Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Online Printers: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

A few weeks ago, I teamed up with Tobin Lehman from Tobin Lehman Design + Interactive to compare notes on some of our favorite (and not so favorite) online printers. With so many options out there, sometimes it's hard to find a printer that offers decent quality, affordable pricing, good customer service and user-friendly navigation for basic projects such as business cards, postcards or tri-fold brochures. This article gives you some first-hand feedback for your next small printing project. 

Greener Printer 
Kim: Greener Printer is one of my favorite online printers because not only are they a certified green printer (using only recycled papers with soy inks and following sustainable business practices), but they also offer high-quality, affordable printing. It’s the best of both worlds! Greener Printer offers a wide range of templated products such as business cards, brochures, and even catalogs. In addition, they can do custom sizes and quotes as well. Their website is easy to use, allowing you to quickly calculate printing prices, with simple upload options. My only negative for this printer is that their turn-around time is not as fast as some of those “other” online printers.

Kim: So, I’ll admit it, I’ve only recently come across Moo, but so far I love them! Their website not only offers great pricing on products such as business cards, mini cards, postcards, and more; but they also offer some great resources for design inspiration and printing tips. One especially cool feature on moo is their unique Printfinity technology, which allows you to print a different design on every single card in the pack! Um, did someone say, AWESOME! (oh, wait, that was me). My only negative for this printer is that while they continue to add more, their current product options are a tad limited.

Tobin: I just recently used this printer for an online job and I was very impressed by the quality of the user experience, paper choices, and pricing. They really seem like they have a good process and system in place to make your account accessible as well. I like being able to see all my jobs in one place, and that is a nice feature. The proofing process was really easy and approvals seemed to be well controlled. I plan on using this printer for a few more projects to see how the other product offerings turn out.

Kim: Good, old VistaPrint. The positives for VistaPrint are their 1) speed and 2) amount of product options. The negatives for VistaPrint are their 1) speed and 2) amount of product options. VistaPrint is a great go-to, online printer when you need something fast and cheap. While their quality is not bad, it’s not super impressive either. As a general rule, I only use them for postcards and 4-color digital business cards…materials that don’t need exact color matching, and things that I need in a hurry. I find that lately they almost have too many product offerings, which can make it a little confusing when trying to place an order. While they don’t offer live chat or email customer service, their customer service via phone has always been extremely helpful.

Tobin: I’ve only used Vistaprint on one occasion for some folders a few years back. The quality was well done, but price was not the cheapest, which was something to be considered for my client. Everything was done on time, and I have no complaints about the service. I get TONs of emails from them now, which is good and bad.

Got Print
Tobin: Quality and price are both above average among providers although shipping price is a bit high from some others I have used. I’ve never had to send any work back, but I’ve not been blown away by good quality either. The biggest problem I find is the turn-around time. I’ve sent jobs and not heard from them for a week. If you’re trying to meet a tight deadline stay away from this printer.

Overnight Prints
Kim: I do not recommend using OvernightPrints, and will never use them again. A few years ago, I was happy to send small, quick-turn-around runs for business cards or postcards to OvernightPrints. Unfortunately the last 3 orders I sent to them all returned with errors including trim mistakes and inconsistencies on business cards, major color errors, and in one case, a client’s entire logo did not even print on his card (even though the files were set up correctly). While they offer extremely low pricing, I’d much prefer to spend a little more to alleviate the poor quality and errors this company has recently been producing.

Tobin: While product is speedily delivered, quality is sacrificed. Approximately half of the business card related print jobs I’ve requested were received with errors and I’ve had to send the work back and have it reprinted. The quality of brochures and envelopes, in my experience, has been fine.

Hope this helps you with your next online printing decisions. Keep in mind, I only recommend using online printers for smaller print runs and only for certain projects such as business cards, postcards, rack cards, trifolds, etc. Should you have a more custom project and/or need a very large quantity, be sure to go with a more local printer!  Have another printer you'd recommend, please leave a comment below!

About Tobin Lehman
Tobin Lehman is an advertiser and educator who lives in Frederick, Maryland. His professional portfolio can be found at www.tobinlehman.com , and you can contact him at contact@tobinlehman.com. 


Ellen Byrne said...

Thanks for doing the homework Kim and Tobin! I've got this entry bookmarked!

Sue said...

Awesome, thank you! I actually use Zazzle for my business cards. Any thoughts or experience with them?

custom business cards said...

This is very nice article because it focus on all side of online printing. It gives very clear idea about its advantage and disadvantage. Really nice post!!