I chose to explore Spoonflower, SmugMug, and Threadless in search of gift-giving ideas. I could say that actually all three of these sites had potential in this regard, but each did not peaked my interest to the same level.
My definite favorite is SmugMug, mainly because of the degree and ease of customization offered within their product line. We've all run up against the difficult situation of not being able to think of just what to get that "someone" on our list. The safest bet, in my opinion, is to go with the truly personalized touch. I think that the gift of an ordinary object of everyday use, such as a mouse pad or keyring, embossed with a photo of personal interest to it's recipient, makes a great offering to just about anyone! Every time they go to use it, they will be met with a pleasant memory. Although this company has some nice options to choose from in this product category, I would like to see SmugMug expand upon their offerings even further. There are endless possibilities as far as useful products that would adapt well to this kind of personalization. Other than that, I think they have a great little practical idea here and with a larger and larger selection of products to choose from, their business should increase accordingly. Other features which lured me as a buyer to this site included attractive photo displays throughout, a well-organized user interface which could be navigated with ease, many useful and informative help options, and an attractive line of photo albums and other display tools which could be considered as additional gift-giving options.
Threadless caught my eye as a possibility because of the uniqueness of their designs and slogans. People like T-shirts that are whimsical, creative, and/or artfully decorated. This company has a good business structure in that they solicit a wide array of artists and the general public, as well, for their design ideas, whether it be artwork or slogans. By casting a wide net such as this, they can continue to come up with very creative and unique products to spark the public's interest. They even have a section of their site devoted to designs by "elite artists" if one wants to be a little more selective in their shopping. A print gallery is also available, but I didn't see anything that fit my tastes, at this point. The site itself is well arranged and searchable by style, availability, size, and price. Product imaging is also well done and includes adequate viewing angles of each design. If you are hesitant about whether or not a particular design would be well recieved by the gift recipient, you can check out the public's opinion about it through their ratings and comments. On a final note, I wish they had a wider selection of fabric colors to choose from. As a highly specialized outfit, they could definitely use more customization in this area.
Uniqueness is an important factor with respect to any T-shirt that I would by for myself or someone else. Therefore, I have added Threadless to my list of "Favorites" as far as shopping sites go. I would add however, that in order for me to actually make a purchase here, a design or slogan would really have to "catch my eye". On the other hand, if I should choose to go the fully personalized route with PhotoSmug, definitley a surer bet, I am certain that I could come up with an appropriate photo choice that would allow me to successfully create a T-shirt design to my liking.
Lastly, I want to make a quick mention of Spoonflower. Imagine, custom designing your very own fabric! It just adds a whole new dimension of creativity and personalization to handmade gifts. What a promising business venture with respect to the crafting community. I thought I 'd keep this company in mind if I ever had the time and desire to make my own gift creations. Gift certificates are available, so maybe I could purchase one of those for that special friend who just happens to be into crafting. They seem to provide a lot of support and help on their site- a particularily good feature as the whole design process appears to be just a bit complex.