PAPERLESS POST: HEMNA reviews the Christmas e-cards you can personalise

Christmas draws ever closer with a mere weekend separating us from roasts and festive puddings, mulled wine and heartily sung carols. It is also prime card-giving season, with 668.9 million Christmas cards sold in the UK (2008) and an astonishing 1.9 billion cards sent in the United States over the festive period (2005).

If like a lot of people, you are pressed for time, the idea of buying several dozen packs of paper cards, envelopes and stamps and having to individually write out each one probably is a difficult thing to move up on your to-do list. You know you have to, but those end-of-year work reports will not get finished up by Santa’s elves, no matter how good a girl or boy you’ve been!

But fear not, you won’t be magically transformed into the greetings card Grinch of Yuletide 2018 if you decide to call upon the services of Paperless Post. Headquartered in New York, Paperless Post is a remarkable, fun and innovative site offering a wide choice of impeccably designed e-cards, invites and even animated flyers, with contemporary designs brimming with flair, festive vibes and colour.

 

In the run-up to Christmas, Paperless Post has launched a range of festive cards and invites to send to your loved ones for Christmas greetings, parties and New Year’s Day celebrations. In collaboration with Paperless Post, HEM News Agency will put one of their personalised Christmas cards on a review road test.

As part of their festive promotions, the online stationery firm is offering customers the chance to spread joy instantly with their online holiday cards that are simple to send and delightful to receive. You can adapt your card’s design, track its delivery to the recipient and upload photographs of your choice, perfect if you like to make themed family greetings cards or at least want something a bit more memorable than a generic glittery robin on the front.

Under the “Holiday, Christmas, and New Year cards” section on the Paperless Post site alone there are a whopping 851 designs alone to choose from, which is far more than you can find in all but the most specialised physical paper card stores. I decided to go with the square format ‘Yule Blooms Christmas’ design as it is festive and professional in appearance in equal measure.

Although the display card is offered in ‘tall’ format’, I found you can choose from six different formats, or ‘design variations’ so if you prefer a particular card size, that option is sorted for you. Choice is a good thing, we must embrace it! Enter your log-in details if you are already signed up at Paperless Post, or alternatively log in with your Facebook or Google account and you can begin customising right away.

 

Firstly you need to choose your ‘backdrop’, which is the background your card will be displayed on. There is one free option, or for the small fee of one ‘coin’ (Paperless Post’s online currency) you can choose from several more. I went for the ‘Pure White –  Holiday’ backdrop with its alluring white snow field and pine needles and holly berries scattered above the top. Très festive, no?. Very easy to do, and just one click is needed.

Hit the Next arrow and the next customisable option is the card’s text. This is where you can really make your card’s message speak from the heart. Here you can change the text size, alignment, typeface, colours and much more, and the sliders make it easier for the less typographically inclined. Using the ‘Colors’ option, which presents their colour options in handy little spots showing the exact hue, I was able to customise the text colours to match HEM News Agency’s blog branding. In the middle of the card is a blank space with patterning reminiscent of the backs of Kodak printed photos we had in our millennial childhood family albums. Just click on that, and the photo editing suite pops up on the left-hand side menu. Here you can upload your photo or choose a pre-uploaded one. I picked the HEMNA logo stored on my laptop.

Following from that, the next option is the Envelope Liner, where you can choose the pattern for the inside of the envelope. While the presented liner choices were not really suitable for a Christmas-themed card, you can use the search box to find some that are. To match the Backdrop I chose earlier, I picked ‘A Christmas Kennel’, which despite its name does not feature dogs, or indeed kennels. Instead experience the natural warmth of holly berries and leaves, which really says ‘Merry Christmas’.

You can then change the envelope’s front with a pretend postage stamp and adapt the text where you address the recipient. However you cannot change the wording at this point, just the typeface and colour. Then it’s on to the reply card, where as with the envelope you can choose the background design. Strangely, I could not find any festive themed designs so had to make do with something more ‘around-the-year’. 

Once you have finished your custom card, the site takes you to the delivery suite where you can enter your recipients’ email addresses. If you are sending the cards out to a whole bunch of friends or family, or to customers as part of business marketing promotions for the Christmas period, you can upload email lists or address books to save yourself the time of manually entering everything. After sending, you can see if the recipient has collected their card and receive messages sent in response.

 

My verdict: It was a painless and easy process to create and send your own greetings card. The steps were clearly set out and in a logical order, with tonnes of design choice and options for customising, without being too technical, long-winded or complicated. There could have been more Christmas options for designs though in my opinion. The whole process took less than ten minutes from start to finish (I was writing this article at the same time) and there was no crashing, bugs or other errors during the design process. One thing I really appreciate is the attention to detail that Paperless Post weaves into every part of the design step, and the realism you get from the designs themselves. It is almost an oddly satisfying feeling when you open the email and watch the card glide seamlessly out of the pristine envelope and reveal itself. The designs are eye-catching and brilliant to behold. This is my second time reviewing Paperless and they don’t disappoint!

