Defining The Word “Custom”


Saturday, 19 April 2008 at 7:10 am Pacific USA Time.

The word "custom" gets thrown around a lot near the word "design" both inside the world of eBay templates and outside that world. For you Princess Bride fans, "This word you keep saying. I do not think it means what you think it means." :)

Let’s say that you go and buy and outfit off the rack at any store… Target, JC Penney, Nordstrom. It’s a little long on you, so you go to your local tailor or seamstress. He or she makes it shorter to better fit you. Would you call this a custom or customised outfit? I would call it custom-tailored because the other words would make me think that the tailor started with nothing but the idea of what you wanted to wear rather than starting with a totally ready-made item.

Let’s say you head on down to Starbucks or your favourite coffee spot. You order off the menu, except you want shots of raspberry and sugar-free vanilla in that menu item. Is this a custom coffee? Is this something so new nobody has ever heard of it. Have you innovated? No, I’d again be thinking more along the lines of "personalised" since you took something that existed, and added a few personal touches.

Now let’s get back to design and eBay templates. :)

I see a lot of templates being offered by a lot of individuals and companies. Nearly 100% of the time, they will say custom. I rarely see people other than us saying unique, so at least that still seems to be holding on to the truth. :) But just about everybody is saying custom. Without naming names, what makes these so custom?

Well, one company will let you pick the colour, what categories you’ll have down the left, some info that ends up in a Flash file in the top, drop in your name, and that’s mostly it. The rest is the same layout that they not only use for every client but use when they list their own items onto eBay. If it’s "off the rack," with a choice of colour and a top banner, would you call that custom?

Many of the inexpensive ones I see around eBay will let you pick a background and colour, and that’s mostly it. They are using pre-made things they already have on hand, and just piecing them together. Is that custom?

I think the difference here is that when I think custom, I think made from scratch. When my father used to have custom suits made in the 1960s, he picked out the fabric.The tailor measured him, and made it JUST for him. It might not fit anybody else but him. My friends in town do custom cabinetry. In some cases, they are out there hand-painting or hand-carving their own art onto cabinet doors. Nobody else is going to have those cabinets! That is custom.

But I can get those templates by asking those companies for the same colours and some of the elements that someone else may have already picked. They’ll be thrilled since they already made it and it’s ready to go. :) But these were designed from scratch just for that client. They were mostly ready to go, and just personalised.

What do you think is custom?


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Categories: That's Bad Marketing

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2 Responses to “Defining The Word “Custom””

  1. Sally says:

    Good points! Customized is something that’s an easy way out usually. Custom is “from scratch” & “unique” as you write! Customized, custom & even free templates serve their own purposes to sellers – something rather generic which may or may not be slightly personalized versus something that brands the seller as a business which wants to make its own mark.
    The choice really comes down to a casual vs a professional business!

  2. Adam Morris says:

    I think Debbie has a very important issue she’s raised, and rather politely too!
    “Custom” is even more important than ever in e-commerce because every business is so different. The style, navigation, and conversion elements on each page MUST be tailored to the client’s customers! A good firm actually does the research and gets into the client’s business.