Posts in: Web-to-Print
31/03/2008

We are glad to announce that the web-to-print pricing has changed with the addition of one more digit (zero) effective from 1 Apr 2008, which is pretty much now.

The new web-to-print pricing per order is as follows:

  • Australia – $2.200
  • EU – €1.300
  • New Zealand – $2.500
  • UK – £0.850
  • USA – $1.700
  • Other countries – US$1.700

The old prices can be found here.

We are all off to Bahamas due to the windfall of money after the price increase.

bahamas.jpg

Signed:
ZetaPrints,
1 April 2008

23/06/2008

2 new web-to-print features were released last week, but stayed in the stealth mode until now.

Bulleted text can now be mixed and matched with other fields within the same frame like in this example. Note that all the text is in one paragraph frame aligned to vertical-center.

Read more here.

bullets for web-to-print

Bullets for web-to-print

Paragraph style matching

Different paragraphs within the same paragraph frame are now matched to user input and retain the original styling, including color, font, alignment, spacing, etc. The following example is a single input field.

Read more here.

web-to-print paragraph styling web-to-print paragraph styling

13/01/2008

Invoices for our web-to-print service are due to be generated on the 10th of each month and January is the first time we were going to do so, but some printers got back to us with their corrections to the web-to-print billing figures, so we are held back by this.

To help us get it right, please, check if your web-to-print order count is correct and send us URLs of any orders incorrectly charged to your account.

There will be no pressure to pay by the 20th because of the delay, but we’d like to see a payment within 10 days from the invoice generation. Thank you for your patience. There will be another post when the invoices are generated.

07/07/2008

Just a reminder for users trying out our service that we are not after your wallet – send us an email that you are still on a trial and we’ll wave the bill. Really, we have no problem with that whatsoever.

By the way …

An interesting post about printing quality at one of the largest US online printer offering novelty products – Zazzle.com. Those guys are doing great in terms of traffic and popularity. They have lots of interesting social features, but it turns out the quality of the print lets them down. At least it did on this occasion.

Coming changes

The sidebar with the main menu, lists of orders, catalogs, etc. will be very much simplified and possibly removed. Don’t be shocked when you see the entire width of the screen used by the page content.

This change will be enabled for printers only. Your customers will still see the current layout. We will need your feedback before applying to your customer screens.

25/04/2009

The Help link at the top of any page is different for web-to-print user and printers/designers. We provide a generic web-to-print help site for users under your own domain name. Log out and click on Help to view.

JavaScript disabled

We added a new web-to-print system message if JavaScript is disabled. It appears at the top-left corner of the screen. You need to disable JavaScript for your domain to see it. The message contains 3 links on how to enable JavaScript for different types of browsers.

You need to create matching entries if you provide custom web-to-print help. Read more about the new structure.

Custom Help URL problem

If you entered a base help URL with a file name the links will not work. E.g. if your base HELP URL is

  • http://www.example.com/help/ordering.html

then the JavaScript link will look like this: 

  • http://www.example.com/help/ordering.html/enable-javascript-in-mozilla-firefox/

See, it’s now an invalid URL?

In this case you would need to:

  1. Change your base Help URL to http://www.example.com/help/
  2. Make ordering.html the default page for that location (change it to index.html on Apache or default.html on IIS)
  3. Create a matching page for /enable-javascript-in-mozilla-firefox/

Then the help link will be http://www.example.com/help/enable-javascript-in-mozilla-firefox/ and should work just fine. Copy our help contents if you want or write your own.

12/01/2009

Are you checking out our catalog of awesome web to print designs?

We’ve got a few to be proud of in there. Some of the ideas were borrowed from the PhotoShop world. You’d think PhotoShop beats CorelDRAW hands down, and yes, it surely does when it comes to raster designs. We matched some seamingly impossible PhotoShop ideas in CorelDRAW and adopted them to web-to-print templates.

Web to print: water surface Web-to-print: stitched text Web-to-print:wood inlay

Feel free to download the sample templates from the tutorials and use them as a base for your own designs.
You know, there are lots of printing companies offering web-to-print to their customers. Very few offer powerful designs that a compute-literate user cannot reproduce using simple desktop tools.
Offering really good designs is your chance to stand out of the crowd.

22/12/2006

Re-posted from the old blog on Blogspot.

I started this blog with a particular purpose of writing on one interesting technology. It’s called web-to-print. I have a little vested interest in it, but I hope it won’t skew the overall picture.

A very interesting thing I heard this morning. I had thought that web-to-print is an emerging technology. Not any more. They way Zetaprints presented it it’s called a disruptive technology. There is an old (2004), but I believe still valid article in CIO about it.

I’ll try to get someone else explain it here in more details.

That article sets some criteria for a disruptive technology. Let’s see if web-to-print qualifies, according to professor Clayton Christensen from Harvard Business School.


Is web-to-print seen as a threat or opportunity?
Depends on how you look at it.
If you blow a few hundred thousand dollars on a monster like EFI – it’s an opportunity. You may or may not utilise it, but it feels good and you can tick that box in your CV before you are fired for wasting shareholders’ $$$.

If you are a small local printer and you go and something basic like printable or even better go and get yourself a web-to-print service at a fraction of a fraction of cost of that EFI monster you become a threat. First of all you are a threat to your immediate competition. Second you become a threat to that large printer that spent all the $$$ on EFI.

Response from the “leaders”
If you are a disruptor they try to replicate you, but what they don’t understand is that it’s not just about the technology. It’s the entire model, the approach, the mindset. It’s about being new and wedging into the existing market. So, they suddenly all decide to go and offer web-to-print services instead of good old sales.
Well, if you are that disruptive technology then they should fail. If you are just an inovation, then they should be able to nick it and the world forgets about you.
Iguess only time will tell.

