There are now many companies offering online yearbook-creation systems. But they all work differently. I’ll try to explain how ours differs from the competition, and why we think ours is is the best.
1. Online DTP yearbook creation
Most of the US yearbook publishers and a couple of UK companies have basically put a DTP (desktop publishing) program online. At first, this sounds like a great idea – you don’t need to go and buy InDesign or Quark Xpress, and you don’t have to worry about your computer dying and losing all your pages. But here’s what we think… why reinvent the wheel? InDesign and Quark are fantastic programs, and then there’s the cheaper Word or Publisher as well, or the formidable Scribus which is completely free. Create your files in these programs instead – programs which you already know how to use – rather than trying to get to grips with a completely new bit of online software.
Also, almost always it’s not completely collaborative. One or perhaps a handful of editors can log in and create pages, but it’s not open to the year group as a whole.
But worst of all, you still need to go and collect the data – photos, biographies, award votes etc etc. All the website does is ‘helps’ you build pages – which is the easy part. The hard part is getting people to send you photos and email you entries etc etc.
Verdict: 2 out of 10
Alternative: just use Publisher or Scribus instead if you want a DTP package to make your pages, and back up your files regularly by emailing them to yourself or sticking them on USB drives). Remember that you still need to actually collect all the photos and text etc.
2. Collect data online, pages built offline
This is a far better solution than the online DTP one, but we don’t consider it as as good as the option we use. Here we have all members of your yearbook able to log in and upload photos and write stuff, but all the website really does is collect the information into a database, and then the yearbook company goes and pulls that data down on to their computers and design the pages for you.
The problem is that designing the pages for you takes time. Sometimes several weeks, sometimes even several months. You’re also usually quite fixed from the beginning as to how many people can go on each page, what questions you ask members, how many pages in total etc. No chance to change your mind later.
Verdict: 6 out of 10
3. Collect data online, pages built online
This is our solution, and we’re not aware of another UK (or anywhere else for that matter) yearbook company doing the same thing.
The data is collected online in the same way as above, with everyone uploading loads of photos and writing loads of stuff. But the profile pages build themselves at the click of a button. This means no waiting for the yearbook company to create your pages. You can change anything about your book at any time – how many pages, how many people per page, the questions to ask members, the backgrounds to use, the style settings etc. You’re in complete control.
Meanwhile, we do still do some work offline. We haven’t yet found a way to create collages and covers in a completely automated fashion as well as ones that we manually sweat over, so we still do those ourselves. But it’s quick – submit a load of photos to us one day, and we’ll probably upload a completely collage for you within 2 days. Same for polls pages and covers. There’s no point skimping over a cover – it’s what really makes your yearbooks stand out.
Verdict: 9 out of 10 (well… we are biased. And there’s always room for improvement)
You may find this graphic below better helps you understand how our system works: