Saturday, January 14, 2012

Viovio Part I: Making My Photobook

Quite some time ago, I was contacted by a wonderfully friendly representative from viovio asking if I would be willing to do an honest review of its service in exchange for a $50 gift certificate to viovio.  I was totally excited and immediately said yes! I got started uploading my pictures right away and tried to make a book similarly to what you'd do on a website like Shutterfly or Snapfish. Then I realized, viovio is not like its competitors.  Unfortunately, it's book editor is so clunky and confusing that I struggled to get even one page to look how I wanted it to look.

Drag & Drop Capability:  D-
Unlike its competitors who provide a multitude of simple and attractive layouts for you to choose from in which you can just drag and drop your photos, viovio does not.  Instead they allow independent designers to contribute their layouts for you to use at an additional cost.  Viovio does provide one series of layouts for free but it was poorly designed and simply did not provide an attractive display of the photos I desired.  And forget about adding any text!  It was nigh impossible to get one caption onto my page without a large amount of effort and time. For example, instead of being able to edit the caption directly on the page, viovio requires its users to edit the text in a separate box and you are required to save each change before you can see the change reflected on your page.  It adds a tremendous amount of time to something that should be much simpler to do. Simply put, this was not a user-friendly website for someone who wanted to just drag and drop their pictures onto a pre-designed layout.

Viovio's Template Marketplace

Flexibility for Scrapbookers & Graphic Designers: B+
I realized in order for me to have it look the way I would want it to look, it would require me to independently design every single page outside of viovio and then import each page as a single image.  In other words, instead of uploading my photos and plopping my pictures into pre-set boxes, I had to design each page in an external program, add each picture and text desired and then save the page as one image which I later uploaded into viovio.  In total, I designed 64 pages and it took a tremendous amount of my time to design them externally and then move them into viovio.  For those who are digital scrapbookers or graphic designers, this would be wonderful because you'd most likely already have your pages ready. Therein lies viovio's greatest weakness and strength.  For those who have the skill, the time, and the patience to design an entire book before even starting in viovio, this is great because you have all the flexibility to make it look exactly like you want!  However, if you don't have the graphic design skills, I would never use viovio to make my photo books.  There are many competitors out there that provide attractive and easy-to-use interfaces to produce your book.

Size Options for Printing: B+
Another thing that I also appreciated (but simultaneously found terribly confusing) was what size and style to print my books in.  They have SEVENTEEN different sizes that one can choose to print their book in.  In some ways, it's really overwhelming.  In addition to the sizes, you also have a choice in whether you want hardcover or softcover, imagewrap or perfect bound style, and whether you want premium or express printing quality.  For the average consumer, there are simply too many options. However, for the graphic designer, the multitude of options would be heavenly!

Viovio's photobook options...

Additionally, it's product descriptions are too lengthy... so lengthy that you are even more overwhelmed by the time you get through reading them.  Viovio should instead have an image of each product  with simple arrows or bullets describing the key features of each product.   Also, for some reason, viovio allows users to post miscellaneous questions regarding the photo books immediately below their product descriptions.  These discussions should really be placed somewhere else.  It is incredibly distracting from what viovio is trying to do on these pages which is to give some simple information about the product I am going to buy and not to share every single question anyone has ever asked about viovio's photobooks.  Simply put, viovio really needs to cut down the sheer volume of text it has on its website... more white space is desperately needed.

Design Editor: C-
So, I just complained about viovio having too much text in its product descriptions, however, the actual design editor doesn't have enough text!  Instead, it relies on icons to relay all the important information.  As a result, I made a huge mistake which resulted in a disappointing result. You see that tiny little icon at the bottom which I highlighted in yellow? Yup, that's a VERY important icon.  Never saw it before until I got my book in the mail and went back online to see what I missed.

It shows me where the pages may get cropped.  Of course viovio says, "Safety guides are estimates only, do not use for positioning."  What does that mean anyway if I'm not supposed to use it to position my photos for? Either way, I saw the icon only after it was too late. As a result, my final product did not look the way I had created it.

There were a couple other things about the design editor that I did not like.  I took care to title each page as a number so that I could take advantage of the auto-fill feature it provides.  Each page was titled page 1, page 2, and so forth. However, when I uploaded all my pages, it uploaded them out of order so that the autofill function would not work properly.  Instead I had to manually drag and drop each page.  Another minor detail,  the design editor allows you to use the same image twice.  This just opens up more room for errors.  I wish the editor would not allow images to be used more than once in the same book.

Costs & Shipping Options: A+
Once I had decided on my specifications for the book (8.5" x 11, Imagewrap Hardcover, Premium Photo Printing), I got ready to pay for my book.  I was shocked at how inexpensive it would have been to print my book using the express photo printing... only about $30 for my 64-page book! So I upgraded to the premium photo printing which brought my total to $52.  I was also super surprised with my shipping options!  They were very inexpensive.  Since I had no rush for the book, I selected their super saver shipping option which only cost me $1.99!  You seriously can't beat that! 

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