Web to Print, Web-to-Print, Web2Print, W2P, you can see that even the print industry cannot come up with a standard name for capturing print orders online. Web to Print is broad term for doing print business online, typically through a website. At one end of the scale of products and services that come under the Web to Print moniker are price calculators, where the end user builds up the price of a print job by answering questions on an online form. In some cases the calulators also allow the print artwork to be uploaded and even complete the transaction by paying at the same time.
At the other end of the scale used to be template based solutions, where a user modifies a base design, for example adding their name to a business card, and then can see an instant preview of what the final artwork will look like. If the user places the order then the printer will normally be sent a print ready file (typically a PDF but many formats are available) of what the user has ordered. In recent years these types of solutions have grown much more sophisticated and offer features closer to being fully fledged online design software. These online editors typically come wrapped in a fully fledged webstore (or at least integrate with other webstore software platforms) and at least to the end user feels much the same to ordering anything online.
You don't have to go back far in history to find a time when to get artwork printed someone physically had to deliver that artwork to the printer, we are only talking about 30 - 40 years ago, and then the internet arrived and no industry was left untouched
The early internet, let's be honest, was rubbish. However it did have an impact on the print industry almost from the start, in both positive and negative ways. On the negative side for example, corporations started to spend more on of their marketing budgets online and therefore print volumes started to decline. On the positive side for example,the issues of getting artwork to the printer were massively reduced, first with email and then with file transfers through websites. It meant business could be secured from further a field and printers could go for national and even international business.
There is no obvious first use date of the term Web To Print in reference to what the software emcompasses today. Web to Print solutions started to gain acceptance in the late 1990's / early 2000's with the growth of e-commerce sites demonstrating that people want to do business online. Initially the software was very expensive, in a large part due to the requirements for a printer to have and maintain their own hardware (or even develop their own custom solution, much like the origins of RedTie) and were not especially feature rich.
In the second half of the 2000's, technology had evolved enough and new business models were being explored that led to more modern Web to Print solutions moving to cloud computing (Software as a Service) and this led to a massive reduction of the costs involved for the printer, leading to an ever increasing uptake in Web to Print software that is now affordable to print, print management, marketing and media companies of all sizes.
The fact of the matter is that the software behind this sector is still relatively new and is moving at a very fast pace. Simple solutions for providing quotations online or being able to order print on demand products have become much more feature rich to allow print products to be customised online by the user ordering the print, offer Direct Mail features with the uploading and merging of mailing lists and now incorporating more traditional webstore features such as stock management and marketing tools.
If total print volumes are on the decline then Web To Print is going in the complete opposite direction. Using our own internal usage stats we can see that both the number of webstores using our software and the volumne of orders being put through our software is still in a dramatic growth phase. In fact in all the years since the first order was placed on what was to become RedTie Template we have never seen anything but year on year increases in orders placed through the platform.
As with all emerging technologies, the future is somewhat unknown but certainly Web to Print solutions will become more feature rich, technologies such as HTML5 have removed a lot of barriers to what can be done online and there is no reason to doubt that their will not be a HTML6 and beyond. Cloud computing is here to stay, user experience has become more and more important and the software will be expanded to cover other forms of communication (even if that means another industry buzz word, Cross Media).
RedTie has been developing Web to Print software since 2001 and has always kept its development plan relevant by not just looking at what is new, but looking at what is new and will help drive our customer's business. It is the combination of having a customer 'wish list' driven development plan added to employees with a huge amount of print experience that means we will always be relevant and pushing the Web to Print sector forward with simple to use and effective tools backed up with excellent support and business development assistance.