Choose your Christmas card adventure at paperlesspost.com

 

DISCLAIMER: The article was a sponsored post in collaboration with the online cards and stationery site Paperless Post, of which the author was compensated.

 

 

IMAGE CREDITS:

Paperless Post.

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PAPERLESS POST: Experiencing a new breed of e-card

 

They say that life is full of surprises and great things. And, indeed, you’ve just run into a whole bunch of them. Your sister has just had a baby boy, your friend has got his wedding date finally confirmed and the tinpot dictator of a manager at the office you have had to force yourself to be rictus grin nice to is leaving for a new position. Card buying season is making its presence felt but that same life of surprises usually consists of working all the hours thrown your way while juggling gym, hobbies, family time and all that jazz. You haven’t bought a greeting card since Take That split and running from pillar (box) to post (office) to buy stamps and envelopes just seems, well, tedious.

Even if you manage to get time to go out and actually do some shopping around, you will inevitably find yourself either stuck at the supermarket looking for an off-the-shelf card with a generic printed message and a pen that hopefully will not run out of ink halfway through writing in the blasted thing, or you’re at a stuffy printer’s shop trying to haggle a discount on a thousand wedding invites to be delivered ASAP. Because you procrastinated. And procrastination is a thing. You really need something more instant and fuss-free.

 

So send an E-card they said, it’ll be novel, cute and quick as a flash they said. But aren’t e-cards a bit tacky and cheap-looking? Surely good old card and paper seems like, well, you are actually even slightly bothered about this momentous and life-changing special occasion. Not forgetting that actual invitations and cards you can hold in your hand, keep and read at your leisure has a great permanency and intimacy that a few hundred pixels on a screen just cannot achieve. Well think again.

While in days gone by, e-cards were the height of gawdy electro-kitsch with their eye-bruising colours, goofy Clipart images and cat memes galore, a company based in the design capital of New York made the very smart decision a few years back to drag the much-maligned e-greetings industry kicking and screaming to the drawing board for a makeover fit for the 2010s.

Paperless Post is an online company that offers a wide selection of online invitations, ‘save-the-dates’, greetings e-cards and flyers to suit every occasion. Their stated ambition is to produce customisable online stationery that enables customers to create well-designed and personal items for that extra-special touch.

With their contemporary and inspiring creations worthy of a design gallery, not to mention their cute pigeon logo harking back to the days of carrier pigeon post and Yankee Doodle cartoons on a  Saturday morning, Paperless Post have become well-established enough to have scored collaborations with leading designers and lifestyle brands in the U.S., including Kate Spade New York, Oscar de la Renta, Jonathan Adler, and Rifle Paper Co. The company has generated more than 85 million cards to date, both in virtual and printed format, so even traditionalists and people who simply don’t have a computer or an internet connection that ever moved past dial-up can still receive an invite or card via Paperless.

I was invited by Paperless Post to try out their services for myself and had a go making a greetings card for the Hindu festival of Diwali – one of my favourite occasions, which you can see at the beginning of this review. The first thing that struck me about their website was just how amazingly appealing it was to my ‘inner designer’ ‘s eyes. With heaps of prominent imagery framed in soft pastels on just the home page, the site alone could win a design award or two.

While many websites that invest heavily in aesthetics end up neglecting the basics of good navigation, Paperless Post strikes a happy balance between the two. All of the company’s categories of offerings, such as graduation, birthday and festivals, are in a clear, minimalist and straightforward menu up top, so no need to go on an Livingstonian expedition around the site to find what you are looking for.

Like pretty much every e-tailer, you first need to sign up and create an account. You can go for the usual option of registering via an email address, but for the social-media-savvy, you can also sign up via Facebook or Google accounts too. Once done, it’s just the small matter of choosing a design and stationery item. Paperless offers both pre-designed customisable templates and an ‘upload your own’ option that enables you to upload photos and create something truly personal.

I chose to create a Diwali card. I was pleasantly surprised to find lots of designs which were culturally appropriate as well as gorgeous. I selected the ‘Under the Toran’ design with its array of flowers in a garland suspended on a luxurious white heavy paper background.

 

Once you have chosen your preferred style, it’s time to customise. There is a lot of flexibility in the choices, and you can adapt nearly everything from the typeface, colour and size of the card text, to the background behind the card when it’s opened and the colour and feel of the cyber-envelope to put your card in. The attention to detail offered by Paperless Post is such that you can add a vintage letterpress effect to your text and add the finishing touches of a cute little stamp and postmark to the front of the envelope upon completion. There’s the possibility too of choosing the pattern you prefer for the inside of the envelope, which Paperless Post dubs the ‘liner’ – very posh!