Is the market overserved?
it’s a tough one …
I have to think about it…

22/12/2006

Re-posted from Blogspot

Is web-to-print market overserved?
I’d say that it is.

Look how many offers are out there and how much they changed in the last couple of years.
There was almost no change. The same vendors are offering the same web-to-print products. Everyone who could afford to buy them had already done so.
Most of those web-to-print products grew from MIS solutions and come as add-ons. You can’t really get web-to-print on its own. They want you to buy the rest as well. Very-very few printers actually need an MIS. Even for those who do, it doesn’t always make financial sense as the ROI is often questionable.


Does web-to-print require learning new skills?

No, not for the end users. A good web-to-print service is very easy to use.
Everyone these days is familiar with basic concepts of filling in a form in a web browser and submitting the data to the server.
Then it all comes down to how usable the interface is.

The designers may need to do a bit of learning or a lot of learning.

My opinion that there should be as little learning as possible. It should be all intuitive enough to be learned or discovered along the way.


Does web-to-print open new avenues and opportunities as a technology?

Take for example an Australian telco Telstra and their New Zealand off-shoot TelstraClear.
They implemented a voice recognition system for their customer service. It used to be “Press 1 for … press 2 for … ”
Now, it takes a 30 sec introduction, then a long question and then 3 to 5 attempts to tell the damn stupid thing what you actually want. Try it with any accent or speach impediment!

What’s the change for the end user? Did it enable any of us to get thru the menu faster? No way!
Can we call it a disruptive technology?
Well, it difinitely disrupts the state of mind whoever trys to use it.

It’s not the same with web-to-print.
I’d say that ordering business cards via email or phone is most unnatural. I want to see what I’m ordering. I feel much better when I pay for something I can see and like it before I part with my $$$.
Web-to-print definitely brings more balance into the process. I can see what I’m ordering and I know it will be very close in print to what I see. I’m the one in control making it look the way I want.

A template based web-to-print allows unskilled people to do the work previously done by skilled people only.
Designs should be done by designers, those that can make it look nice. Most of people can’t, no matter how hard they try.
Now people can pick a professional design and personalize it with their data and imagery. The key here is that the layout, colours and fonts remain the same way the designer designed it. Whatever I type in it still looks good!


So, what’s the conlusion?

I believe that an easy to use and affordable web-to-print service is a disruptive technology, but there are some pitfalls
I’ll talk about them next time.

14/02/2009

If you download a web-to-print order as CDR and the file is empty it’s because the file is in X4 format and you are trying to open it in X3.

Your options:

  1. Open the file in X4
  2. Buy X4 and open the file in X4
  3. Try to regenerate the order files
  4. Send us the link to the order and we’ll convert it for you

Only a few orders should be affected, but if you do get one like this, please, send us a link anyway.

21/01/2008

Some suggest to the contrary, but getting your web to print products on the first page in search engines is the cheapest way to get more traffic.

How to get on the first page

First of all, do not go to any SEOs. If you want a snake oil recipe we’ll give you one for free.
Filling your web to print catalogs with content and linking to them from other good websites is the way to go.

Get real

Talking about getting found is only relevant in a context of keywords. What would your customer type into a search engine?
For example you sell “business cards”. Tough luck. There are already established players with catalogs much larger than yours. Google has approximately 60mln pages for anyone searching for “business cards“. Your chance is slim, but hard work may get you there over time.

Find a niche for your web-to-print

A search for “business cards plumber” returns only 160,000 pages. You’ve got a real good chance of landing on the first page there.

Target locals

What is your geographical area? Do you want to be found by anyone from anywhere? Probably not. A search for business cards on Google Australia has only 345,000 pages. You still have a chance of getting close to the top.

What you need

  1. Lots of web to print designs
  2. Tags for every web-to-print design
  3. Comments for every web to print design
  4. Links from other good websites to your web to print catalogs and templates
  5. Google Analytics account
  6. A bit of patience

More in the coming posts.

22/12/2006

You probably all heard about VistaPrint. You must have, if you ever searched for some kind of printing in a search engine. VistaPrint usually comes on top. If you are lucky enough to be from the Antipodes (that’s us, Kiwis and Aussies) there is a chance you heard about TheOnlinePrinter. These two pay anything up to $14 per click in Google to be at the top of the search, but their prices are hard to beat.

They know how to do printing business online. VistaPrint is listed in Nasdaq and seems to be doing well. The OnlinePrinter is a more modest operation, but looking at the resent revamp of their website it cost them a few dollars. Money well spent.

So, they have the money, they are at the top of Google Ads, their prices are unbeatable and they take orders online. This is just the right mix to attract a small business for something like business cards or a small promotional item. Do small local printers stand a chance there?
Not the way they operate at the moment, but not all is lost.

First of all, let’s look at the weak spots.

VistaPrint weaknesses

Awful designs
They must be paying their designers peanuts coz they obviously got monkeys. All designs look the same with very small variations. They are quite bleak and unattractive.

Limited number of designs
There are 28 business card categories totalling approximately at 1,400 designs. Sounds like a lot, but in fact it’s not. I would have real troubles choosing anything decent there.

Questionable quality
As a consumer, how do I know what it’s going to look and feel like on paper?
How would I know the difference between 200gsm and 350gsm?
Most people won’t even know what that means!
The site looks cheap, the designs look cheap, the price is low … what shall one think? The card will look cheap as well.
This may not be necessary true because I heard they do really good quality on good stock. Never seen that myself, thou.
Their strong point here is giving away free business cards. It’s an awesome word-of-mouth advertising aproach.

