LiveArt Blog

Checklist: 10 Questions to Ask Before Choosing Web to Print Solution

The web to print industry, along with the product customization era, is developing rapidly. Printing business owners thrive on staying competitive on the market, trying to satisfy their customers and provide them a unique experience. Modern customers want to buy custom products that fit their needs and allows self-expression. Thus, web to print tools became an integral part of online shops when you want to sell personalized products.

Considering adding an online product designer is a serious step that might be tricky sometimes for both brick and mortar businesses and eCommerce ones. To make your evaluation process effortless, we prepared a detailed checklist for choosing a web to print solution that should satisfy your business needs and streamline your orders.

 

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What product types and printing methods are supported?

The first thing to get to know when choosing an online product design tool is what kind of products it supports. Check whether the tool will allow you to set up and configure products you would like to sell. It is also essential to know whether the software allows multiple product sides. For products like decals, signs, or banners, one-sided product support may be sufficient. However, if you sell uniforms, apparel, business cards, stickers, etc., multiple side support becomes a crucial part of the product personalization process. 

Make sure that the software supports the printing methods that you use in your printing business. Here is the list of popular printing methods for custom products:

    - Screen Printing

    - DTG

    - Sublimation

    - Vinyl Applique

    - Vinyl Cut

    - Embroidery

    - Engraving

Mainly, product design software shall support standard printing methods, but some tools could be developed and aimed for specific printing methods and may not fit your needs. This part is essential to clarify because some printing methods require additional tool configuration. For instance, if you print t-shirts using screen printing, then you should control the number of colors your customers use in their designs. This flow may require custom pricing rules configuration depending on the number of colors to ensure an accurate quote. An embroidery or engraving method may require custom tweak setups like digitization or only black and white color support.

 

Can it be integrated with eCommerce platforms? 

Nowadays, the most common and straightforward way to start an online shop is to use eCommerce platforms like Magento, Shopify, WooCommerce, or nopCommerce, rather than building a website from scratch. Ensure that the product designer you want to use for your web to print business can be integrated with the platform you are currently using for your shop or are planning to use. It is also essential to clarify whether the product designer plugin is compatible with standard eCommerce themes. Usually, web to print companies provide front and back demo access for clients to test how this works in practice or suggest setting up a demo trial. Check whether the existing features fit your needs the best.

One of the crucial parts of the online business process is managing product designer assets such as product images, premade templates, colors, fonts, artwork galleries, and customers' saved designs. This managing process should be convenient and flawless for you. Thus, ask whether the company provides documentation or has any video explanation about using the admin panel and the designer.

 

Can it be used as a standalone designer?

Although eCommerce solutions are very perspective in web to print business, some printing business owners prefer standalone solutions to eCommerce-based. Let’s see why and start with a definition. A standalone app is an application that can work independently and does not require anything else to be operational. This kind of web to print tool gives more freedom and abilities for in-depth managing and advanced functionality as required per your business needs. Due to its independence, the software can be integrated into any website and used for web to print development, including complex workflows. For developers, it is essential to have software that works seamlessly and does not conflict with the main application.

If you feel that your business needs require software that can be completed independently and can collect the designs without the eCommerce integration, then a standalone web to print app will get the job done. For a standalone version, the designer can be embedded to the storefront page and managed via configuration files such as JSON structures or a simple standalone admin area. In this case, it would be helpful to ask vendors how you can manage your products, assets, and designs.

For web to print providers managing the designs is a crucial part of the printing process and requires automation as much as possible. For instance, you may need to collect all design information you can send via email to your customers and contact them back about their order or save the design ID for later use. You may also require to have a simple checkout like Foxy.io for saving order information. Ensure that the flow you get with a standalone solution will allow you to manage orders effortlessly. Once you sure the solution meets your needs, you may also inquire about integrating the designer with eCommerce platforms.

 

Is the tool easy to extend and customize?

Just like your customers want to have custom products, you may also like to have a solution you can customize and extend according to your needs and liking. For instance, you may require to translate the interface to the desired language, update visual styling, add new labels or add your custom logic. Ensure that the product design tool you consider buying is open-source, and its code allows you to extend UI controls, modify HTML and CSS or use tool API. Having the ability to modify the solution allows you to have control and customize it to provide the most desirable experience for your customers.

 

Are the custom development services available? How can I extend the functions? 

Sometimes out of the box solutions companies provide may not meet your needs fully. For some rocket science business ideas with specific customer journeys, default web to print apps does not fit. Unique UI/UX, custom workflow different from off-the-shelf solution, specific variable data printing setup, custom production output are the things that may require additional development. To give birth to your unique business idea, inquire about custom development services in vendors.

For example, LiveArt provides customization services for custom eCommerce and web to print solutions development, UI/UX development, custom production output, advanced B2B solutions, etc.

