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What Constitutes a Good Web to Print Solution?

Posted Friday, September 11, 2015 by Ellen Hurwitch.

alt text Often I am told that web to print is too difficult to implement, or that there are too many web to print solutions on the market, and it’s too confusing to figure out which one is the best fit for my needs. Hopefully, this article will provide some guidance on choosing a viable web2print solution.

There are a few thoughts to keep in mind when looking for a solution: ease of use, customer facing tools, support (very important) and price/function ratio (bang for the buck).

Ease of Use

One of the most important aspects of any web2print software is ease of use. The solution has to be easy for the printer to set up, and for the user to use. You should closely examine the design tools provided by the software to create variable, stock, and inventory items. These tools should not be overly complicated or require programming skills. Also important are the mechanisms provided for uploading and managing the lists to be used for variable data and large mailings. Keep in mind interfaces to third party list providers. These will enhance your value add and encourage more print buying from your customers.

Towards that end, automated pricing functions are also important. Pricing mechanisms should include (at a minimum) fixed and variable item pricing, all forms of taxation, shipping costs, and account for various types of currency.

Customer Facing Tools

A good web2print software should always have capabilities supporting multiple B to B and B to C storefronts. Deployments of such storefronts should be fast, easy, and straight forward with lots of GUI support. The system should not be overly technical or require programming skills.

Some solutions require knowledge of coding which is generally not a printers’ forte. Unless you currently offer web development as part of your services, you might be hard pressed to deploy some of these systems. I have heard of one company where the person in charge of web2print walked off the job because she found the system too frustrating to work with.

Keep in mind the user experience (called UX in the tech world). It is very important for the end user to feel comfortable using the software for designing products and placing orders. How often have you gone online to order something and left the site half way through the process because the experience was too difficult and time consuming? Clearly, something you want to avoid with your customers as well.

Support

Be sure the producers of the web2print software offer at the very minimum online support. Make sure they provide Service Level Agreements (SLA’s). This is important if you find yourself in a legal bind. Most of all be VERY aware of the support costs. Some web2print solutions can run in the thousands of dollars in yearly support.

Related to this subject and just as important is hosting. Who is going to host this software? Will you be buying a server and engage your IT department in helping to install and implement? Or are you best served by looking for a cloud based solution that needs no IT oversight?

Bang for the Buck

Perhaps the most important question of all; the price to function ratio, how much does a full suite of functions cost in relation to other systems. Not all solutions do all things (although the software developers will tell you different). Most full featured systems will cost anywhere for $20K to $100K when fully configured with all the bells and whistles and with that, hefty support costs.

You may be surprised to learn that there are SaaS based solutions as low as $200 per month that are just as full-featured as the expensive solutions and have far less support cost (if any).

I’ve touched on several subjects and asked several questions but I hope that this brief article has provided some insight on evaluating the perfect web2print solution for your shop.

Ellen Hurwitch is Director of Operations for RedTie, Inc. a SaaS web to print solution provider for the print industry. For more information on RedTie software, please contact solutions@red-tie.com