So, we got VistaPrint on 3 points.

The OnlinePrinter

This website has a lot of promises, but is similar to VistaPrint in style. They offer approximately 120 business card designs that looked even worse than Vista’s. Then I had to use Flash plug-in to customize it like in a desktop publishing application. Hang on a minute, mate …. I’m a plumber. What do you want from me? If I could do designs I wouldn’t be a plumber. I don’t want and cannot customize and align and do what you ask me to do. Just can’t be bothered!

So, we got The OnlinePrinter on a few points as well.

Now it’s time to exploit these 3 weaknesses to your own advantage. More on this in Part II.

And while you are waiting there is a little bit of screen printing. Not for faint-hearted! :-)

[youtube=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j4GHON9KHZU”]

I like the application of AmericanExpress there :-))

22/12/2006

In my yesterday’s posting I listed 3 main weak spots of global online printers:

– poor designs
– small choice of designs when narrowed down to a category or style
– questionable quality (not necessary bad, but it’s not clear what it will look like on paper)

I’d also add one more – complicated interface. It doesn’t apply to VistaPrint, thou. Have a look at OverNightPrints. I find them very complicated.
A completely opposite opinion was expressed by a friend of mine who does a lot of orders with OverNightPrints and thinks that ZetaPrint’s web-to-print interface is too simple.

Enough of yep-yep-yep, bad-bad-bad.
A bit on the positive side for all the other small printers…

Good designs, great choice

It’s unrealistic for a small printing shop to produce thousands of great designs for their customers to choose from. It is plain stupid to tell a customer to go find a designer and get a design done. Very few will ever bother. It is too expensive to provide design service onsite for small one-off runs.

How about a single design central with web-to-print?
Something with thousands of templates produced by different designers for different occasions. You can choose with the customer right then and there. The rest is easy. The customer would type in details, pay a few dollars online and download a press-ready PDF file. Maybe 15 minutes? OK, make it 20 to have a proper look. The customization shouldn’t take more than 3 minutes. All done while you are busy doing other stuff around the shop.

Sounds too easy and unrealistic. Well, there is no service like this at the moment. Watch this space and pssst … don’t tell anyone. We are busy here making it all happen.

Quality stock, quality print, quality service

You obviously need to excel in what you do, unless you try to compete on price and loose it in the end anyway.
There is a clear advantage in being local. Your customers can touch and feel that stock. They don’t need to learn the difference between 200gsm gloss and 300gsm satin. It’s so much better to touch it and just point your finger at “This one, please.”.
Of cause the print quality must be good. It must be really good or they won’t come back.

Price

Well, it’s hard to compete with the enterprises of scale on price alone. I’d say that 10% to 20% price difference on a small business cards order won’t make any difference to the consumer. The effect is more psychological here – “VistaPrint is half your price!” and the rest doesn’t matter.

I’d expect 30% difference to be in the range when you can say something about print quality and stock. Anything more than that 30% difference and you need to be a very good salesman to convince the customer.

Marketing

Marketing online to a local audience using web-to-print is much cheaper than doing it country-wide or globally. The cost per click would be something around $1-$3. Your ad may say something like “Order online with your local printer. Pickup or overnight delivery.”. That would be a better proposition than from some obscure printer without any local contact details.

Thinking of a small town situation (just like the one I’m in) it would make perfect sense to stick a large poster in your front window

100 business cards for $xx while you wait
Choose from 5000 designs
www.your-local-printer.com

A footpath sign and maybe a banner outside won’t cost you much either.
Don’t forget that if you do great funky business cards for one builder then all his mates will come to you too. The word-of-mouth advertising is probably your most powerful weapon here.

Corporates

And the usual bread and butter of a local printer – small businesses around you. Set them up online. It’s not gonna cost you anything. A small leaflet drop around the CBD with the URL of your website is all what’s needed, assuming you can take orders online.

Conclusion

There is no silver bullet and there is no one simple answer. A design portal with web-to-print can be a powerful tool in your hands. Then it comes down to the quality of your service and how effectively you market it.

And as usual, on the lighter side of things …

Check xkcd.com for more :-)

25/08/2010

Want a really profitable web-to-print operation?

Easy as! Offer products at cost or below. Go into a partnership with a scammy rewards program. Screw your customers left, right and center. You’ll be fine as long as you dress it all in a thick layer of legalese.

Wish you could do just that? :)

17/02/2008

Large templates may take time to upload and may be slow to process later on. The current official limit is 20MB. The unofficial limit for “close friends” is close to 40MB.

A better way to upload large templates

Watch a Flash demonstration or read the full help post.

The bulk size of the file is taken by images.

Replace them with simple solid-fill placeholders produced right in Corel.
The template may look too unattractive, like this one:
boring web to print template

Upload and test the template using attractive images. When the preview is generated look for SAVE link under the image. Click on it to replace the default preview image with the current one. Now your template thumb looks OK and the file is still small:
Attractive web to print template

web to print - save preview

09/10/2008

Sorry, there hasn’t been an update to the site for quite a while. All new features are held up by the infrastructure upgrade we are working on at the moment. We should be finished mid-next week and will roll out lots of new stuff in the following days.

Our help site got a small re-vamp and lots of new posts. Check out these cool web-to-print design ideas. They may come handy if you are not in that strict branded corporate design world.

