Custom product website Zazzle is making its first big move into mobile today with the launch of an iPhone app called Zazzle Instant.
Apparently, the app started out as a side project by one of Zazzle’s engineers, but then it grew into something bigger and cooler. Basically, you can choose any of the photos on your phone, then apply it to one of the 15 products currently being offered in the app, including T-shirts, messenger bags, and playing cards. For each product, you choose from a number of different designs — some of them feature the photo front-and-center, others are more subtle.
The goal, says co-founder and Chief Product Officer Jeff Beaver, is to offer a dead simple version of the Zazzle’s product creation process — it’s no longer about doing your own design and customization, but instead about turning a photo into a product with as few challenges as possible. Imagine, for example, snapping a picture of your favorite band at a concert. With just a few taps, you can create and order a T-shirt featuring that image.
“Product design can be complicated,” Beaver says. “We’re always looking for ways to make that process really fun and compelling.”
Beaver suggests that many users will also create products for the fun it, then share the digital version via Facebook, Twitter, or email, without actually ordering anything physical. In fact, that’s something he did several times during our presentation, and he says it’s a big part of what’s already happening at Zazzle.com, where users create 100,000 to 150,000 new products every day.
The app, like the website, is built on top of the manufacturing infrastructure that Zazzle has built over the years. The company creates some of the products itself, but also partners with a number of other manufacturers.
In terms of possible future features, Beaver says the app could start using location data from the phone, perhaps allowing users to narrow their search to products manufactured within a certain distance from wherever they are at the moment. He also wants to create apps for other platforms.
In advance of the announcement, the Zazzle team went a little nuts (in a good way) creating TechCrunch- and Anthony Ha-themed demo products with Zazzle Instant. For example, someone took a photo of the TechCrunch office and used it to create a cool, newspaper-themed Rickshaw Messenger Bag (you can see the process of making the bag in the video below), and someone made a T-shirt with my face on it. It was all a little overwhelming, but hey, it gets the idea across.