I found the user interface intuitive and offering a lot of wiggle room, although manipulating the text for the inside of the card was quite fiddly at first, but I soon got the hang of it, aided by the fact I had some experience designing graphics online using third-party websites. Although you don’t have to be a design expert, some technological prowess is helpful, although those who really struggle can get guidance from the ‘Help’ page.

 

To move between different stages you can click the ‘next’ and ‘back’ arrows (as seen in the image above) or on the menu to the left. The menu is also where you can find the patterns you need and you can play around with different combinations of design to see what fits and what looks great before you finalise everything.

Once the card or invite is complete, you can type in the recipients’ names and emails, and save them into a handy ‘address book’ for future use. The site also offers the option of reviewing the finished product by sending a test copy to yourself, as well as an RSVP facility for your loved ones to respond with messages or other details. You can also track the progress of your item once it’s sent, and even see if it has been opened yet, so no more barely believable claims about ‘the invitation must have got lost in the post’.

Paperless Post uses its own in-house virtual currency, simply called coins, which you will need to purchase before using the site. Coins can be spent on design elements and mailing out to recipients and it’s said to cost less to send an e-card en masse to, say, a hundred people, than if you went out to the local printers and ordered a bulk lot. You also save a bundle on postage and stationery costs too. Prices are not immediately clear when you choose designs, but you can see how many coins you have in your account via your dashboard.

The website was quite clear and helpful in leading me on my journey from template to sent email, with a varied range of different contemporary designs and styles to choose from. I really liked the concept of a card without the paper (and paper cuts). It is a cool and personal touch, and ideal for the environmentally conscious and those who like the instant nature and realistic feel of sending a Paperless Post e-card. It’s also money-saving (as in not having to go out and buy a card, envelope, stamps and all that malarkey) so making Paperless Post ideal for much convenience and less headaches. The sort of inner peace that you just can’t obtain from running around trying to get cards printed and posted before the party plans go up in ink and smoke.

The card I designed was so realistic and detailed, right down to the texture of the ‘paper’, that I had to honestly remind myself not to try and peel it off my laptop screen. The animation of the envelope appearing onscreen and opening to reveal the card emerging is a nice little gesture too, another sign of the attention to detail Paperless Post is famous for.

I guess the supermarket card display won’t miss me too much now I can get my cards straight from a cute website and its little pigeon.

Paperless Post

paperlesspost.com

 

DISCLOSURE: The author was sponsored by the company mentioned in this review and received an incentive in order to fully utilise the product, but opinions and experiences mentioned in the post are the author’s own.

SOURCES:

Helen Chuchak, Anagram Interactive

Paperless Post.

 

 

 

CREDIT CARDS: A digitally convergent future?

(c) Connors/The Observer

By Vijay Shah

Credit and debit cards have long been a standard form of payment that is quick, durable and usually reliable. They mean wallets or purses which are not chockfull of change, which are less cumbersome to carry around, and give immediate 24 hour access to the contents of your bank account. All that offered with minimal fuss and maximum convenience.

They also have limitations though. Most readers will know the feeling of losing their card after a busy night out or misplacing it in a taxi, and the frantic phone calls to the bank to cancel it before someone finds the errant fantastic plastic and drains out your hard-earned salary plus overdraft.

But tellingly, cards are just that….cards. A flat rectangular piece of plastic. Nowadays most cards are supplied with Chip & Pin technology that saves consumers on having to scramble for a pen to sign the umpteenth scrap of paper. Many newer card issues now come with a contactless payment system that enables small cost purchases without the necessity of punching in a PIN code.

Nevertheless to find out your balance or view transaction history requires a separate piece of technology, be it your laptop, mobile phone or the ATM cash dispenser outside Costcutters on a rainy Friday night. Mobile batteries always run low when you most need your phone, and cash dispensers, when they are not exasperatingly trying to be rare as hen’s teeth, inevitably either charge you an ‘arm and a leg’ just to withdraw the smallest amount, or eat your card and present the black screen of death as it makes a defiant last stand against spitting out yet another collection of £20 notes.
The major card manufacturers have naturally been aware of such a problem, which is why since last year they have unveiled prototypes of what could be the payment card of the near future.
The first two progenitors of this new breed have already made their way through the development stages. Their uniqueness lies in the fact that in addition to a traditional credit card format, they also incorporate LCD technology as can be in the number displays on watches and electronic children’s toys. Card producers hope these new cards will one day make searching the high street for a cash machine a thing of the past.
In the autumn of 2011 after a year of quality testing, Visa unveiled a European credit card that comes with its own inbuilt LCD facility. The CodeSure Matrix Display Card carries a 48×8 pixel wide simple display underneath the signature strip which shows a line of eight digits. Visa’s intention for the CodeSure project, according to technology commentator David Strom of ReadWrite Enterprise, was to facilitate an easy but secure form of payment at retail outlets for customers and merchants alike.

