What is All This Hype about Web to Print, Anyway? or, The Beginner’s Guide to Web to Print

Beginner's Guide

The purpose of this post is to introduce the not-so-familiar to the wonderful world of web to print. In this beginner’s guide we hope we can ignite the same feelings of excitement in you that we have about this technology! The very name “Web to Print” can be broken down into its definition as literally “printing over the internet”, but web to print has been known by many different names.

The Many Names of Web to Print Solutions

Over the years, web to print solutions never really had a clear-cut term for itself. Below is a sampling of commonly used phrases for it:

No matter the terminology, they all are web to print solutions.

Beginner's Guide to the Technologies Involved in Web to Print Solutions

The first of the two main technologies involved in Web to Print is the internet. Can you imagine a life without the internet? Without its invention in the early 1990s, you wouldn’t be reading this right now and we simply wouldn’t exist!

The second technology surrounds printing and the front end of the printing process also sometimes known as prepress. Now, you may be thinking that printing is not really a technology since it has been around for centuries since the first Gutenberg press! It is centuries old, but the technology around printing and especially prepress has grown exponentially! Prepress technology includes desktop publishing and graphic design software that allows for incredible WYSIWYG (What-You-See-Is-What-You-Get) page layout and design.

So, What is Web to Print?

Web to Print is, effectively, the marriage of the internet with desktop publishing tools to provide print products. Users, staff, employees or customers will typically visit a web page where they can enter information usually into a form and the web to print solution will provide a proof that is automatically typeset and formatted to match the template upon which it is based. The resulting file is print-ready for output on a printing press, a digital press or even a wide format output device. This all sounds fairly straightforward… but there are many different approaches and philosophies of web to print solutions.

What are the Key Differentiating Factors between Web to Print Solutions?

One of the primary differentiators among web to print solutions is the targeted user or client. A solution can be B2B or B2C or some can even provide both. B2B stands for Business-to-Business and this would involve an existing relationship between two businesses. Web to print solutions providing B2B services most often have products that are templated and follow visual identity or branding guidelines. Typically for medium- to large-size businesses, a user would have to log in prior to using the storefront.

B2C means Business-to-Consumer and these web to print solutions are designed for anyone to make a purchase. These solutions typically allow the consumer to upload a file or design and build an item from scratch using rich user interfaces or modify a pre-selected design of an item.

Beginner's Guide to the Features of Web to Print Solutions

As software and websites are growing more advanced in their capabilities, so too, are web to print solutions. Below is a list of the up and coming features that not all solutions can provide.

Availability of Web to Print Solutions

Historically, web to print solutions used to be quite expensive and required a heavy investment in IT infrastructure, proprietary software, continual hardware upgrades and technical staff. With the the advent of high-speed internet access, open source software, and the availability of hosted or Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions, web to print solutions have become more and more affordable to more and more industries.

Conclusion

All the hype around web to print solutions can be justified by all of their capabilities. They can streamline workflows, increase efficiencies while lowering costs and time to market, and enforce branding guidelines to exacting specifications. Now that this beginner’s guide has explained what web to print solutions are all about, maybe it’s time to incorporate such a solution into your business or organization?