There are years of logic and trial and error with all of our print studios, which have brought us to the upload-to-print order flow (with cropping) you see today. The entire concept is something that is extremely complicated, so bear with us as we walk through all the logic -- we trust it will make sense in the end.
1. The first step in the process is to determine the image resolution. This is done by analyzing the quality of the file, and comparing it the minimum dpi you have set in your store, in order to determine how large an image can be printed and still meet your quality standard. Note -- this part of the process is agnostic to media types.
Now, when a customer reaches the cropping tool, our software will deactivate any sizes that are beyond the maximum printable size of the uploaded image.
2. Next, the customer selects the size they want (or a custom size) and crops their image accordingly.
3. Next, they arrive at the "product" buying page where they select their print options and can add the item to their cart. It is here that they select their media types.
Now, the reason the media types are selected after the size, is partially because the chosen size may invalidate a given media type. For example, if a customer choose a 4x6 size, you might want to show a photo paper, but not a canvas gallery wrap option (because you can set a minimum and maximum size when editing your media type), and not metal (you can set exact available sizes, so that the sizes you offer are fixed since you likely buy these in set cut sheet sizes).
Now, this begs the question "why not select a media type first, and then sizes later?". If you expect your customer to only buy one print on one media type, then this might seem logical.
But if you want them to buy more prints on more media types, the user experience would become incredibly cumbersome. Namely, it will require them to click back each time they want to change the media type, and completely start the process over. It will also prevent them from seeing other media type options unless they choose to go back and start over, which is a big no-no in merchandising. Think of the other media types being there as your biggest upselling tool. The customer might come with the purpose of buying a canvas print but while they are there, they are being suggested other media types and can immediately click on them and see pricing and a 3D preview, all on one page. The end result of this is that you will sell more prints to each customer -- this has been proven time and again with our print studios. If you make it easy, your customers buy more.
4. When the customer clicks on the "size" tab, yes, they can change the size again and crop it right there on the same screen. Again, this is a serious user-experience benefit. As the experts say "less text, less clicks" is what creates more online sales. In this case, we are reducing clicks and page loads. We don't want the customer to have to go back and experience another 2 page loads in order to just change the size and crop the image. They can stay right there and feasibly handle every single thing they want to do with that image, on that one screen. By this we mean they could add the canvas print they came for to their shopping cart, change the size and recrop and add a metal print, do the same for a framed paper print, and so forth, in one seamless, beautiful experience. Without leaving this page, they could add as many items to the shopping cart that they need to for that one image, and immediately proceed to checkout or start the process again with their next image. This is incredibly efficient.
Now, imagine if the order flow was not set up the way we've set it up, and you had to select a medium up front. You would lose all of these major benefits. The customer would not be suggested or upsold any other media types when it really counted. They'd have to start over each time they wanted to switch media types. Imagine if they wanted to buy three prints on three different media types. They might be looking at 6 more page loads and a lot more confusion and fatigue. If they wanted to buy six prints on six different media types, the pain increases exponentially. No customer would endure this cumbersome of a shopping experience. We therefore believe (and have data that we will point to below) that the financial implications of this would be serious.
We have had some customers over the past 2 years who set up different stores, one for each media type. According to our data, these print studios had some of the worst performance of all of our print studios. It was so drastic, we called each of them and told them that they were making huge errors and urged them to change. To our knowledge, all of them have switched to a single upload store.