There is a lot of talk about web-to-print and some of it concerns reasons local printers must embrace the concept/technology. Web-to-print, they say, is the future of printing because future generations of print buyers will use the web-to-print method more and more. While this may be true from a numbers perspective, we at KKPDC still find one huge problem with web-to-print when considered in the context of our business model:
It’s just too darn easy to mess up a web-to-print project.
As quick printers, we focus on meeting 2 major needs of our clients — quality and speed. We must absolutely provide a top-quality product. And we must deliver it quickly. Does web-to-print help us meet these needs? We’ve found (we do offer web-to-print service, by the way, just go to the file upload page and give us instructions) that only occasionally does it do so.
When someone contacts us or visits our shop, they often have a project in mind (or in hand), along with a deadline for finishing it. I’d say less than half of them have their design work complete. And if they aren’t done with the art, web-to-print is not the right method. Unless the design work is complete and 100% satisfactory to the client, it isn’t “camera-ready”. The whole idea behind web-to-print is the client providing “camera-ready” art to the press via the website. Once this is done, there is no opportunity to fine-tune the project prior to printing all of it. The end result: the final, delivered project often fails to meet the expectations of the client.
Some online printers will offer tools to create camera-ready art. The problem is, online editors are difficult to use. Colors and layouts are easy elements to botch because things rarely come out looking exactly like they do on the screen. It is also easy to disappoint a client with respect to paper stock or finishing when there is no first copy to physically handle, inspect and approve.
One of the most important steps in the printing process is the final review of the hardcopy proof prior to “pushing the button” for the full run. Web-to-print eliminates this crucial step completely. Of course if you are local to the print shop, you can come and see a sample, but that really isn’t the the typical scenario. (Rather, that is our basic business model!)
So while delivering a high-quality product to the client can sometimes be difficult with web-to-print, meeting time requirements using this method can also be tough. Web-to-print is often not as fast as clients would expect. For some online printers, turnaround times exceed 3 business days and that includes the burden of overnight shipping costs. Have a look at their prices and you’ll soon find out that many of the larger, web-based printers make their profit by gouging customers on the shipping and handling required to get the product in their hands before their deadline. With most you don’t find out about these costs until you’ve submitted your file. Only then do they give you the bad news.
Our opinion: the best time to use the web-to-print model is when you have a project that you need to run again, with no changes, and with a reasonable deadline. That way there should be no surprises. But that is hardly the typical print job.
Web-to-print is supposed to provide speed and efficiency to the printing process. It fails on both counts…. for now.
What do you think about our opinion on web-to-print? Do you agree or disagree?