted to give my friend Mary a Threadless tee for Christmas without having to ask her what her size is and what style she prefers. I would pull up Threadless.com and purchase the “Let them choose a Threadless tee” gift card for some nominal fee (probably $25-30). Threadless sends me a nice-looking card to give to Mary (printed on sexy heavy stock) and on Christmas she opens my gift to her.

Mary heads to her computer Christmas evening, happily satiated by a day’s worth of family and plenty of delicious food. She pulls my gift card out, loads up Threadless.com, and chooses any tee she wants. During the checkout process she puts in her shipping address and a code from the gift card. Mary’s only thought process is, “Which cool shirt do I want?” She doesn’t have to spend a single moment calculating the price of the tee and shipping, because the gift card is good for one shirt shipped to her home (not some arbitrary cash-equivalent). One business day later, Mary’s chosen tee is on its way from the Threadless warehouse to her home.

And that’s it. “Let them choose a Threadless tee” represents a far more tangible and real gift than if I had given her a cash-value gift certificate. The next time I see Mary, she thanks me for the awesome shirt she’s proudly wearing.

I know it’s not that easy for Threadless to implement this gift system. There are some expensive tees and exotic shipping locations that would probably have to be excluded. I’ll leave those details to the fine employees at Threadless.

If anyone at Threadless is reading this and thinks it’s a great idea, feel free to implement it. If you have any questions, please get in touch with me (davidlmulder.com).

Note: It’s also possible that Threadless does have this feature and I am just not able to find it. If so, please direct me to it!