gets real Matt 19 Jul 2005

34 comments Latest by Joe

Eric Stephens writes in to tell us about, the e-commerce site his team launched after getting some inspiration from our Building of Basecamp workshop.

…I’d been trying to develop an ecommerce project for about six months, and after attending the building of basecamp in September of last year I felt I knew exactly what I needed to do. We formed the team we needed in January, and six months later with five people working varying degrees of part time we launched half a product that we’re proud of:

The “half a product” bit he refers to is our advice to build half a product, not a half-assed product (i.e. build something small and improve that before you start adding on additional features). Jason talked about this in his recent How to make big things happen with small teams presentation.

Also, developer Lucas Carlson has a blog post about how they used Ajax to improve the customer experience.

34 comments so far (Jump to latest)

Darrel 19 Jul 05

Hey! An online printer that understands Macs! Nice!

Jason 19 Jul 05

Print Promotion is an excellent example of not only the benefits of the Building of Basecamp workshop but also the power of Ruby on Rails.

The website is clean and intuitive as well. A great service!

Dick 19 Jul 05

Can somebody say “kickback”?

8500 19 Jul 05

Their site is pretty slick. I’m impressed.

Matthew 19 Jul 05

Nice site, but its a pain to update order options (size, type of material, etc) and then to have to scroll to the bottom of the page to see the updated totals.

Mike Keen 19 Jul 05

Since when is scrolling hard?

Vaughn 19 Jul 05

I’ve been looking for a custom postcard printer for awhile. It’s funny though, because most of them don’t seem to care for my business. I like the quality of postcards custom ordered (rather than Kinko’ed) but sometimes I only need 100 cards or so, with no front and black and white text on the back.

I contacted Printpromotion 2 days ago but haven’t yet got a response.

I’ve received rude responses from other companies though.

Finnicky business, this online printshop thing is.

Eric Stephens 19 Jul 05


We certainly care about your business. I just shot you an email. Hopefully we can catch up on the phone tomorrow.


Vaughn 19 Jul 05

Yes, I gotten your emails, and thank you.

Just for the record everyone, no I was not/am not bad mouthing Printpromotions. So far everything has been awesome!

Dan Boland 20 Jul 05

Does anyone else think the use of the Yellow Fade Technique with the pricing table is total overkill?

8500 20 Jul 05

Yeah ok, so after further review - the site is cool but the prices are high. I’m not talking gang runs vs. custom runs either. If the printers are using spot colors then they aren’t gang running right?

Anonymous Coward 20 Jul 05

To clarify:
If the printer wants to gang run another job with mine where we both have the same paper, gloss, and spot colors, who cares? Spot colors should come out exactly the same whether it’s gang printed or not. That is what Pantone is for.

I think if you compare your low quantity business card prices with other printers who will do custom spot colors, you are still on the pricey end.

Carl 20 Jul 05

Who cares if sites like 4by6 use gang runs. I’ve used them numerous times and have been 100% satisfied with the results. I have also done custom printing and honestly.. the results did not impress me enough to warrant spending the extra money.

You spend alot of time trying to reinforce the gang run vs. custom printing debate… sounds like you are trying to convince yourself… not your potential customers.

Eric Stephens 20 Jul 05


You’re right that if a print job is using spot colors it can’t be gang run.

Which sites/companies are you comparing our prices with? If you think we’re expensive, we’d love to know who you think is a better value to see how we can improve and to make sure the comparison is apples to apples.


All we’re trying to say is that we believe in transparency. We think printers should let their customers know whether a job is a custom run or a gang run, because it can affect the end result. There’s nothing wrong with gang runs, they’re great for many situations, which is why we’re adding them. However, they’re not right for all situations. If you need to get skin tones, shadows, corporate identities, or subtleties in photographs just right, gang runs can be problematic.

We also offer custom runs because it allows us to offer more options, so customers can get the exact look they’re going for.

The bottom line is simply that we feel too many printers obscure the details, which can lead to customers not getting the best printed pieces for their situation. We want our customers to be educated about the pros and cons of different printing processes so they can make the best decisions about their print collateral.

8500 20 Jul 05

Just doing a quick search on google I came up with:

Print Promotions:
Colors Front: 2 Spot Pantone colors, Back: 1 Spot Pantone color (I didn’t select printing on the back, this a default?)
Paper 80 lb. Cover, Bright White Wove (Smooth) - Front: Uncoated, Back: Uncoated
People 1 @ 1,000 Business Cards
Total = $426

We Print Color:
1000 Two color business cards printed on White, #80 Cougar Cover (Matte finish) $68
2 Pantone colors $25/ ea.
Send Me a PDF Proof before you print my order $0
Total = $118

Please correct me if I’m wrong on any of the pricing.

Eric Stephens 20 Jul 05


Printing on the back is off by default on our site. They’re not offering bleed, rounded corners, any color on the back besides black, or raised ink. We print color is also only offering colored and pseudo textured with marbelizing effects. So we don’t feel the services are comprable. We’re not looking to be the cheapest, because when you look at the whole picture no one is really offering anything comparable. We offer many choices, so you can get exactly what you want.

