A case in point is the partnership between custom software house EffectiveUI and Herff Jones, one of the leading yearbook makers based in Indianapolis, Ind. Today, they are launching eDesign, a system for designing yearbooks using the web. With it, multiple users can log on from wherever they have a web browser and use the tools to lay out, approve, design and collaborate on a yearbook project.
Denver, Colo.-based EffectiveUI started working with Herff Jones more than a year ago to create the so-called “web-to-print” technology that resembles the software for self-publishing books. The self-publishing market ranges from the very simple web-based programs on sites such as Flickr to the more sophisticated Lulu.com self-publishing book business.
This will probably put a little dent in the business of Adobe, whose desktop publishing systems on Mac computers are the most popular way to create yearbooks now. With this system, schools won’t have to buy that software, said Tom Tanton, senior vice president at Herff Jones.
“This is as big a change as when we went from pencil and paper to desktop publishing,” he said.
Herff Jones doesn’t charge for its software. Rather, it charges about $25,000 per project for each school. Competitors such as Jostens, Taylor Publishing and Walsworth have similar strategies where they don’t charge for the software and make money printing books. While it’s not clear who has the best software, Jostens still has the No. 1 market share and Herff Jones has 20 percent of the market.
For students working on a yearbook, it’s convenient because they don’t have to work in a classroom and can instead log in from home. The software is aimed at students, not desktop professionals, and thus is focused on making it easy to design yearbooks, said Eric Anderson, lead account director of Herff Jones at EffectiveUI.
Tanton said that the software should reduce errors when students submit yearbook pages to the company and it should give students top-to-bottom control of the pages. Students can collaborate by leaving sticky notes for each other and there are specific processes for student and faculty approvals. Students can more easily handle designs that used to be difficult, such as putting color on part of a page. The software is getting its first major usage now.
Herff Jones finished a version of the software for users to try in August. About half of Herff Jones’ 6,000 high school customers are using it for their spring projects. One of those is Eastside Christian School in Marietta, Ga., where adviser Cindy Everett says her eighth graders love eDesign. There are now 11,000 users a day on the system.
EffectiveUI specializes in custom software projects that involve a focus on user experience and intuitive interfaces. One of its recent projects was creating a 360-degree video application for training soldiers. The company commonly works with Adobe Flex and Adobe AIR software development tools and its clients range from Microsoft to the Discovery Channel.
The eDesign software will be used only by Herff Jones, an 88-year-old company that has 4,000 employees. Before using eDesign, Herff Jones had to rely on desktop publishing. It tried to do its own software but decided to hire EffectiveUI to complete the project. EffectiveUI, founded in 2002 as a consultancy, is a self-funded custom software company and has about 85 employees. The company is profitable and had 13 or so people working on the project.