Web-to-Print : Finding the Right Solution
Workflow Automation: Integrating a Web storefront with production has become one of the most critical considerations when building a Web-to-print solution, especially in the digital printing arena. Most digital press vendors offer Web-to-print storefront components that tie directly into the press workflow solution. This means that projects can be delivered via the Website, preflighted and placed directly into a print queue in front of the press.
Prepress-centric solutions, aimed at content creators and offering preflight, file delivery, soft proofing and approval, have been around for more than a decade. These are starting to be married to e-commerce storefronts, such as the Kodak InSite storefront, which integrates with Kodak's Prinergy prepress workflow solution.
While many printers have built their own solutions using in-house IT and Web development talent, there are so many on the market that it seems unnecessary to do this, unless your requirements and security needs are so stringent that no pre-existing solution will do.
Hosted or Licensed?
A distinction in making a solution decision is whether the product is offered as a Web-based SaaS (software as a service) or if it can be licensed (i.e., you buy the use of the software and can host wherever you wish.) A growing majority of the solutions offer both, with a big part of the distinction in cost (monthly fees for hosted, one-time "purchase" for licensed.)
Some people feel safer with a solution they license, thinking that it makes them less vulnerable than relying on a service "in the cloud." But the truth is that no one "owns" software, and if any vendor goes out of business, service for that product will go with it.
As industry veteran Jennifer Matt said in a recent blog post (jennifermatt.com): "Web software is not isolated; it has to play nicely with the Internet ecosystem…Internet browsers keep changing, Internet security keeps changing...and if your software wants to continue to work in this ecosystem, it has to change with it."
Julie Shaffer is Vice President, Digital Technologies at Printing Industries of America. She heads up the Digital Printing Council (DPC), as well as the Center for Digital Printing Excellence at Printing Industries headquarters in Sewickley, PA. In her position, Julie plays a lead role in developing programs and tools to help members grow their businesses with digital technologies.
Known for her graphic production expertise, Julie has a 20-plus year background in pre-media and print. She is often called upon for training, presentations and to provide on-site consulting throughout the industry on diverse range of topics, including PDF, color management, digital printing, social media and Web-to-print implementation. Julie is co-author of several books, including "The PDF Print Production Guide" (1st, 2nd and 3rd edition), the "Web-to-Print Primer" and the forthcoming "Field Guide to Social Media."