Compare and contrast online/postal yearbook publishing

The first email I got this morning had this question:

“do we have to go through the website to make our yearbook? – can we not send you the information and you make it into the yearbook?”

We get asked a lot, and I think it shows how people are thinking about the website in the wrong way.

Most yearbook publishers work primarily from a set of style templates and encourage you to choose one – of course they do … we all do … we’ve designed templates we think look nice and so we offer them about. It’s natural.

Now, when planning yearbook profile pages, you think about how you want them to look, the questions you want the members to write about and the order you want the members in.

So you’ve had a think, you’ve sent an email or letter to everyone in the year asking them to return their answers … it’ll take some time, but that’s ok, because you’ve picked the style you want for the pages and asked your yearbook publisher to send you a page mock-up by post or email.

You wait a bit. You get to see the mock-up – whether it’s right or wrong, you’re maybe running out of time, and you’re busy chasing member information, that you have to get gathered together to send pretty soon because the designers need time to make up the pages, so the mock-up will be fine – never mind…

Now, some yearbook companies might offer to make every single page unique – if that’s what you’re after then that’s fine: it will cost a lot more, and you’re probably looking at printing and delivery wait of 2 months rather than 2 weeks, but some people are looking for that service.

BUT – most companies will make page that look very much the same, with some variation in colour between groups, and just with the different member information. So, why wait two weeks for them to mock-up a template, or for 4 weeks while they fill it in with the information that you’ve collected.

If you write your question on our site, rather than in an email, you can get every member who logs in to type directly into that space, and they can come back and re-edit at any time until you’re ready to start proof-reading. They put a photo straight onto the site. They put other photos into sub-headed folders where other members can view them and share comments.

Ok, not everyone will login. But not everyone will reply to your editor’s email, or fill in their form. You’ll always be chasing some people – it’s easier when you can look at everyone who HAS got it done in alphabetical order and know their information is already as good as on the page – in fact you can see the page, waiting for a proof-read!

In the mean time, editors can:

  • change the questions at any stage
  • move the members into a different arrangement of groups, without loosing any data
  • change the page order
  • try out and fiddle with the available templates as many times as you want at any stage
  • submit the online photo folders filled up by the members to us to make collage pages
  • run an electronic voting poll
  • add message pages
  • upload pages they make themslevs

We realise the online system can be daunting, but we promise that there are zero data security issues, no ability for non-editors to change major settings and total editorial control over the content. Even if you only use it as a surrogate email inbox, it’s still more secure and more efficient than using an email inbox.

That was a long rant, so here’s a breakdown of the two processes – sending off yearbook information or setting up an online yearbook. I have tried my hardest to be fair and make the first option as efficient as I possible can…

OPTION ONE: Sending off the raw information to be made into a book (which we don’t offer):

  1. Plan the questions for the students and how much space they will have to write in
  2. Email the students to ask for emails with profile text and photos
  3. Pick a design from a range of options
  4. Email the design team ask them to mock up a version
  5. Wait
  6. Look at the mock-up they email back and decide if you like it
  7. If the design is not right, repeat steps 3 to 6
  8. Wait for students to respond
  9. Chase students who have not responded
  10. Gather information into ordered files to make into a cd
  11. Send stuff to the yearbook publisher
  12. Wait
  13. Receive proof and check for things to be changed
  14. If the proof is not right, repeat steps 11 to 13
  15. Send book to be printed and delivered

OPTION TWO: Creation with the online yearbook site (which we DO offer):

  1. Create the questions for the students and set the space they will have to write in
  2. Email the students to ask them to login, fill in their profiles and upload photos
  3. Pick a design from a range of options
  4. Create the pdf of the pages online and see if you likethe design
  5. If the design is not right, repeat steps 3 to 6
  6. Wait for students to respond
  7. Chase students who have not responded
  8. Create the pdf proof online and print or check online for things to be changed
  9. If the proof is not right, change it
  10. Email us that the book is ready to be printed and delivered

That’s as clear as I can figure it out. They’re similar, but when you can do the latter and not spend time waiting and not pay postage, where’s the appeal of the former? And god forbid you ever wanted to change your design part way through, or you had a serious problem with the proof!

If you’re going to all the effort of gathering the information to your own computer, you might as well go the extra step of making the pages yourself, and then we’ll be on hand to help with the uploading and conversion, and still design your covers, make collages, awards, etc etc.

And we have one service with one price, which gets you everything.

People seem to see online yearbooks as frightening, unpredictable or just restrictive – actually, it’s just a way to do the same thing with less work 🙂

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