A superb web-to-print designer created by programmers for programmers

This is the first post in the Customer’s Canvas blog we’re starting here at Aurigma. I’d like to open it by describing the vision that directed our team’s efforts as we developed our web-to-print solution.

A superb web-to-print designer created by programmers for programmers

Hello, my name is Dmitry Sevostyanov. I’m the product manager for Customer’s Canvas.

This is the first post in the Customer’s Canvas blog we’re starting here at Aurigma. I’d like to open it by describing the vision that directed our team’s efforts as we developed our web-to-print solution. Since you are reading this post, I feel comfortable saying that you are likely interested in the topic of web-to-print software. You might be looking for a web-to-print solution for your company, or maybe you are just looking around to understand what the current state of e-commerce software for the print industry is. Whatever your motivation, we’re happy for the chance to show you how we developed Customer’s Canvas to be the exceptional and versatile web-to-print solution that it is.

Online e-commerce

These days almost everyone knows names like Amazon, Overstock, and EBay. The familiarity of these names and the reputations associated with these companies allow people to feel confident and comfortable making purchases online, whether for personal or business reasons. That shift in the consumers’ perception and behavior didn’t happen overnight. Now the same shift is happening in the print industry. These days print service providers seek the opportunity of supporting online sales, which can be divided primarily into two major categories. The first is retail automation. It’s extremely convenient for customers when they can place orders themselves 24/7 without the need of coming to a bricks-and-mortar shop and talking to anyone. The company saves its resources and hence money. The second major category considers the online arena as an important additional marketing and sales channel to be leveraged as much as possible. Companies which fall into this second group invest significant money in both online and offline promotion designed to drive more of their customer traffic to their websites. A good example is Vistaprint, one of the biggest print service providers , which has managed to effectively employ this lucrative online strategy.

There are a number of e-commerce solutions for print service providers in the market, offering a wide variety of capabilities. These range from complete platforms, which include e-commerce and content management systems, web-to-print designers, and marketing tools, to DIY solutions that web-to-print companies build and tailor for themselves to support their sophisticated internal workflows. No matter what kind of system you have, or are considering acquiring, web-to-print designers are an integral part of the solution. These enable end-users to create their own personalized products and orders for fulfillment.

web-to-print system

Web-to-print designers for web developers

Let’s say you are part of a team working on a web-to-print system for a print service provider, or even someone creating a whole platform aimed at print companies. Maybe you are web developers and specialists in e-commerce systems, but the topic of image processing is outside your wheelhouse. If the solution you are developing requires a web-to-print designer which will be supporting the ordering workflow… what to do? You have two options here: develop it yourself or find a complete solution in the marketplace.

Buying an existing system can be challenging. What if you get locked into one that is not up to your needs? Developing it yourself may sound appealing but when you start delving into the topic, you realize that it is not that simple. Here’s why—all designers have to implement the following features:

  • Import print products from templates.
  • Allow customers to personalize products online.
  • Export personalized products to print-ready files.
  • Save personalized products and allow customers to return to designing them whenever they want.

All of these user interactions with the system involve the need for non-trivial front-end development and sophisticated image processing on the back-end. You will have to learn what image processing is, how to read and save image formats, process large-scale graphics on servers without consuming all the available memory and killing them, how to apply color management, support CMYK formats and color profiles, etc. The list of requirements is long and daunting.

web-to-print workflow

Get to know Customer’s Canvas

Customer’s Canvas is a complete web-to-print designer built by software developers for developers. On one hand it has an appealing user interface; on the other hand it encapsulates a wide variety of image processing features under the hood. You integrate it into an e-commerce system using an API. All you need to do is to instruct it to open a product template from the specified file and, after the user is done customizing the product, it automatically returns hi-res output that can be sent for fulfilment. You don’t need to know how complex image processing algorithms work with this solution.

You may be familiar with Adobe InDesign server, which is widely used in large and expensive web-to-print solutions that support automated workflows for publishing and printing content. Customer’s Canvas offers the same kind of functionality for projects of any size. With our solution, designers can use the power of Adobe Photoshop to create a print template and then import it into their existing web-to-print system. The user will be able to manipulate layers, replace text strings, upload images, change positions, etc., resulting in a print-ready PDF which doesn’t need any preprocessing before being sent for printing.

customer's canvas

How about the hosted version of Customer’s Canvas?

You may have already contacted us about Customer’s Canvas and were frustrated that the solution is built on ASP.NET, whereas you are creating your website on another platform. Let me take a minute to explain why this is not a problem. You see, Customer’s Canvas can be integrated into applications built for other platforms.

Solutions of this kind cannot be pure front-end applications as web browsers are still very limited when processing large amounts of data. That is why Customer’s Canvas relies on server-side algorithms to implement image processing features and other logic. We chose ASP.NET for many reasons, perhaps the most important being that there are powerful imaging libraries developed for the Microsoft platform. This is in direct contrast to LAMP, which for the most part lacks toolkits capable of supporting robust web-to-print solutions.

So how to integrate Customer’s Canvas into applications built for other platforms? There are two options. You can go with the on-premises version and host it yourself, separated from your main website on an ASP.NET environment. Or you can subscribe to the hosted version of Customer’s Canvas. Yes, I’m pleased to announce that Aurigma has just released the hosted version, which enables customers with no access to an ASP.NET environment to host Customer’s Canvas on-premises to leverage exceptional web-to-print workflow automation in their e-commerce sites.

If you are interested in getting trial access to the hosted version, please click this link.