Web-to-print has been around a while now and Executive Data Control has deployed over 250 online sites for our customers. The reality of web-to-print has evolved since it first arrived, which has important lessons for online apparel design sites. By now the printing industry has been able to stream-line order entry and control branding through web-to-print software systems. Now that we offer embroidery and screen printed apparel we are seeing the specialty graphics industry struggling with online apparel design and finding the very same web-to-print issues we overcame 10 years ago.
While web-to-print solved a lot of problems it also produced new problems dealing justifying an expensive system that no one uses. In our industry that is called, “If you build it, they won’t come.” That is happening a lot right now. The use of print has fallen to the point that people just don’t need a printed brochure anymore. It’s better to share your PowerPoint presentation on a tablet computer and leave the customer with your website info to learn more. We recently replaced a very large online document center that was not being utilized. Instead we simplified the system and use it for very specific reasons more related to controlling art work quality and simplifying ordering. Business card proofing, placing store/branch specific data on a generic corporate brochure, sale dates on signage or banners seem to be very good uses for web-to-print right now. We do not allow people to upload their own art, there are too many quality issues that come into play with low quality artwork. Instead the system is set-up to add information to an item with strict branding and quality rules already in place.
The specialty graphics industry is rapidly deploying their version of web-to-production for screen printed shirts especially. This makes sense and can really help the supply chain if used judiciously. However, deploying an online site that allows end-users to place and size logos for apparel is far different than from print. We think that is a function that most users don’t need and will learn to hate. Some aspects of apparel decorating need a designer, seamstress or press operator to decide the proper placement of a logo depending on sizing, quality, and readability. Shirts are ordered based on different sizing, which can change where a logo should be placed. Designing apparel is more complicated than print, there are more variables and expectations that cannot be handled well online. Artwork for screen printed shirts has to follow rules for low resolutions and color seperations. Embroidery has digitizing setup issues that cannot be ignored.
Online ordering of apparel is a great idea and can really simplify the ordering process. We think it works best with a program that is designed to make ordering easier. The design should be an upfront set-up issue. Branches can then customize their designs for event dates, or the correct spelling of names. That way you can have a professionally designed shirt that will meet your quality expectations while allowing for easy ordering. Don’t spend money on a system with expensive functions that people will not be able to use effectively. Executive Data Control has unique experience in building useable and useful online systems, we would love to show you what we can do for your company, contact Vickey to learn more.