Hmm… we’ve spent a bit of time recently testing our online yearbook system versus ‘similar’ systems offered by our primary competitors here in the UK. The results were… umm… interesting.
In brief: we believe that we are far, far, far and away the best. 
It would probably be unfair to name names. But we’ve tried three web-based systems so far by three of our competitors, and they’ve actually made us laugh out loud – they really are that bad . They just don’t get it and they don’t understand what the customers want. Usability is terrible, security is severely lacking in various instances, and the lack of important features is criminal.
Security and privacy
Security and privacy concerns should be really, really important for anyone looking to do a yearbook online. You want to be able to trust your yearbook company with the data you give them, know that your private data is well protected and use a system with complete confidence.
I’m a web developer and I created AllYearbooks and I still work as a web developer for AllYearbooks. I’m a complete geek and know an awful lot about secruity. Unfortunately, it appears as though some of our competitors are technologically clueless and unfortunately this is reflected in how they handle security and privacy.
Within minutes of signing up to one of our competitors’ web-based yearbook systems we were able to exploit a critical flaw which would enable a normal member of that yearbook to gain access as an editor without the editor ever knowing.
Another competitor shows a complete disregard for the privacy of their customers. It’s possible to run a script against their basic login page to collect the name of every single student and teacher in their yearbooks as well as what school they belong. Truly shocking.
At AllYearbooks we take both security and privacy very, very seriously. We regularly audit our code and systems for potential flaws, taking action immediately if we find anything that needs fixing. We get the feeling that our competitors either don’t know or don’t care.
When using our competitor’s web-based yearbook systems at various times we were completely flummoxed and just went “Whaaaatttt????”. They’re just really, really hard to use and to know what you’re doing. You click one link and it takes you somewhere and you just have no idea what’s going on and how to get back to where you were. In Firefox and other browsers that aren’t Internet Explorer some things just don’t work or don’t look right at all. That’s about 25% of visitors who they don’t care about.
We have loads and loads of features we’d love to add to AllYearbooks and are working on them all the time. Yes, we haven’t built them all yet but they’re in the pipeline!
Key to our web-based system is this: collaborative yearbooks, created by everyone, sharing the workload. Few competitors seems to understand how important this is. One has a system where only editors can login; another has a system where members can also login but can’t see what other people are doing; the other… well… we were so confused by their website we had no idea how it worked to be honest.
No competitor offered anywhere near the quality and quantity of features offered by us at AllYearbooks.
Slowness and downtime
We couldn’t even access some of our competitors’ websites all of the time. They were down, or massively massively slow. This would absolutely infuriate me if I was one of their customers.
We’ve had about an hour or two’s downtime in the last three years. When we get busy, things get a tad slower, but then we upgrade to a new server and everything runs well again. We track performance with eagle eyes and constantly tweak and optimize code to make things run smoothly.
In some ways its nice to see that we’ve still got one of the best online yearbook systems. We’ve been a little slower in developing new features over the past two years than we’d have liked (due in part to Jake’s 11 month old baby!) but we’re still way ahead of the competition. It feels like we’re comparing apples with spaceships.
But there are also downsides. We can imagine our competitors having plenty of customers attracted by their hard-sales techniques and misleading marketing – then they use their web-based system and hate it so much that they never want to use a website to make their yearbooks ever again. And that hurts us.