Depending on your needs, the company may suggest extending the existing functionality by adding a new feature or offer a complete custom web to print solution development.

In case the company can develop the solution tailored to your needs, ask what is required from your side. Usually, companies start the requirements analysis to discover your issues and pains. What will significantly simplify the elicitation process is the specification document. This document should include functional and non-functional requirements and also can be complemented with UI/UX mockups. In short, this document will be a guideline for the developers to implement the scope of work correctly. 

Ensure you have complete source code ownership if the company develops a custom web to print solution according to your requirement.

 

Does the web to print tool offer a live preview?

Most modern product design configurators are featured with a live preview. When the customer adds text, artwork, or selects product color, all changes are reflected on the product immediately. Having this feature can be valuable for your customers as they can personalize their products in real-time and check whether they like it before they place the order.

There are three kinds of previews: 2D, 3D, and AR preview. A flat 2D preview is sufficient for products like signs, stickers, or any other flat product. If you have products such as phone cases, bottles, or uniforms and want to provide your customers a better look and feel of the personalization process, you will benefit more from 3D preview. The difference between these previews is that 3D preview allows you to rotate the product 360 degrees and looks closer to the real product. 

Some companies offer 2D preview by default however can develop 3D preview support by request as additional customization. Find out all details about the preview in web to print solution provider you choose. You can ask them to set up your products for the personalized demo and test whether the preview they offer is suitable for you. 

Finally, the AR preview (Augmented Reality) offers a previously unavailable natural feel of the customized product. It perfectly works for almost any product type. What's more, customers can use their mobile devices to see a 3D mockup of the customized product in their environment.

 

Can I colorize my product templates or artwork?

The ability to colorize product templates or artwork is an integral part of the personalization process. As a printing business owner, you need to understand whether the product designer tool provides such a feature. To be colorized, product templates and artwork should be in vector format. Usually, web to print companies use SVG format. Thus, you may need some time to provide files in the required format if you do not have them at the start.

Some vector files cannot be used as-is to be colorized and require preliminary preparation. The complexity of this process depends on whether the vector file is correct and what your requirements are. For instance, you want to allow customers to change only one color on the product, which might work for products such as t-shirts, hoodies, signs, and some promotional products. For products like uniforms, you may need to have multiple colorizable areas complemented with the ability to apply the gradient. 

The gradient is the best way to add depth to the design and make it more attractive. Depending on your customers’ desires, they may want to add a drastic gradient or make a more subtle transition. The best methods for printing gradients are screen printing, sublimation, and DTG, which are often used for smooth transitions and accurate blends.

Sometimes, customers want to have some complicated and eye-catching gradients on designs. For example, start with green color, change it to orange color in the middle and end with a red. To please our customers, LiveArt features a multiple stops support for colorizing products with a gradient. Thus, the product template may be colorized with two and more colors gradient with different transparency so your customers can create an appealing blend. Let’s take a look at the example below:

Multiple gradients feature in LiveArt HTML5 designer

Sometimes the product template or gallery images are not compatible with the designer company provides. In this case, inquire whether the company can undertake image preparation to look nice to the end customer and allow simple or gradient colorizing.

 

Does it support mobile and the latest grade browsers?

The COVID era boosted the usage of mobiles even more. Getting the customer experience right and retaining more clients means the product design tool should work seamlessly on mobile devices. People are also more inclined to buy online on mobiles rather than using PCs. As the design tool may have many features, it should be convenient for customers to customize products on small mobile screens. Check your customers’ overall flow and ensure the tool is comfortable in use and meets your requirements.

To provide the best experience for your customers, the web to print solution should also support the latest browser versions. It is essential to test the solution on modern browser versions to ensure this works correctly. You can also inquire about the list of such browsers in vendors. Commonly, this info is described in the documentation of web to print software.

 

What technologies web to print tool is written with?

Having a product design tool with an excellent interface that meets your requirements may not be enough when talking about the web to print solutions. To scale your printing business, you should offer your customers a stable, secure, and easy to maintain solution. It is crucial to know what underlying technologies vendors used for building a web to print solution you consider using for your online shop. If more than ten years ago developers built web to print solutions on Flash, all modern applications are built on HTML5 related stack. The underlying technology shall also allow an easy embedding of the product customizer application to your solution or website.

Technologies for image processing are essential too. In this technologically savvy time, it can be beneficial for web to print companies to rely on SVG format, an industry standard for vector imaging, including responsive apps for tablets and smartphones. SVG is a vector-based format that looks clean and nice on any device and any resolution, regardless of its size. It is also capable of being converted to production-grade output files such as EPS.

If you plan to integrate the web to print solution into your B2B site, it may make sense to inquire about the backend part of the product configurator. Is it based on PHP, Java, or any other programming language? Do you need to rely on any frameworks to enable a stable solution for your web to print shop?

 

What production output does the tool provide?