The traffic to customers’ sites and to zetaprints.com has slumped in the last few days, while there was no change to the overall internet traffic. Out brief research shows people are busy watching news, live presidential debate and other stress-inducing events. They just don’t feel like buying. A quick poll amongst other friendly e-commerce websites proved it’s not just us. It’s bouncing back slowly, though.

24/07/2008

It turned out we had a few extra Lucida fonts installed as system fonts and it caused a conflict with user fonts that were Lucida as well, but slightly different one.

Do you use Lucida in any of your web-to-print templates?

If yes, you need to upload your Lucida fonts, please or let us know this font removal caused you grief.

Sorry about it. We probably did a bad thing that will affect a few templates. We want to know if it did.

04/04/2008

In case you haven’t noticed, there are 2 new features to make your web-to-print site a bit better.

Catalog icons and web-to-print homepage layout

Web-to-print catalogs used to be lists of text links. Now they can be replaced with icons or images like in this example:

Images can be made in Photoshop in any size or format.  Read more in Catalog icons post on web-to-print help website.

The web-to-print homepage layout can be changed showing one or more of the following blocks:

  • Popular templates
  • Catalogs (as images or text)
  • Latest templates

Read more on web-to-print homepage customization.

31/01/2008

Download and analyze list of users

Lists of web-to-print users can be downloaded as an MS Excel file from Users page of a catalog or printer’s homepage. Read more in this help article.
web-to-print help

Payment transactions

All payment notifications for your web-to-print products are now captured and displayed in order details, including declined, refunded and pending payments.

new-4.png

Payment process

Users are taken away from the site where they placed the order to PayPal to make a payment in the same browser window. It used to open a new window.
Users can click on RETURN TO MERCHANT link in PayPal to return at any time. However, we expect some users to feel lost because the link is not very obvious. They can still step back in the browser.
Once a payment is processed the user clicks on a highly visible RETURN TO MERCHANT button and is taken back to the order page.
It takes some time for PayPal to process the payment and send a notification to ZetaPrints and the user may return before the notification arrives. I this case they will still see PAY NOW button, which may also be a bit confusing. The order page uses a background script to check the status and remove the button as soon as the payment is confirmed.
The button will disappear as soon as a notification arrives regardless of the transaction outcome. E.g. if the transaction was declined the user cannot make another payment and have to arrange it with you directly or re-order. Most of declined transactions are fraud anyway.

13/01/2008

User friendly URLs

Did you notice that some URLs for your web-to-print catalogs and templates changed?
The difference is noticeable in public access catalogs. Instead of long IDs our web-to-print system imitates static page URLs in a format http://your-domain/catalog-name/template-name.htm

Why would you care?

Because search engines love them and we see some amazing results with our web-to-print products making it to the first page on their key searches within just a few weeks!
More to this – they even have a page rank with Google, which is very unusual for this type of content.

How to make it even better

Go to quality websites that are relevant to the products you offer and try to get a direct link to either your website, a catalog or individual web-to-print templates.

How to make it worse

Using link farms, spammy directories, spam, paid links or any other questionable tactics may land you in hot water and see your domain removed from search engines altogether.

Current issues

We are still ironing our a few issues and your customers may get an occasional 404 error on perfectly valid URLs. Please, let us know immediately if it comes to your attention.

07/04/2008

Released only minutes ago, some long awaited user management features to make life of web-to-print printer accounts easier.

Add user and User profile page

You can add a user to the web-to-print database and then assign the user to multiple web-to-print catalogs using a new user profile page. You can still do it per-catalog.

Full user profiles can be viewed on the new user profile page. Profiles accessible through Add user or clicking on user name in lists of users per catalog.

You can edit profiles of your customers, but only for those without a password. Once the password is set up the profile can be edited by the user only.  More …

Anonymous orders can be assigned to users

An order placed by an unregistered user can be assigned to an existing user or a new one. Click on Assign to user link on order details page and follow the instruction.  More …

12/07/2011

We are clearing a backlog of web-to-print a dynamic imaging help posts from the last few weeks. The web-to-print features were released, but not documented on time, so you probably didn’t even know they are there.

Combobox

Let web-to-print users enter text or choose from a list, all in one control. Available in Magento only, for now.

http://www.zetaprints.com/magentohelp/combo-box-functionality/

web-to-print combobox

 

Web-to-print integration into Magento theme changes

We changed location of some files in our web-to-print extension for Magento, This would be of interest for someone who integrated a theme before and may do it again on another site. Read this help post first: http://www.zetaprints.com/magentohelp/custom-theme-integration/.

 

 

 

 

07/03/2011

Hello, it’s us. We are back.

This web-to-print blog has been neglected for a long time. Here is something new for you.

Updated web-to-print help

We moved all Magento related pages from our core web to print help to a dedicated Magento web to print help site. It should be easier to find information in this new format.

Magento web to print help is not only about web to print. We created a bunch of other extensions to help businesses move from other inferior e-commerce platform. The line up includes:

  • asynchronous file uploader
  • fixed quantities
  • access control
  • order approval
  • content migration

and we are working on one more. This set of extensions is everything a print-related business may need to successfully sell their products and services online.

Web-to-print directory

We have an extensive database of web-to-print, design and print – related websites. Why not share the information with others?

Now the database is taking a new form under http://www.zetaprints.com/directory. We include websites of other web-to-print providers and also anything useful we encounter as part of our daily routine. A lot of links come from customers, so please, don’t be shy to share an interesting resource.

22/12/2008

It takes up to 5 minutes for order files to become available for downloading after they were placed due to a massive back-up running at the moment. Usually they are available immediately, but not until 24 Dec.

