NikeID – where are the social functions?

When I was in college, I worked for a medical product design company designing, of all things, shoes. We were working on some top secret methods of using pumps that inflated when you walked. It was a very cool idea, dreamed up by the company owner.

As part of doing research, we went to the shoe store one day and bought at least 15 pairs of high end athletic shoes. When we got back to the shop, we fired up the band saw and cut each left shoe right down the middle. This was when the Nike Air was still relatively new, but about the time that most of the bigger brands were trying to promote their own version of some Air like quality. Out of at least 5 brands and 15 different models, only one of them delivered anything worthwhile – Nike. Their Air tech was exactly what they’d been marketing, whereas other brands barely lived up to the concept, much less the marketing promises.

Since then the only sneakers I’ve purchased have been Nike Air, and I’ve loved nearly every pair. My latest pair are the best yet – the Nike Air Max has the Air sole running from toe to heel and literally make me feel like I’m bouncing along my path. They’re absolutely amazing, but after a year of near daily wear, I popped a leak! That’s right, my right shoe has a flat.

Since I’m absolutely enthralled with the Air Max and need a replacement, I thought I’d give the NikeID system a try. It’s pretty slick, and I’m debating if I can wait the 22-30 days for a custom pair to show up. What do you think of my design?

While the Flash-based customization tool is fantastic, I found myself struggling a bit when I was designing. I was stuck for ideas, and although Nike provides four inspiration designs for you to start with, that wasn’t nearly enough. Where are the social functions??

The current product, like far too many mass customization applications is structured around the product itself, the choice of colors and options. But mass customization isn’t about the product, it’s about the experience. Certainly the product is part of the experience, but it’s only a part of the experience.

Here’s a few ideas for how Nike can make NikeID more social…

  • Create a design gallery – this seems fairly obvious, but… don’t stop with the four hard coded design combinations. With as many customization options as there are in the tool (from laces to swoosh stictching to the text on the backside) there’s a HUGE number of combinations, and I want much more inspiration than four basic, conservative designs.
  • Popularity sorting – With the gallery, allow me to sort by what’s most and least popular. Perhaps I want to create a cool shoe that is popular, or perhaps I want to go crazy and pick a design that I’m unlikely to see replicated. Of course, I have to know what other people are even buying to know whether I’m a unique genius or a sheep-like follower.
  • People who liked this… – Why not take a page from Amazon’s book and show a selection of designs that meet similar design criteria as what you’ve currently designed? This would show you not only designs that are similar, but how popular these similar designs are (see point above).
  • Ratings of each design – Pretty standard thumbs up/down functionality would allow people who don’t have nearly $200 to shell out could still participate in the project.
  • Share my design – Surprisingly, there’s no way for me to share a design I’ve created with my friends. Why not create a simple function to pass along final designs with a bit of info about designing your own?
  • Suggestions for the back text – In addition to color, you can also select up to 8 characters of text to be applied to the backside of the shoe (unique to each shoe). I was at a loss for something fun, but not cheesy. In fact, it’s what’s held up my purchase. I’d love to see what others have come up with as inspiration, or hell, just for casual reading.

Nothing exceptionally unique, but these days it’s the price of entry. Creating a great mass customization product is contingent on creating a great mass customization experience. As soon as I can figure out what text to put on the back of my shoes, and after a far too long 30 days, I’ll let you know how much I love my new shoes!

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