Web2Print: Complexity Through Simplicity


Web2Print: Complexity Through Simplicity

This week, I’d like to take you through all the elements of a successful Web2Print platform and demonstrate how, with the use of a variety of cleanly executed, simple ideas, an easy-to-use system can be created that caters to the majority of requests from your clients, while still allowing you to present a sophisticated look and feel.

First, I’ll talk you through some of the easy-fixes that often get overlooked, then further below, I’ll delve into some detail on some of the greater elements of success.

Make Life Easier for Your Customers

Customers aren’t stupid. They know what they like and they like what they know. Most of these people already do complicated jobs. They don’t need to do ours, too, so making life that little bit easier for them can be seen as simple, common courtesy. Based on the feedback I’ve received from my own end-users, these seem to be the five most oft-cited reasons for dissatisfaction, which can be addressed quite quickly.

  1. Make all specifications and finishing options obvious.

Seriously – I have to remind my fellow W2P-ers about this a lot: if everyone was born with a complete set of printing knowledge pre-uploaded to their brains, we in the print trade would all be out of a job. Don’t assume your customers are experienced at ordering print jobs.

Make mutually exclusive options – nobody ever bound a business card, perfect or otherwise! Make sure their selection parameters are valid and appropriate and try not to swamp your end users with irrelevancies, like options that would simply never apply.

  1. Be transparent – about everything.

Prices, specifications, turnarounds and finishing options – be completely open about all of them. Show how prices will change according to user choices, preferably alongside each selection criteria. Show how specialist inks or finishes may add drying or production time onto an order. Ensure there are no surprises for your customer – then you won’t have to be surprised if they want to leave for a more intuitive system launched by your competitor.

  1. Simplify, simplify, simplify

Eventually, you’ll have to make a decision as to how complex the language you use on your site will be. Do you refer to things as “300gsm card” or do you simply call it “thick card”?

By glossing over the technical terminology, you may be excluding those customers who do know exactly what they want, while embracing those users who are less certain of industry terms, so make sure you agree these specifications in advance.

As with all aspects of sales and marketing – know your end users. By knowing them, you will be able to pitch information to them at their own level and perfect communication is only possible among equals. Investigate and find out what it takes to talk to your customers at their level.

  1. Help out with Helpful Guides

Do you remember your first days in training, standing in front of a big, beautiful trimmer and binder? What did all the buttons mean? What did all the lights do? It was a totally closed system to you and you needed some help with understanding it.

The same is true for your customers and this new-fangled platform you’ve thrust them into. Lend a hand with a Help Section. Pour some detail into a glossary and some simplified explanations of the things that would help them make a more informed decision as to their purchase. Your guides should use straightforward language – plain talk – as the purpose is to convey valuable information which they will find useful.

  1. Constraint and Restraint

Customers who don’t understand bleed marks, trim marks and binding requirements are not going to understand why there are weird lines are all over their precious templates and artwork.

I would include these marks for those who do understand them – but also prevent anyone from being able to adjust them at all, regardless of their talent with InDesign™.

Instead, be clear about why these marks exist, why they can’t be changed and why they are so important to the process. Remember point 4? Put out a helpful guide about why these marks exist and their importance and make sure it’s easily accessible from the design section of your site.

The Knights of the Templates…

This is so crucial to the success of your Web2Print platform that it deserves a section all to itself.

There is a very simple rule for Web2Print templates – the simpler they are to use, the faster you will recoup your design costs.

Client-specific templates are a really good idea – know your popular verticals and ensure those segments are properly represented. Make sure you have good preview thumbnails for your users to browse quickly to the one that they find most attractive and appropriate for use. And if you’re smart, you’ll ensure each image has proper tagging for easy searching.

All of your templates should be print-ready. As we discussed above, give your customers the flexibility to swap out images and text and change positioning and alignment, etc. – but ensure your print marks are static and untouchable. Make sure impossible print-jobs are impossible.

Another important question facing you during the setting-up period of your Web2Print offering is whether to charge your customers for the use of templates. After all, you still have your initial setup costs to recoup.

Sadly, I have no easy answer for you here – the fact of the matter is, it boils down entirely to the kind of customers you have. What I can advise is that several of my own customers have experienced success with a “freemium” model, whereby some templates are free, but some are not. They offer a basic set of templates across the board, for all products, but if the user should want something more special, something where you can clearly see a good designer has really thought about the design of that template, then a small cost is incurred.

Most of my customers who charge for the use of templates tend not to exceed the $50/£50 ballpark, with the majority of their offerings hovering around the £10 – £20 mark. The higher-priced templates tend to be part of a set – for instance, a whole set of letterheads, business cards and compliment slips, or an entire wedding invitation and RSVP set. In this case, the value for money is represented by offering the client a complete theme with the added bonus of personalisation and complete customisation of most fields.

Lastly, it may sound obvious but make sure you provide your end users with a good set of stock photos! Some may have their own artwork – most usually, your corporate users – but you may also encounter some instances where they don’t have their own designers and must supply all of their own graphics. Don’t make life hard for them – have a good supply of a wide variety of images for them.

Other Important Things to Watch

Don’t think that just because I don’t have a snappy sub-heading for this section, that it ranks as lower in importance. Oh no. Now we’re going to discuss the logistical aspects of Web2Print.

Site optimisation, for instance. If your site is slow, if it doesn’t load previews properly, if it’s buggy or if it has a tendency to lose people’s work when it times them out, you will lose trade. This is a bald fact and part of the ugly underbelly of providing a Web2Print platform. Make sure you have a firm hand on the technical logistics or risk handing customers to your competitors.

The flow of your online platform should be simple and intuitive. Someone who has never used one before should still be able to figure out what to do, so make sure you have some well-placed prompts, or an overlay help interface (with an on/off toggle, of course) to assist first-timers. Have a helpline number prominently displayed at all times. Things like this tend to reassure people that, if they get lost or need support, it’s okay. There’s a number to dial and helpful people at the end of it.

At an absolute minimum, your platform should be able to preserve progress (background auto-save), save customised templates and shopping baskets, review prior purchases and modify personal details. Keep in mind the new data protection requirements coming into play next year, as if you do business with customers from Great Britain or the EU, you will be affected by this law. Ensure you have clearly outlined preference selections for things like marketing mails and newsletters.

Along with smooth performance, you must consider what you are going to do if things go wrong. What happens if your customer requires support outside of your normal working hours? Do you have the infrastructure in place to support them? Is it even necessary?

These are all incredibly important aspects of the underlying function of your business and your Web2Print service that you must consider carefully and make a decision about, before you even start looking for server space.

The Unvarnished Finish

Of course, this blog hasn’t taken into account every single topic and sub-topic – this is a large-format subject! What I have tried to do, though, is tackle the biggies and the stuff that most of my clients seem to overlook, despite the comparatively quick fixes that can be applied.

As with all businesses, it is of crucial importance to know your customers – know who is coming to you for business and what their purposes are for being there. Respond to these factors and you’ll probably have a customer for life. Neglect or overlook them at your own risk.

As you can see, there isn’t a single aspect of this that is too difficult to understand – and that is the ultimate beauty of Web2Print: it is comprised of a number of simple ideas, all of which have come together to form a beautiful and complex super-system of incredible flexibility and power. Manage the small, simpler systems properly and the overall complexity will fall into place.