Try again in a few minutes if you click on PDF/CDR/JPEG/GIF/PNG link and get a message that the file isn’t there and you need to contact the admin. If after 5 mins the files are still not there, then they did go missing and we need to know about it.

22/12/2006

Outsourcing is squeezing many printing businesses out of the market. It is just one the pressure factors a printing business is facing these days. Some people say there are always two sides of the coin and other people say that one’s loss is the other’s find. Let’s look into the obvious.

Outsourcing is a hot issue in other industries too. ICT was all abuzz a couple of years ago about Americans loosing jobs to their Indian colleagues. Nothing changed, really, but the world got used to it and I think it’s good. I’m proud to employ people from all over the globe. I say thank you to people from all over the globe who gave me jobs in the last few years.

Aussies got worried

So, printing is heading to Asia. China listed printing industry as one of its priorities. Rightfully so! Printing is not very commodity-dependent and is not too energy consuming, if compared to other industries. Printers around the world got worried. The doom and gloom reached Australia to the extent that they dispatched a “reconnaissance mission” to find out what kind of threat China is to them.

PrintNet, a website for Australian Printing Industries Association published a report with the results of the trip. It’s not all gloom and doom any more. They say there are as many opportunities as there are threats.

Outsourcing benefits

1. Cost
2. Cost
3. Cost

Critical outsourcing difficulties

1. Four to eight weeks between the sign off and delivery

Mitigated outsourcing difficulties

Time zone difference, language barrier, cultural barrier, proofing are all easily overcome by agents and print brokers that reside where the customers are. There is not difference to the customer between the local agent and a local printing business.

What can be outsourced

– anything that can wait a few weeks, no matter how small the run is.

What cannot be outsourced

– products that are needed NOW

What can be done about outsourcing

There are thing that an individual printer can do and there are things that only industry bodies can do.

At the individual business level the best thing is to diversify into products that cannot be outsourced effectively. There are just too many of them to list here. Every printer knows what kind of products customers need “yesterday” and what kind of products can wait for weeks in pre-press without the customer calling back.
The key to success here is turnaround time. If you can print a job on the same day or overnight while still being more or less competitive in the pricing then you are a winner.

Printing industry bodies can help their members in many ways, but they can’t stop outsourcing. It’s a waste of time and will only delay the agony:
– help printers understand if their particular business is at risk and how soon the risk may materialize
begin to advocate for less printing …….?????? !!!!!!!!!! Did I say that?

Less printing is better

This may sound ridiculous, but no, it’s just cynical. The point is to start beating the drums as soon as a big printing contract goes overseas. Take for example some government department issuing a big tender that is likely to be won by a large print-buyer / print-broker and end up in China for the bulk of it. Fine with us, but we’ll ask you a question: Why do you need so much stuff printed? Can you deliver the information in a cheaper and more effective way? Can it be simply published on the website or emailed?
The answer depends on the amount of pressure you put on them. Most likely it’s YES, but some printing is still required. You’ve just scored a win, because the smaller run is more likely to be done locally and ON DEMAND.

Greenies are printer’s best friends

At least this is true as far as outsourcing goes. A printing lobby advocating for less printing is a very strange and suspicious thing to happen. Leave it to the greenies. There are 101 reasons why printing should not be done at all and they are the best people to advocate for it. It may sound cynical, but it can be the only way for survival of smaller pockets of printing industry when that mighty outsourcing wave comes.

Print ON DEMAND / Print NOW

Printers that move into ON DEMAND and NOW area are going to survive if they enter the market early and build a good reputation.

Time to act!

And if I didn’t make you worried with this post I’ll hit you hard with an overview of electronic paper. Book publishers and sign makers beware! :-)

For now, take a break, look on the funny side of it

[youtube=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9_uHlXji0do”]

30/01/2008

We were alerted by several customers that some paid orders are sitting in “unpaid”.
It appears we didn’t get notifications from PayPal. Not really blaming them for this as it could be a communication problem or something at our end.

Please, check your recent payments for any “orphans” and try to match to unpaid orders. Email support@zetaprints.com with OrderID and PayPal transaction ID.

Changes coming to payments system today

We are making changes to how users make payments:

  • PayPal will open in the same window, not in a new one
  • All PayPal transactions will be recorded in the order details, including REFUNDED, PENDING, etc.
  • Users should see the transaction status by the time they return back to the site from PayPal

Payments from printers

Your home page will change from the dashboard to BILLING if you have outstanding invoices from ZetaPrints. The system may pop up the BILLING page at random if your payment is outstanding for more than 20 days. Please, contact us if you think your account should not be charged or if the billing is incorrect.
Alternative payment methods are available, but the BILLING page may still pop up until the payment is cleared.

Trial users

Trial customers still get billed, but we will wave the fees if you contact us. There is no time limit to the trial period. We consider it over when you start taking real orders.

14/08/2008

Some users complained they could not get through to PayPal to pay for orders.

The problem appears to be with PayPal taking ever to respond. It comes and goes and is geo-specific. Complaints came from NZ, AU and EU. Haven’t heard anything from US customers.

Please, check how it performs and keep an eye on the problem.

You may be loosing business simply because customers can’t pay!

Do you know a good alternative to PayPal?

Would you like to accept credit cards directly being a registered merchant with your bank?

Email support@zetaprints.com with suggestions.

24/11/2008

We are running much slower than usual today. Should be back to normal within the next hour or so. We have to switch search function off. It’s been misbehaving.

26/11/2009

Have you changed your web-to-print portal DNS record to a CNAME?

Change it now or contact us for help.

