The web-to-print industry, along with the product customization era, is developing rapidly. Printing business owners thrive on staying competitive in the market, trying to satisfy their customers and provide them with a unique experience. Modern customers want to buy custom products that fit their needs and allow self-expression. Thus, web-to-print tools have become 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 e-commerce 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.
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
- Vinyl Applique
- Vinyl Cut
Mainly, product design software shall support standard printing methods, but some tools could be developed and aimed at 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 e-commerce platforms like Magento, Shopify, WooCommerce, or BigCommerce 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.
Using Shopify? Request a free demo of Shopify product customizer.
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 custom web-to-print development 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 a 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 the 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 works perfectly 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 in designs. For example, start with a green color, change it to an orange color in the middle, and end with a red. To please our customers, LiveArt features multiple-stop support for colorizing products with a gradient. Thus, the product template may be colorized with two or more color gradients with different transparency so your customers can create an appealing blend. Let’s take a look at the example below:
Sometimes, the product template or gallery images are not compatible with the designer the 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 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 an 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 a personalized demo to create the design, download output files, and print them.
Enabling a 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 in 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.