I live on the Net. I turn to a browser when a question needs answering, the Web houses my e-mail and photos, and my news and entertainment arrive via broadband.
So it wasn't until the third online Web site failed me that it dawned on me: maybe software running natively on a computer might do better when it comes to printing this year's photo calendar. After iPhoto got the job done, I ended up spending $198.27 for nine calendars through Apple--but even the company that arguably pays more attention than any other to a smooth user experience still made me grind my teeth a couple times. Does it really need to be this hard?
There are times when service at phone companies, insurance companies, and car mechanics frustrates me, but their interests--extracting as much of my money as possible--are often poorly aligned with my own. In the case of ordering up some calendars for family members, the roles seemed reversed: I was happy to pay real money, but it seemed like the online companies didn't want to take it.
This was by no means an exhaustive test of publishing sites. I didn't try Shutterfly, WebShots, or any other rivals, and I haven't even judged the output yet. But since the promise of Internet-based business for more than a decade now has been low-friction commerce, I thought I'd share my experience with the world that indicates there's still work to be done. Here's the route my journey took:
First stop: Qoop In 2009, I ordered my calendars through Qoop, so they had incumbent status this year. I fired up the site, picked an 8.5 x 11-inch calendar, cropped my photos accordingly, and started uploading.
The first problem arrived when about half the images wouldn't upload. I tried again, but had the same problem. A third try with somewhat lower-resolution images seemed to do the trick, but there wasn't any feedback from the site. Each time I clicked through the somewhat cryptic error messages, I saw only my selection of last year's photos at the site. … Read more