A Visa representative shows one of the Visa cards demonstrating the new LCD-based CodeSure technology (c) ReadWrite Enterprise
A Visa representative shows one of the Visa cards demonstrating the new LCD-based CodeSure technology (c) ReadWrite Enterprise

Available in debit, credit and pre-payment formats, the CodeSure card also boasts a small keypad with touchscreen-style interfacing which enables users to dial their security code and additionally access their ‘e-bank’.  Visa itself states that the card “can also be used for services like eBanking, telephone banking, transactions signing and access to third party services.” Increasing volumes of card holders in the rapidly growing economies of countries such as India, China and Russia are also catered for, as Codesure has the capability of supporting alphabets other than Roman.
All cards issued under the CodeSure project contain a specially-designed internal battery intended to last three years, which is the normal duration of a payment card’s validity.
The card’s security is noteworthy through its ability to issue a single-use password or PIN to the card holder for use in making secure purchases, access of bank services and as a safety measure in identity verification should the card fall into the wrong hands.
Visa had developed the CodeSure project in tandem with electronics specialists possessing elaborate know-how in the field of display technology. NagraID Security provided the ultra-thin LCDs while Emue Technologies handled the digital security developments.

Not to be outdone, rival MasterCard brought out its own version of Visa’s ground-breaking e-card earlier this month. Despite lagging behind for over a year, MasterCard is aiming to sweep the carpet from under Visa’s feet with its offering, which will be in general use as of January 2013.
The card, launched in the technology hub of Singapore, also carries an LCD and touchscreen keypad.

A mock-up of the Standard Chartered Bank’s e-cards with MasterCard’s own LCD tech wizardry (c) BBC Technology News

Like CodeSure, MasterCard’s new design also offers a one-time password facility which it hopes will do away with the need for a separate device to access online banking. Their LCD screen, according to an image of the prototype shown on the BBC News Technology website, only currently supports seven digits to CodeSure’s eight. Despite this small limitation however, MasterCard are planning big things with their new design.  Devised in collaboration with Standard Chartered Bank, the cards aim to remove the need to send customers separate electronic tokens or logging-in devices. They may eventually update the LCD to show current balances, virtual bank statements and quantities of reward points such as AirMiles.
The new card technology is a fascinating development made feasible by smaller components and wafer-thin LCD outputs. For both Visa and MasterCard, as well as the banks and building societies who issue cards under their guidance, LCD cards present a new challenge in the war on the destructive threat of card fraud. These cards would be harder to clone as the specialist technology is not readily available to most criminal networks. They are also convenient for customers not only for everyday usage but to guard themselves against theft.
However there is a danger that the major card producers’ innovation may soon be rendered obsolete by mobile contact-free payment technology. With this recently-introduced means of purchasing, shoppers are able to use their smartphones just like a card. This could not only sound the death knell for wallets packed full of cash, but ironically for plastic payments as well, as consumers lean towards greater convenience and convergence.

On a more mundane level, an LCD e-card would have to be both water- and scratchproof and stand up to less preventable wear and tear. The author’s own observations of his former Visa debit card noted the worn and scratched chip and hologram caused by thousands of swiping and insertion movements in the three years of its usage lifespan. The signature on the strip at the back had become faded to the point of illegibility.
The card’s security would also need to be updated and strengthened as cybercriminals become more familiar with the technology as its use spreads. Online banking has already been associated with the scourge of ‘phishing’ scam emails and itinerant hackers. Sophisticated criminals mean payment providers offering sophisticated approaches to negate them.
Overall CodeSure and MasterCard’s answer to it are good ideas with good intentions, but the time for this sort of device has long passed and it may be only be a flash in the pan. There is the real likelihood of such technology being a short-lived gimmick whose first flight of success may well be cut short. Growing numbers of people are cutting up their last credit card and relying solely on their smartphone for common purchases. In five years from now, the e-card could well have missed the boat entirely.

SOURCES & IMAGE CREDITS

“New Visa Credit Card Comes With Its Own LCD” – David Strom, ReadWrite Enterprise/SAY Media, Inc. LINK

“New Mastercard has LCD screen and keyboard” – BBC News Technology LINK

“The interest-free credit card trap snaring unwitting borrowers” – Jill Insley, The Observer & The Guardian. Only Photograph used (Connors via The Observer). LINK