QUESTION: What is a Web-to-print system, and how does a Web-to-print system work?
ANSWER: A Web-to-print system is a computer-based system that allows people to go to a Web site and place orders for documents. Usually, but not always, the documents are printed on demand. Often, but not always, the documents can be customized in some way by the people that are placing the orders.
Web-to-print systems are also known as "Web2Print" systems, "W2P" systems, or "remote-publishing" systems.
In most cases, the people that use Web-to-print systems to place orders for documents do not have graphic-design skills and are not trained in printing technology. In contrast, the people that manage and maintain Web-to-print systems do have such training and knowledge. For example, some printing companies manage and maintain Web-to-print systems and offer them for use to their customers.
Most Web-to-print systems have an on-line catalog of documents from which to choose. The documents can be static, or they can be designed in a way that allows for customization.
Some Web-to-print systems have e-commerce capabilities so customers can pay for their orders with credit cards and debit cards. VistaPrint is one of the best-known Web sites of this kind.
Usually, but not always, the end product for an order is hard-copy output (printed documents). Usually, but not always, the hard-copy output is produced by digital printing equipment.
Sometimes the end product for an order is an electronic file — for example, a PDF file.
Here are a few examples of situations in which a Web-to-print system might be used.
- A printing company makes a Web-to-print system available to its customers so it's easy for the customers to order customized company collateral such as business cards and letterhead.
- A bank makes a Web-to-print system available to its branches to make it easy for employees to order customized bank collateral such as business cards and letterhead.
- A corporation that manufactures security devices for computers makes a Web-to-print system available to its channel partners (resellers) to make it easy for the channel partners to create customized versions of postcards that can be used in direct-mail campaigns.
- A corporation with a chain of restaurants makes a Web-to-print system available to the restaurants so each restaurant can order various kinds of documents. For example, the system could be set up for ordering placemats, menus, napkins, and coupons that are tailored a particular restaurant.
In all these situations, the fact that the documents are professionally designed and are branded for a particular organization is a big benefit to all the parties involved. For example, in the case of the corporation that manufactures the security devices, the channel partners are assured they'll be able to make use of nicely designed documents that are customized for them, and the corporation is assured all the documents conform to the corporation's branding standards.