New data center

We are switching to a new data center some time this weekend. Tests are under way right now. Once we are happy and most of the data is synchronized we will change the IP address on zetaprints.com and your web-to-print site will be running off the new location.

A smooth ride is NOT expected. It’s quite possible we will need to switch back if the new hosting is not working to the plan.

Every switch means a bit of lost data. Although we will automatically synchronize both locations it takes minutes or even hours for all the new files to transfer.

Possible web-to-print data loss

Do not upload new templates until an announcement is made that we have moved, if you can wait. If the template can’t wait it’s not a big deal to upload. Just be aware it may disappear for some time if it ended up on a wrong server until it is found and placed where it should be. Please, let us know if you are missing any orders, images or templates on Monday.

16/09/2009

Power’s down. Trying to figure out what’s happening.

04/03/2008

Deleted orders are removed permanently

Orders sitting in DELETED folder are retained for 6 months or less. Orders from other folders are retained for a minimum of 6 months. Read more in a new help post.
You can set a different retention period per catalog.
retain1.gif
retain2.gif

Restore default preview

You can restore the original preview image with one click.
restore.gif

10/07/2008

Fresh off the web2print development mill – changes to the printer interface.

New menu format

The main menu moved into a horizontal line at the top of the screen.

The side bar on the left shows catalogs and templates only.

Web-to-print order list

You need to click on Orders link in the menu to see order folders with order counts.

Web-to-print orders report

Orders report now includes most of payment information, if there was a payment made.

It has only the last transaction details. E.g. if you refunded the order it will have the refund transaction, not the original payment.

PDF settings for Web-to-print

PDF settings are now managed from a separate page.

Empty Deleted folder

Every catalog has a setting for order retention. The default is 6 months. You can reduce it down to 1 month per catalog.

Clicking on Empty next to Deleted on Orders page will permanently delete any order that are older than the set retention period in the catalog as well as all deleted test orders.

Orders can be deleted only after you paid for them.

Demo

Watch a quick demo of the new interface

24/02/2009

We’ve just uploaded an update to the image library and other parts of the website, but it looks like new templates are processed incorrectly.  Please, do no upload any new templates in the next hour or two.

We’ll post an update when it’s fixed.

Users should have no problems ordering any existing products.

Update: the worst should be over.  Templates can be uploaded again.

02/08/2013

Multi-page web-to-print templates can have text and image fields shared between multiple pages.

The user can change it only on one page where it is encountered for the first time. All the other pages in the same web-to-print template will reuse the previously entered value.

We had a problem with our web-to-print engine updating pages it didn’t need to update when the shared fields were involved. If an update failed the user had to start over. This problem has now been fixed.

There is still a performance limitation. If a field spans too many pages with a lot of images it may take too long to update them all resulting in a time-out. Please, let us know if you encounter this situation.

 

31/07/2012

We are having significant networking problems with patchy packet loss resulting in dropped connections and pages not loading fully. Our magento users are not affected as much because their users see only the magento site, but the problems communicating with ZetaPrints remain nonetheless.

We are trying to resolve the problem with Amazon Web Services at the moment. Unfortunately there is not much we can do.

There are reports of multiple orders being placed by users because they get no response to pressing the Order button. Please, let us know if you were affected and we’ll adjust the billing.

 

25/09/2008

We spent a bit of time on improving our web to print help site and added a page for your suggestions.

Did you see a cool design somewhere and now want to make a template with something like that? It may be too hard. It may be impossible. Let us give it a try for you and then post a short tutorial on how to get it done.

Did you have troubles with ZetaPrints interface and think it should be better explained? Tell us where you stumbled and we’ll post an article to help you through.

Sourcing designs

We’ve got thousands and thousands of designs submitted by freelance designers. Some of the good, some not. Soon you will be able to browse them and add the ones you like to your catalogs. The main problem here is the pre-press quality of the designs as most designers concentrate on the visual aspect and totally ignore the technical side of making the final product.

We need help with writing detailed product guides and pre-press techniques that explain what the final output should be like, all the pre-press stuff, what information it should contain (fields), etc. Then let the designers try and pitch their designs to you.

12/01/2009

13/07/2011

The color of … is an interesting project by Fung Kwok Pan to find out the color of anything.

The site searches flikr for photos by the entered keyword or phrase and then merges them to find out the average color. Not sure what algorithm they use exactly to calculate the resulting color, but this what web-to-print color looks like

web-to-print color

22/12/2006

The world’s gone digital. iPods, PDAs, almighty-cellphones, emails, txt, you name it.
People are bombarded with electronic messages from all directions. Some are important, some are just unwanted interruption. The value of an electronic message is quite low, unless it’s something really special. The ability of electronic messages to make impact on us is probably lower that it used to be. I don’t have a proof for this, thou.

Put yourself in these situations

Well-meaning spam

You get an email with a message of peace and love from some religious organisation. What do you do? Probably mark it as junk without opening.
– it is not personal
– you don’t know who sent it
– you get too much spam anyway

You get an email from someone you don’t know with the same message …
There is a great chance your junk mail filter won’t even show it to you. To you it’s still junk even if it was sent by a real person.

Well meaning junk mail

Back to the real world of printed junk mail or whatever you call a leaflet about peace and love put into you letterbox alongside with all the other sales and specials. I hope you recycle. The chance you read it is tiny.

A postcard

I’d think it’s a different story. You get a postcard. It has a stamp. It says something, it was addressed to your home address, but not personally to you. It’s signed by a person you’ve never heard of. It says “Domestic violence is evil. You don’t own your wife or your kids. They have their rights too. ” And so on, and so forth. What am I on about, you may rightfully ask?