One of the crucial parts of an online product design tool is having a correct output to streamline the ordering process and minimize production efforts. The production-ready files shall be as prepared as possible for immediate print without any extra processes. Ask away which output format the web to print software vendors provide. Can they tweak the output only in raster formats such as JPG or PNG or produce vector files such as PDF or EPS?

Depending on the kind of products you are selling, you might require a specific DPI. Vector output files can be resized to the required resolution upon print sourcing, while raster images should have the required DPI configured beforehand. It is equally important to know which color profile the output files shall have. If you use output files for reference, an RGB profile should be sufficient, while a CMYK profile is often required for production-ready files as colors on the printed file are most approximate to those that customers use on the web.

Design post-processing also matters. You may need to have an extra layer on the bleeding area, add cutting masks, have SKU, or put any other additional information not generated on the preview but required for production purposes.

To understand whether the output meets your requirements, you may ask vendors to prepare the personalized demo to create the design, download output files and print them.

 

Enabling web to print solution for your online printing shop allows your customers to create personalized products. At the same time, you can minimize production efforts, streamline your orders, and stay competitive on the market. Consider the solution which can meet your and your customers' needs thoroughly.

With robust, flexible, and maintainable web to print tools, you can get more benefits and take your business to the next level. Follow the above checklist to facilitate the evaluation process and be more prepared for communication with vendors. Feel free to contact us if you have any questions or need more information about choosing the best web to print business solution.

 

 

New Year, New LiveArt

Hey everyone! It's a great year start, and our team is doing its best to provide constant improvements to our online product design tool. Let us have a look at what LiveArt will be in future versions.

Support of social networks. Adding own images from Instagram or Facebook has already become a must for most personalized products: phone wraps, custom canvases, cases, pillows, and apparel as well. Allowing people to access their Instagram feed with a click is another priority we are going to hit.

Responsive online designer. Yes, after several UX research tasks, our team is about to release a responsive version of LiveArt HTML5, allowing users to design their beloved customized products on smartphones, including Android, iOS, or Windows-based devices. More specifically, this would also be another step towards a complete design revamp of the tool scheduled to take place later this year.

Designer = Configurator. In addition to being an online product designer, LiveArt HTML5 became widely used as a universal product configurator, where users can create their product with parts or by modifying the existing options.

More integrations are coming. For a hosted platform of Shopify and another integration for a well-known .NET platform - nopCommerce.

As we have launched a Vote For Feature portal at http://liveart.uservoice.com/, you are more than welcome to check in regularly as well as subscribe to our Facebook and Twitter for updates.

Best Of Online Product Design in 2013

Now that we are about to enter the new year 2014, it’s time to remember what happened to us back in 2013 and what we’ve achieved with this great year.

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— First and foremost, we’ve finally raised standards for an online product designer that is totally cross-platform and compatible by releasing LiveArt HTML5 Online Product Designer. After almost half of the year development and refinements, we gave users the ability to smoothly design their product from various tablets as well as desktop PCs. Yet still, our Flash-based products would please desktop users who prefer solid experience and quick integration.

— Our components started to get integrated into a greater variety of platforms like Magento, WooCommerce, OpenCart, and many others. Hosted shopping carts like BigCommerce or Shopify can now embed LiveArt HTML5 as a hosted option too!

— As the custom decoration industry grows, so do our variety of products that can be customized by our tool. A recent project involving bottle opener customizer, online flag designer and do it yourself flask website proved that a design tool can be used to customize any printable or engravable product.

— Finally, our integration partners Peexl.com can now handle a number of eCommerce shopping cart integrations involving an outstanding Magento Community Edition as well as other popular PHP-based platforms.

We look forward to “unlock” new achievements in 2014 and would like to thank to all our clients and partners who stay with us and enjoy our online design products. Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year 2014!

Considering a Custom Web to Print Solution for Your Printing Business

Going with an online product designer for your business is a serious step, especially for brick-and-mortar businesses that have already established themselves in local markets. Becoming a global company that accepts orders online is totally different as you may deal with another type of customer and new challenges. Yet, going online has a significant reward in increased revenue and orders coming from all over the world.

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Costs involved and expected ROI

The first thing to consider would be the budget, required to have an online design software enhancement. Study the market and get an idea of what it would cost to get the software deployed for your website. A lot of forums are discussing the available solutions that may or may not work for your particular business.

Another helpful thing would be to gather the necessary requirements for the custom user scenarios you might require for your web to print system. Comparing these against available features of online product design software would help in making the right decisions.

Whether you have an existing website or just plan to have one, defining a budget depending on planned ROI would help in looking for a solution that will fit. We assume you already have printing equipment and learned already about existing eCommerce platforms available on the market.