To make the quotes comparable, they aren’t offering a spot pantone color on the back, just black. Our price without a spot color on the back is $272.

When we quote the same job as you did above, our price is $385.

We also offer the option of additional lots, buying cards for multiple people, which drops the price significantly.

I hope this helps to clarify.

8500 20 Jul 05

Your site is confusing me then.

My actions:
1. select “2 Spot Pantone colors” from the Printing Options drop down menu
2. select the cell for 1 person and 1000 cards for $426

This brings me to the order confirmation screen which shows:
Back: 1 Spot Pantone color

I did not change the default setting, which say: “Print on the back?: No thank you” yet it is included in my online quote?

jason 20 Jul 05

8500, what gives? you work for a competitor? why all the trouble?

Lucas Carlson 20 Jul 05

So sorry 8500, you actually found a bug in our system that I have now fixed. Thanks for your patience.

8500 20 Jul 05

“8500, what gives? you work for a competitor? why all the trouble?”

Hell no. I got out of the print game a long time ago. I’m just trying to help… sorry if it looks like I’m going out of my way to bash.

Hopefully they consider precise customer feedback as something other than causing “trouble”.

8500 20 Jul 05

I guess it would help to know whether Print Promotions is a web service company that offers printing or a printing company with a nice web site.

In other words, does print promotions have press operators on their staff and do they own the presses or do they “contract” the actual print work to smaller dedicated print houses.

The much higher prices suggest a middle man markup.

Lucas Carlson 20 Jul 05


The higher prices for some of the products is not due to inflated production costs, it is mainly due to higher quality products. If higher quality products is not important to you, then you could justify the cost as the time savings and accuracy and quality of marketing materials. If the message that you are promoting is important and effective, then this extra cost will be well worth it.

Time savings with our system and the lack of stress should calculate into monstrous savings in the end.

Jaime Macias 20 Jul 05

Shortly after reading this post i emailed the site to request print samples. I received a phone call a short time later and am now awaiting my package of requested samples.

When it comes down to it on these online printers the proof is in the product. I have ordered 2 dozen sets of cards from a large cheap online printer due to client budgets, turnaround time, or as samples and I have to tell you it leaves you unfulfilled. If I can get quality from a printer that is worth the price I dont care what interface I have to use to get it.

So far my impression of this group of businessmen is that they know what they are doing and they are concerned with quality, these 2 things can’t be overated. When I recive the print samples i will determine whether it is worth the price to me but I don’t think we should be blasting or praising anything but a great looking site at this point as I doubt anyone in this thread has completed a transaction with them.

Eric Stephens 21 Jul 05


Your comment raises a very interesting point, and I think you’d be pleased after hearing the story behind Print Promotion. My guess is that we spent a small fraction of the money and/or man hours that Printing for Less spent on their site.

It’s important to note that Printing for Less developed their site a number of years ago when it was a lot more expensive to build a quality site, but I still think the small fraction that we probably spent in comparison highlights a few interesting things…

The costs of software: Printing for Less uses Microsoft software for their servers and databases and Microsoft isn’t exactly known for inexpensive licenses. On the other hand, we only use open source software, which brings a significant cost savings.

Rails allowed us to develop the site much more quickly than we could have with other technologies, providing a significant savings.

Web standards oriented development allowed us to keep the site light, reducing bandwidth costs, and it provides us with more flexibility to make changes going forward, reducing future development costs.

I think the design reflects our commitment to these technologies, which actually reduce costs.

In addition, while I lack hard data, I am sure that well designed sites/services can significantly reduce support costs. I think Basecamp is a great example. The five person team provides all of the support for a web app used by thousands of people.

The reason why we are more expensive than many online printers is because we are offering a different product, not because we have higher production costs. No one we know of is offering completely custom printing where the customer has tremendous choice over the aesthetics of his print job. Using our site is similar to walking in to a local high end printer and telling them exactly what you want. The major difference is that with us you can avoid all the headaches usually associated with a local printer. We were fed up with that experience and created Print Promotion to solve that problem.

We also think there are print buyers who look for cheap printing but would love a better way to buy that printing, which is why we’ll be offering gang runs shortly. Our gang run pricing will be competitive with other online printers.

Thank you to everyone who has posted feedback.

Mike Keen 21 Jul 05

As someone who has used Print Promotions’ services, I can say that the extra cost is well worth it. I had two-sided, high gloss business cards printed with them and they turned out great. I plan to do more business with them in the near future.

Jonathan 22 Jul 05

I think the “Continue Shopping” link in the Shopping Cart page should be more attractive, and moved to the top of the page.

Jonathan 22 Jul 05

… and you should clearly specify that you don’t ship outside of USA.

There are other countries in the world, and foreign people (like me) can be frustrated that you assume that your visitors are only american people.

Steven Van Praagh 22 Jul 05


You are not alone in your advice and desire for us to make it known whether or not we ship internationally. To take it one step further by early next week we will have added international shipping into the shipping options, we are all set up with FedEx and just need to do some programming which will be asap.

Thank you for your advice on both the button placement and level of attractiveness and the int’l shipping, we will consider your input there as well.


Steven Van Praagh 22 Jul 05

Sorry for calling you Jason…it was a late night…