I accidentally stumbled across an article called “What women want… is freedom from fear” in a Malaysian publication The Star.

I’ve been to Malaysia and it’s a beautiful country. It’s a very diverse country, a real mix of cultures and races. Not sure it’s as democratic as other countries, but it’s obviously very civilized and women there want to be more and more independent. It can be pricy. Not every looser can stand it. Here comes the violence.

Some women got organized and printed a small run of postcards highlighting the problem. It was a dangerous undertaking for some of them. They had to keep their names secret.

The cards were placed in trendy restaurants and bars as “pick-me cards”. They had some success in drawing attention and the media. Not enough to change anything. It’s expensive and you just can’t print enough without some mighty sponsors.

Now, here is an idea

They need:
– several catchy designs for their cards
– a friendly printer
– a friendly journo
– a friendly web-to-print provider

What they do:
Set up a simple website on the problem. A few pages will do. Place a link to a web-to-print site with the postcards.
Anyone can come to the site, click on the link, personalize the message on the card or maybe upload a photo of the injuries or something, pay a very small fee (cost of printing the card, presumably + postage), nominate a recipient and click SEND.

The card gets printed by the printer and posted. Someone finds it in the letter box a few days later. Consider the impact. Not the same as an email, isn’t it? Even more so if it’s the wife-beater himself.

It may sound crazy, but may well be worth a try. I “know” someone who will provide a web-to-print service for this. A risky move, I’d say. Someone can easily mount a DoS on the service or try to hack it. We’ll see.

Just to finish on a more peaceful and relaxing note … Have a listen. I really enjoyed this clip.

[youtube=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SYGHyBsBWqM”]

Cheers,
Max

22/12/2006

So, you are facing a choice of buying a system versus using a service. A tough call!

Really, everything depends on the requirements. There is no one straightforward answer either way. What is good in one situation may be unacceptable in the other. We won’t get into too much discussion about this part of the decision making.

What I want to mention in this quick post is specific to web-to-print.

First of all, a decent web-to-print is computationally intensive

I’m not talking about some text manipulation using a PDF library. I mean something quite complex with multiple user images, texts on paths, clipping paths, conditional formatting, various text effects and transformations. Notice, all that is in the variable part of the template!
A file like this may take a few seconds to open, then every manipulation will take some milliseconds adding to the total time, then generating a JPEG or even worse a PDF file as the final output for printing. We are talking seconds here on a reasonably powerful multi-CPU machine.

The second thing to understand is the peak in usage.

Take a log file of a B2B system serving customers in a particular time zone. I bet there will be 2 humps and the rest will be almost flat.
People come to the office, have coffees, go to meetings. The peak in activity is usually between 09:30-11:30 and 13:30-16:00. It’s only 4,5 hrs out of 24!
80% of your orders will come thru within these 2 short timeslots.

Server utilisation
If you think you can serve all your orders using only one server you either going to have very few orders or see people queuing up and some giving up. Too bad. Time to think of the licensing model you signed up to: per site (good), per box (add more CPUs), per CPU (they got you!).
Adding more CPUs solves the problem only to some extent. A 4-CPU machine may only be 50% faster because of all the other bottlenecks. Its cost can be up to 3 times more than a dual-CPU machine. Then here come all the other licenses, unless you are lucky to run it on Linux.

What to ask your vendor

Ignore the sales pitch. Ask the vendor some technical questions and insist on giving you definitive answers and even making them part of the contract.

How long will take to process a template of a certain complexity?

How long will take on a template that is even more complex?

What are the performance indicators on speed of image manipulation?

What is the performance increase if you add 1 more CPU?

What does the licensing say about adding more CPUs?

What is the utilization curve or how does the performance scale with increase in utilization?
Just to expand on this one …
Processing 2 requests at the same time may be 4 times slower, processing 3 may be 9 times slower and so on.

What if they tell you that it all depends and so on?

Ask them for statistics from other sites. They are probably selling you a lemon.

If they finally sold you a lemon and it just won’t work, there is always a workaround :-)

[youtube=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Mr6zlc2mm8″]

Happy printing!

04/02/2008

More interactivity

We will be adding more interactive features with client side Java Script. The first lot will contain:

  • Expand / collapse menu entries with one click
  • Drag a small handle to resize the preview image
  • Upload files one by one asynchronously (without clicking UPDATE PREVIEW)
  • Crop an image where it is of different proportions
  • Delete rows asynchronously (without refreshing the whole page)

Possible issues with Java Script

New interactive features will be enabled for printer accounts only as a trial. Your customers will not see it until we are 100% sure it is error-free.
Please, report any issues you may have with the new features no matter how weird or small they are. Well, not that we expect many, but it is possible and we may not know unless you tell us.

04/05/2009

Please, stop printing and check all multipage files against previews. Only multipage designs are affected.

Orders coming trough Re-Order or Complete Order will most likely have one or more pages generated incorrectly.

We suspect there is a problem with one of team members committing wrong code into production. We are trying to roll back to the last stable build, but it may take a couple of hours.

Update: we are back to normal. The problem was eliminated by rolling back to a stable build.

14/01/2008

An update has just been uploaded to all machines in the cluster with the following fixes:

– user friendly URLs were updated
– change in catalog name updates the URL correctly (should be no more 404s on existing templates)
– billing calculated and invoices are showing correctly

Please, do not pay the current invoices, but do check if they are correct.

06/07/2008

You might have noticed by now that the User List page has changed with an addition of a new text area for your personal message to the user.

The message comes at the top of the email followed by the link they need to click on.

The screen capture below shows an email without a message.