Users of the future system

Looking at the available tools on the market, it is best to envision your average customer using such tools to customize and buy a personalized product from you. Learning about common questions, patterns of behavior, and problems is crucial for implementing the web to print technology successfully. It may be also helpful in running a survey across the existing website or polling users. The survey results will answer questions like whether designing their product online would be more convenient than using the traditional methods. If you are using a phone operator or in house artist that works on customers’ designs, think whether your customers would feel better with a self-service online design application instead.

Streamline factor - will orders be processed faster?

One of the main benefits you get with web to print system is lowering the costs for each received order. Rather than having a person talk to a customer and prepare a design according to the customer’s vision, an online product designer allows users to place an order personally without applying for service or talking to anyone. Before implementing a web to print system, think of your present business process and whether deploying an online design tool along with an eCommerce website would help to streamline existing orders thus lowering the costs and allowing the business to scale.

Bear in mind that you would still require personnel to run the system, accept and process orders, and troubleshoot possible questions coming from customers. Make sure to provide adequate training for them when the system is in place and ready for launch.

Products compliance

Some of the most popular promotional items that can be easily deployed for online design software are t-shirts, jerseys, mugs, and such. You can find lots of blank images across the Internet, either worn by models or seen plain, and prepare a catalog easily. The customizations such as gallery artwork, text, or user uploaded image are seen clearly and perfectly work as live proof. However, certain products require more complex customization and modification of the web to print software itself. Such products may concern printing business that produces signs and banners, business cards (including Variable Data Printing), and complex items requiring 3-dimensional visualization as shoes or gift boxes.

Prepare a plan

Taking the available budget, existing customers, streamline factor, and products you sell into account is important in order to make some final decisions. Despite having an online product design system for a printing business becomes a firm trend for over 10 years already, one should clearly evaluate and plan such advance ahead.

Accurate budgeting, planning, and overall readiness for the web to print system implementation would help your business make a solid step forward and get to the next level, acquire new markets and make your customers happy.

5 Common Mistakes When Implementing Online Web to Print Solution

There is no doubt - web to print solutions are becoming common for printing businesses today. They efficiently streamline orders, make the proof process easy, and reduce costs for each order production in general. If implemented and promoted properly, they generate lots of customer satisfaction especially if online product designer supports smart mobile devices like smartphones and tablets.

Yet, implementing a web to print system is a challenge, both organizational and technical, ergo should be treated in a respective way. One should evaluate the task of building a web to print solution for their business carefully before doing any final decisions or starting a promotional campaign in social networks. Let us look at common 5 mistakes one may encounter when diving into the web to print offers on the market.

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1. No research

While it is common for any beginning, a lack of preliminary research may result in unexpected results after deployment of the web to the print system. Each business has its own specifics, own eCommerce platform, products, customers audience, and so on, which means that you should look for a particular vendor and solution that would fit your business and guarantee ROI after implementation. We recommend checking these posts for more information and brief checklists that would be helpful.

2. No personnel to fulfill orders

Implementing a web to print solution to your website without being ready with personnel that will accept and process orders is equal to failure. While online product design solutions will simplify the process they would still require someone to keep an eye on how the orders are processed and delivered for fulfillment. Make sure you have hired the right person to do this job, report on possible problems, and run the web to print system.

3. Poor products selection

Sometimes the personalized products just don’t fit the concept of the web to print system. One should consider and ask themselves questions regarding the personalized product:

   - Is my product personalization clean and visible to my customers?

   - Would the product personalization become easier to customers than it was earlier (by phone/email)?

  - Are there any options of the product that might confuse my customers?

   - Are the proofs, given by web to print studio, sufficiently clear, and understandable?

Lack of product preparation is a common mistake when implementing a design studio as part of the web to print system. Make sure you have checked out our post on effective proofing and product preparation for your web to print system.

4. Lack of resources and patience to launch the project

Although launching a web to print system can be really instant fast with hosted solutions, it is often a mistake to expect immediate positive results, customer appreciation and sales boost. Launching a system is not an end in itself, but rather a beginning of lifetime journey your business would board on. Product images support, unique and nice fonts, ready-made design templates, available gallery clip art - all of the above requires resources to be gathered, prepared, checked, uploaded into the system, and maintained on a regular basis. It is common that lack of patience often makes customers turn off the logo designer studio and navigate away from your website if they suspect the job not done. Getting resources ready for your online product designer part of the web to print system would prevent user confusion and frustration from the new tools on your website.

5. Failing to count in resistance to change

While not fully a mistake, a business owner should always think of loyal and frequent customers and the way they are used to order their personalized goods. Think of a friend of yours, who would come into your website one day and see everything changed - will they be disappointed or would like the change on your website? Will they like the new way they personalize a product, assess proof and checkout? Since there is always room for change resistance, make sure you inform users well and provide sufficient instructing materials to make the transition as smooth as possible and convert change resistance into satisfaction, wow effect, and sales boost.