Case Study: Case of Website Development

I spent considerable time this summer studying how we price websites created for customers. In doing so, I learned much and a lot of it didn’t have to do with pricing. Mainly, I learned printers are not the target market of those providing Web development tools for resellers, although we logically should be. Well, why should we be and why aren’t we?


We should be a logical target for Web development tool providers because it’s a natural extension of our business. We sell to businesses within a geographic area and creating a website for these customers isn’t much different than creating any other marketing piece. Granted, the website should be interactive and should provide functions besides advertising (customer service is common), but the concept is the same. Create once (typeset or do prepress) and reproduce many (print duplicates or get eyeballs to view the material on the website). Likewise, sending out a monthly newsletter for an organization is not much different than doing the same function via an email broadcast.

So why isn’t the printing industry the target market of Web development tool providers? Generally, they see us as being too stuck in print, too slow to change, and requiring too much work to hand-hold through our learning process. That, along with the printers’ (actually most people’s) natural inclination to oppose change, makes for a high cost barrier for a vendor like Adobe’s Business Catalyst. They rely, as most Web-based businesses do, on do-it-yourselfers and hands-off support systems.

However, since this where we’re going, we printers better suck it up in order to survive and thrive.


Challenges to Print

I reviewed the future of print as I saw it in a 2010 series in this magazine entitled “Print without Printing.” Essentially, I argued that printing has been seen by most in the past as duplicates. A stack of business cards, a bunch of brochures, or a pile of invoices is printing to most people, including printers. Each modern invention and innovation, however, is taking a big bite out of the number of duplicates that are needed. Obvious examples start with the computer for data gathering (killing off many printed forms) and extending to the e-readers such as the Kindle for books; smartphones for business cards, as well as now-common PDF files replacing many reports and architects specifications and such that were previously printed as duplicates.

We also are facing a potential revolutionary (actually, evolutionary) development, and that is electronic paper. While technology is revolutionary, it’s often adopted at a more evolutionary pace until it obtains breakthrough status. The Kindle uses electronic ink technology which had been available for well over 20 years at the time of its launch a few years ago. And electronic paper is on the horizon. While the technology has not yet been perfected, it has been under development for 40 years by some of the biggest names in the electronics world.

Essentially, this is a device that has the look and feel of paper, but which can be wiped clean of its image and can then be reused. While this may or may not be the final form, it portends to be another big step in the elimination of duplicates; what we traditionally think of as printing.


Make Room for Digital

However, this does not mean the end of printing. The duplicate part of printing is just how we distribute the information; it is not the totality of printing. In the beginning, printers were typographers who brought style and meaning to a message. Then they hired some hairy legged boys to manhandle the presses in the back to create the duplicates. Over the centuries, printing technology has focused mainly on the creation of duplicates rather than the creation of the original until now, the digital age.

Today we see the decline in the demand for duplicates, which is changing printing forever; and not just changing it until this depressive recession is really over. So we’d better get with it, and websites are a basic function in this new world.

Realistically though, this isn’t far from where we have been. HTML code is very similar to printing’s pre-WYSIWYG displays. And if we learned it once, we can learn it again.

How hard is it? Well, \ means begin centering and \ means stop centering. \ means begin bold and \ means stop bold. Let me think, what code would we use for italics? Right, \ means begin italics and \ means end. Of course, there’s more to it than that, but you can see it’s just a new coding process which is far easier to learn than the old Linotype keyboard.

So again, why should we, as printers, be the target market of those providing Web development tools? We’re the guys now fulfilling this function. All that is required is for us to adopt some different tools.

Why aren’t we then, if that’s all it would take? Well, the providers of Web development tools see a pretty accurate picture of most of us. We are too stuck in print, too slow to change, and require too much hand-holding during the learning process. But I said most of us, not all of us.

Some printers see the transition to digital and Web-based applications being as simple as the transition from letterpress to offset. Many printers, in fact, provide Web services, including building websites, providing email broadcasting, and designing marketing campaigns for customers.


Make the Change

What should those of us who haven’t started the leap into the Web-based world do? We must devote time, energy, and resources to developing our skills to meet the challenge. We must seek out the information and training, and I don’t mean just direct your prepress person to learn about it. We, as owners, must become more familiar with everything from HTML codes to social media to email broadcasting and everything else.

One printer friend of mine recently objected to my emphasis on digital communications as a direction for printers. He said, “That’s the very thing that is killing the printing industry?” I demurred, for I see digital communications as soon to be the printing industry. And I’m not talking decades from now. I’m talking soon. Get with it!

If you’re interested in providing websites to your current customers and would like some guidance on how to price such an offering, check out my Website Price Advisory at It’s $75 and provides package rate guidance as well as hourly rates. Do you have a pricing question? Message me at and I’ll try to give you an answer.


Tom Crouser is author of the newly released “Digital Printing Price Guide” as well as the “Crouser Guide to Small Press Printing” ( He’s located at Crouser & Associates, Inc., 4710 Chimney Drive, Charleston, WV 25302, 304-965-7100. Follow his Small Business, Schmizness column on Facebook at, friend him on Facebook, link to him on LinkedIn, and follow his tweets at Read Tom’s blog at