Web-to-print personal message

The personal message would appear immediately before  the text you see in this example.

User Profile page changes

Order List and Order Details now link to the User Profile page via user email or the ID for unregistered users.

You can use it to manage user details, including entering their email addresses.  It can be done only if there is no password set for the user. Once the password is set it is up to the user to make changes.

Order List Page

Orders are titled by user reference, if such exists and the product name appearing in brackets. Otherwise the product name shows as before.

it may be a good idea to send an email to your active users and tell them about this feature. Make sure you have “Hide Reference” checked off in template details. Reference text box shows by default, unless you checked it off.

15/03/2011

Assume you have a cool web-to-print website and want to promote it. Advertising is one way. Getting links from other websites is another. We just had an offer of both. You may get one too and we want you to skip it. Here is why …

Unsolicited email

The following landed in our inbox some time ago

Sender: efxperrault@gmail.com
From: W2PI 
Subject: Invitation to visit W2PI
To: xxxxxxxxxx
To help you reach the W2P market in North America... www.Web2PrintIndex.com
Reasonable advertising rates and focused traffic.
The W2PI Team

It did look like spam, but we checked them out anyway.

Site analysis

  • Incoming links: nil
  • Traffic: nil
  • Value: nil
  • Empty promise: plenty

web-to-print-traffic1 web-to-print-traffic2

Your web to print site is not going to get any genuine traffic from them because no one visits them in the first place.

Leaving you out of pocket

Their offer is to charge you $375 for 6 months of having your homepage screenshot on their homepage. You need to pay the full amount upfront to some obscure PayPal account Web2PrintIndex@gmail.com. There is a 100% money back guarantee, but you can ask for a refund only after all 6 months run out. Rate your chances. :)

You’d better invest it into making free downlodable web to print products and promoting them yourself or getting someone to help you. $375 can buy you at least 25 good templates. By the way, if you offer freebies you can ask us to wave web to print fees on them as well. We are always happy to help promote your web to print service.

How to spot a fake

  • Check for links to their website
  • Check for traffic on Alexa.com or Compete.com
  • Look for proof of the claims they make
  • Check if the people / companies in testimonials exist
  • Ask us if in doubt

It takes less than a minute to tell if a website is a genuine offer or a fake to rip you off. This website did look genuine at first, until the numbers for traffic, links and other parameters told us a totally different story.

You have been warned :)

 

29/01/2007

Japanese whaling fleet is killing whales somewhere around the Southern Ocean. The Greenpeace is helplessly searching for them along with Sea Shepherd. The fleet has a $25,000 bounty on its masts, but no luck so far.

What else can we do to stop whaling?

There is one simple idea – let’s stir the public opinion in Japan, Iceland and Norway. Any of these countries backing down on whaling will be a major blow to the whole pro-whaling camp.

How about we send them postcards using Zetaprints web-to-print?

Here is a plan…

I’ve set up a template for a simple DL-size postcard. It’s the maximum size for the minimal postage (NZ$1.5 or ~ US$1). My mate runs a printing business and will print them at cost. Once printed, it will be addressed to a random postal address in Japan. The preference will be given to their local media outlets and small businesses. This will ensure maximum coverage.

The postcard is intended to explain our anti-whaling position to ordinary Japanese people and tell them that this is an important issue to us. Although, the card is not addressed to anyone in particular, it has a personal touch to it:
– it is a custom card, not a large issue
– it is signed by a real person that cared enough to pay a few dollars for this
– it has a photo of the person or maybe the entire family

I think the cards will provoke a lot of curiosity in the recipients and will be a likely topic of conversations. The more cards we send the more they will notice.

The next step will be to seek corporate sponsorship to cover the printing and postage and get even larger volumes though. Anyone with a cheque out there?

Send your postcard now

Front sideBack side

The idea is to keep the message positive and try to relate to Japanese people. Most of them do not support whaling, but this is not widely discussed there and doesn’t have as high profile as in the West.

Call to all designers: please, contribute your anti-whaling designs and ideas. I’ll be more than happy to put them on the site as templates.

21/05/2008

Our web-to-print Image Library page got a small re-vamp.

1. There is no difference in web-to-print Image Library page for printers or for end users any more.

2. Users can upload images directly into the web-to-print image library.

3. Images can be deleted asynchronously one by one or all in one go.

4. Long file names are truncated to the last 50 letters, which should be enough to the file name and a bit of a path. This is likely to be noticed by IE6 users only because all good browsers do not include the file path.

Watch out:

  • Go to your homepages and click REFRESH to get the latest style sheet. Frequent users have them cashed.
  • Tell us if the layout breaks (long file names, different height of boxes, etc) with your images.
17/01/2008

Users cannot complete registration if they register for your web-to-print, do not confirm their email address, you add them to a web-to-print catalog, they click on the registration email and get the 404 page.

Workaround: email support@zetaprints.com every time you get an email about a new customer and add the customer to a password protected catalog.

Expected resolution time: 24hrs.

13/03/2011

Just a quick tip on how you can use LinkedIn to get your web-to-print service in front of potential customers and partners – LinkedIn Groups.

There are 2 main ways of getting your web to print message across in Groups:

  • spam the heck out of them with self-promotional messages
  • get something interesting in front of them or ask for their opinion

Another interesting feature of groups is ability to add group members to your network and send them direct messages. Normally you’d need some sort of other connection with the person and groups is one of them.

11/02/2009

We are updating the system with new X4 file format over the weekend. Some templates may stop working or work incorrectly. We will need to know about any problems as soon as possible and will be fixing them immediately.

An announement will be made when the update goes live.