Unfortunate Death Of Manual Customization

Discussion in 'Customizable Products & Design' started by bluelinegecko, Feb 26, 2018.

  1. bluelinegecko
    bluelinegecko Well-Known Member
    A few weeks ago I received an email from Shapeways notifying me that they were going to kill off the manual customization (co-creator) option on several of my models. Their basic reasoning was that it isn't used often and that it was a pain to maintain. Their suggestions were to either use the "custom maker" tool or enable "custom requests" and hope your customer actually bothers contacting you. (The later option doesn't even give the customer a vague idea of the price of one's design unless you have the blank model marked available for sale and are willing to take the chance that they will accidentally order a non-customized version on accident and leave you dealing with the customer service ramifications)

    Today I decided to edit a few of my models to be customizable with custom maker. The first time I bothered with trying it. I can't believe how poor that tool is implemented after being out for 2 1/2 years.

    The majority of my customizable designs were for pendants/pet tags that I manually added customized text on two sides and had printed in stainless steel based or cast metal materials.

    First off, the tool is a pain to use and skittish. I click on one of the squares to adjust the size of the box, and when I release the mouse button the tool will rotate my entire model several degrees in a random direction. Sometimes even flipping the model 180°. The constant readjustments to try to size and align the box is a big PITA.

    Second, while Shapeways gives some guidelines for the minimum distance to emboss or engrave text inward/outward for certain materials on this page


    they give NO detail on what SIZE font to use. Where you enter the "font size" and "line height" in the custom maker tool it only states "min 2mm" but I can not believe that is a valid font height to use on all materials. I know from experience manually customizing numerous tags that about 3.5mm is the smallest font you can usually use for engraved/embossed text in steel depending on what font is used, and that is with using a very straight blocky and usually BOLD font. Shapeways' chosen font has varying line width and fine details and will likely trigger more "thin wall" automated rejections in customer's orders on small font heights. A 2mm tall font height might work for FUD prints but there is no way it is even close to usable in steel. With this tool being out for so long why isn't there a definitive guideline using Shapeways' chosen font for each material (Ie. a guarantee that a text height of "X" in "Material Y" will be legible and not trigger an order rejection for small detail/thin walls. Again, I know how small I can push the fonts I used in the past, but that was also after several print rejections/tests. If Shapeways is going to lock everyone in to one specific font they should provide that information.

    I do like that the tool allows you to enter multiple lines of text in a text box. However, there are many cases where if a person only needs to enter 1 line of text in a space where two or more lines are meant to fit, that the text could be larger so the text is more legible. A text box that has a settable maximum and minimum text height and adjusts the size on the fly while centering the text vertically would be a great improvement. Horizontal centering of text is also a no brainer and should be the default. A few old forum posts I read implied that that was, however all the boxes I created are aligning to the left edge.

    But WHY is there no ability to have more than one text box per model? Seriously! This makes custom maker completely useless for me on the majority of my models as most customers want their pet's name on the front and their contact information on the back.

    While the custommaker can project the text in a straight line onto a curved surface, there is no way to have a curved line of text, making it useless for several of my more popular models I've sold in the past. The inability to use different fonts also messes up the looks of a few models.

    So after a couple of hours of playing with the feature and uploading new models, I find that in the majority of cases this is going to be a useless feature for me. So now I need to reset a few of my models, change everything to "custom requests" and hope customers bother to spend the time contacting me. Until I find a better solution.

    I realize that all designers have different needs/situations, and that the tool might be great for some, but personally I expected a lot more usefulness out of a 2 1/2 year old feature if designers are more or less being forced into migrating to it.

    I still really like Shapeways, and I've sold a lot of customizable prints through the site even though it has never amounted to a large source of income. But after being a member/designer for over 7 years on this site I can honestly say that almost EVERY single time Shapeways changed something over the last 7 years I feel they have made it worse. I feel the website itself is uglier and harder to navigate, for both customers and designers. And their efforts to automate more and more have caused nothing but problems. I suspect that a lot of the "hard to maintain" reasoning Shapeways used to kill the co-creator option was because the constant changes in the model pages often broke the system so that information that was supposed to be forwarded to the designers was not showing up on the designers page. It worked great for years until someone there broke it. Honestly I miss the old Shapeways and wish that someone there would understand that "new" and "easier" doesn't always equal a better experience. Just my 2 cents.
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2018
  2. bluelinegecko
    bluelinegecko Well-Known Member
    And just !@%^%$ great. I just realized that by setting the models to "custom request", which defaults to making them not purchasable,(which is probably good so customers don't mistakenly get a blank pendant or one with "sample text") the models NO LONGER EVEN APPEAR AT ALL IN MY STORE!

    How are potential customers supposed to ever even see them now? Wow. Thanks again Shapeways. I'm taking a break from this for today. I'm really not happy right now.
  3. MrNibbles
    MrNibbles Well-Known Member
    I've often found the image input to be superior to the text option. Using something like Powerpoint or a paint program can get you better balance, multiple fonts, etc. A lot of suggestions have been made in the past for this tool but I don't think they ever had enough revenue from automated customized parts to merit plunking down money for improvements. That's just my guess but it seems that's how Shapeways works sometimes. Throw up something that mostly works and get back to it later if it makes financial sense. Or pull the plug if it becomes a burden.

    Anyway as far as centering goes, at least with one line of text, I've had some success in adding leading and following spaces to the desired text, and adding or subtracting from opposite sides to center or offset as desired. Maybe an actual letter needs to be placed on both ends to make this work, I can't remember for sure, but as I recall anything far beyond the desired text on each side won't show up anyway. I haven't bothered much with the new multi-line capability since I generally go with the image file but maybe there's a tricky way to do something similar with that set-up. Of course that doesn't mean a customer knows the little tricks unless you type an instruction manual into each product description.
  4. wgseligman
    wgseligman Well-Known Member
  5. bluelinegecko
    bluelinegecko Well-Known Member
    Well I see I'm not the only one then Wgseligman.

    I discovered the same things you mentioned while playing with the system MrNibbles, but as you said letting the customer know they can try to do it is a problem. A more functional app with more features and instructions, even if it opens in a separate window or different page would be better than the limited feature and limited instruction it currently has.

    To be clear, I'm not dogging the custom maker tool entirely, but rather the idea of killing off the "co-creator" templates. The custom maker tool works adequately for some models/designers and is a good idea. I just expected a hell-of-a-lot more functionality out of it since Shapeways was making it the only practical way to order a customized item now if you want your model to be discover-able by customers.

    They really need to change it so that items where you select "custom request" still appear in your store even if the sample "base model" is marked "not for sale". Customers need to be able to see an example and price estimate without the danger of accidentally ordering a non-customized or "blank" model. There is very little likelihood a customer will ever see them otherwise and this is a HUGE oversight on Shapeways' part. It still isn't the greatest option as lots of customers want immediate gratification and wont bother taking the time to contact the designer about customization. (Probably the exact problem Shapeways thought they were resolving) but at least they could actually find out your design exists! I always kept my markup modest, so it is a bigger loss to Shapeways than it is to me if I don't have models appearing for sale. They always make more money off my sales than I do!

    It's just more of a step backwards that I keep seeing at Shapeways. Shapeways' entire business model is 99.9% dependent on "DESIGNERS". I can't emphasize that enough. Whether they are customers uploading and printing their own designs, or designers uploading designs for sale. Almost no models are produced/marketed in-house solely by Shapeways. Customer service with the buyers is hard enough for a company and it is unavoidable in any business, but when you also continuously upset those creating all your content it has a huge negative impact. And in many cases this could have been avoided/minimized.

    Over 7 years ago I first learned about 3d printing and found Shapeways. I was amazed at the potential of 3d printing and immersed myself fully both with home 3d printing and using services like Shapeways. Even to this day I still read about new developments and see several stories about 3d printing daily on sites like www.3dprint.com about how companies and individuals are pushing the limits with the technology. Yet after 7 years of improvements in 3D printers, printing processes, design software, and having more experienced printer operators, I feel like I actually have significantly less creative capability and opportunity with Shapeways now than I had in the beginning.
    • Printing guidelines for most materials are more restrictive than they were in the beginning despite significant technological improvements over the years.
    • Designers had to fight tooth and nail to get Shapeways to implement the "print it anyways" feature to be able to either push the envelope or print designs that failed the automated checks despite being printed successfully numerous times before.
    • The forums seem like a virtual ghost town compared to the activity they used to generate a few years ago. (It doesn't help that you don't even SEE a link to the forums and know they exist if you are browsing the marketplace page "https://www.shapeways.com/marketplace") In the past there would be numerous daily posts in the "My order arrived" or "feature this" forums of people showing off their inspiring creations. Now it is not uncommon to see several days go by without a single post at all.
    • The last 6 months or so I saw a dramatic drop in sales of my designs. Designs that had been been steady performers for years. I have yet to determine what the cause of the drop has been. I wonder if there has been any drop in the site traffic.
    • The decision to merge the "3d modelers needed" and the "modeler's for hire" forums into one has more or less killed that forum and turned it into a spam fest of only people advertising their services and automatically replying to the few design requests without even reading them first. It is not even worth searching through all the garbage to actually try to connect with someone looking for work anymore and as expected the activity has dropped on that forum as well.
    • Now despite all the advancements in 3d printing over the last 10 years or so, Shapeways wants to make the items listed in their marketplace even less customizable because someone in their office would rather spend resources constantly tweaking the interface to make it fit their misguided option of what "looks nicer" when browsing than to keep simple features like a few enterable text fields and designer notification system functional. Yet another step in the wrong direction.

    And I know I'm forgetting a lot of other things as well. I know Shapeways recently hired a new CEO. I hope that some change for the better is coming and they will start reversing course. It would be real nice to start seeing more positive changes than negative ones. I still love Shapeways overall and what I can do with it, but they really need to get back on track with what really matters.
    Last edited: Feb 28, 2018
    CalicoFlair and wgseligman like this.