Purple Trail Review: Custom Photo Cards and Invitations
|Go to Purple Trail|
|Wide range of card sizes and formats, attractive designs; however, wildly unintuitive design tool and unremarkable pricing|
Our experience with Purple Trail was mixed: while we liked the site's range of options in everything from card shape and size to style and layout, we had serious trouble with the design tool and saw better bargains elsewhere. Users can purchase single, stylish cards, but will have to contend with quite a few flaws along the way.
Shopping and Selection
The Purple Trail selection is quite broad and well-designed. We found their templates to be generally comparable to most of the sites we've seen, though the site perhaps does not offer as many options as some of our favorites. The company also produces an unusually wide range of card formats, including tri-fold cards, quad-fold cards, magnets and circle cards as well as all of the more standard shapes like flat and single-fold cards in various sizes. In addition to physical paper products, Paper Trail also assists users in creating online invitations, event websites and print at home files.
Purple Trail provides a small set of search filters to help shoppers narrow down their choices, including options to filter by format, card size and degree of customizability. We do appreciate these tools, but wish that Purple Trail let us get a little more specific, filtering by color, card orientation or number of photos, for example.
Purple Trail offers cards for a wide range of occasions and events, including birthday parties, theme parties, moving house and new babies. The site also produces a range of wedding stationery, including templates for wedding invitations, save the dates, response cards, engagement parties and wedding programs.
This is where the problem with Purple Trail begins to really rear its head. The Purple Trail design tool is highly flexible, but extremely unintuitive, particularly in its handling of photographs. Uploading is clunky, and though the tool claims we can drag and drop to add a photo to a design, we found it much more difficult in practice since we had to crop the picture without seeing the design in order to move and resize it. If your guess about size and shape for the photo is even slightly wrong, the design doesn't look right. This tool might be worth the hassle if you needed an inexpensive way to do a great deal of customization, but even for that, it's far more difficult than any other design tool we've tried. For example, Mixbook provides a similar level of customization at a slightly lower price without the unintuitive and highly-complex interface. We did like Purple Trail's templates slightly more than Mixbook's, but didn't consider that worth the difficulty, particularly since we found Mixbook's cards to be higher-quality.
Purple Trail offers free sample packs for customers who would like to see an example of the site's cards or other products. You can obtain a sample pack of cards or a blank paper or envelope sample by emailing the customer support department. Sample cards will not use your personalized images or text, but since the site has no order minimum, you can order just one card as a test before you place a larger order if you'd like to see a physical proof of your design. Customers also have access to free digital proofs.
In addition to the option of having your cards mailed to you from Purple Trail, the site also offers print at home and online invitation services. If you choose the print at home option, you pay $9.95 to download a high-quality PDF file that you can then print at home or take to a printshop. Although your print quality will probably not be as high if you print your cards at home, you will have the advantage of getting your order right away. If you'd like to send online invitations or let guests RSVP through a custom event website, you can use Purple Trail to do so for free.
If you choose to have Purple Trail ship your cards to you, you have a number of options. FedEx shipping charges are calculated during checkout according to your location.
Our card arrived from Purple Trail via USPS First Class mail five business days after we placed the order. Inside the heavy cardboard envelope, we found our cards wrapped in bright purple tissue paper. To our surprise, Purple Trail included two envelopes—one cream and one white. The card itself was shrink-wrapped. Although we're sure this offers some protection for the card, it was quite difficult to unwrap the card without bending or creasing it.
Purple Trail offers five paper options for cards, including a choice of either photo paper or a standard card stock for no additional charge. Other paper choices incur a small additional charge for each card. Most Purple Trail papers contain at least some recycled post-consumer material, and all of them are FSC certified.
The card we ordered from Purple Trail was printed on the Standard paper. In a similar price range, we saw cards on both lighter and heavier paper. The card was slightly slick on the printed side, but totally matte and suitable for signing or a personalized message on the back.
Our family photo turned out perhaps a little orange on our Purple Trail card, when compared with the other test cards we ordered. We also noticed that the proportions of the Purple Trail template seemed a bit off, with slightly too much space taken up by the striped section at the bottom.
We noticed no smudges or other printing flaws on our test card, and Purple Trail printed just a small logo on the back of the card. Text and images were both crisp, and aside from the slight orange tinge in the photograph, colors looked accurate when compared with the preview we saw. Sending an extra envelope with the card was a nice touch and would be particularly nice if we made an error in addressing it. All Purple Trail cards are printed using digital offset presses.
Purple Trail offers customer support by email, over a live web-chat interface, and by phone. The site does not specify the online chat hours. Phone service is available Monday through Friday between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. PST, but Purple Trail encourages users to send their questions by email or web chat when possible. When we sent a question by live web chat, a representative responded quickly and accurately. The online knowledgebase was less helpful, since many links seemed to lead in circles or nowhere at all, as if the website had been built piece by piece and never evaluated as a whole.
Purple Trail is very clear about their pricing, offering a detailed chart of prices, including bulk discounts and information for a wide range of card sizes and styles.
This chart contains pricing information for the least expensive 5 by 7 inch flat card printed on card stock from this site. Different sizes and options may have different pricing. Click here for more information about how we compared prices.
Purple Trail has nice templates and a wide variety of card styles and shapes to choose from, but those positive aspects are really overshadowed by the site's unusually difficult design tool. We liked the style and design options and the low order minimum, but have reviewed other providers that offer these same features combined with an easier interface.
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