I was recently turned on to a little print shop called MOO via a Klout perk. Given that I’ve got a graphic designer for a wife and a shiny new blog just starting to take off, ordering a few business cards seemed like a no-brainer – plus I really wanted to see if they were as good as other reviews seemed to indicate. My regular readers know I’m not one to do a lot of reviews or plug products, and aside from potential free product via a referral link, there’s nothing in this for me. I’m not being paid for this review, nor am I affiliated with MOO in any way – I didn’t even use the Klout perk to get the free cards, I paid for them myself. That said, let’s have a look at the cards.
For comparison’s sake, I found an old box of VistaPrint business cards for a PC repair business I ran a few years ago. They’re old, but not so old that they’re showing signs of age – they’re exactly the same as when I bought them, still in the box and everything.
First, I was pretty impressed with the ease-of-use that MOO’s web site offers. It’s absurdly easy to build a good-looking business card from their stock portfolio (way better than VistaPrint’s stock cards, in my opinion at least) and equally easy to upload your own designs. They even provide templates with crop marks in all the right places – but then so did VistaPrint. So far, MOO’s site is easier to use but that’s largely because they’re both newer and slimmer than VistaPrint – they don’t offer as many products and they’re not bogged down in legacy nonsense so they can focus on making what they do much better.
I was impressed by the fact that they didn’t start with a lowball price and then charge me for every imaginable upgrade – glossy finish, thicker paper, printing on the back (and then another fee if I want the back in color), using my own design and so on. If you’re wondering why the old cards are just downright ugly it’s because I didn’t have a designer when I ordered them and even if I did, this was a few years ago when VistaPrint charged you to upload your own designs (they don’t any more) – and quite a bit if I recall. MOO assumes you’re there because you want premium cards, so they just sell you premium cards. There aren’t all that many options because the options you’d see elsewhere are already included. Also, while I didn’t take advantage of it, I was quite impressed by their “Printfinity” feature that lets you order a pack of cards with all the same fronts but as many unique backs as you’d like – you can order cards with several different backs, even a different back on each and every card if you want, no extra fee and no extra processing time. I hadn’t even laid hands on the cards yet and I was already impressed – but the real impression wouldn’t be made until the cards arrived.
Right off the bat I was more impressed with MOO than any print shop I’ve ever ordered from. Their packaging alone screamed of quality – the box that arrived in the mail practically spoke to me: “These are people who work with paper for a living and by God every piece of paper that arrives from them will be top-notch, even the boxes.” The 50-count card boxes are a simple two-piece affair made of very thick, stiff black paper and they even included separator tabs labeled “Mine” and “Theirs” – I assume to facilitate the trading of business cards. While the original packaging is a bit too bulky to slip in a pocket for a business meeting, it’s exactly the sort of thing I’d bring with me to a convention where I expect to trade a lot of cards.
It’s unfair to compare the designs of both cards, given that one was a stock template I chose half at random a few years ago and the other is a professionally-designed card bearing a custom logo and untold hours worth of PhotoShop work (thanks Jilly!) but the quality of the cards themselves can easily be compared. The MOO cards are drastically thicker than the VistaPrint cards, a 50-stack of MOO cards towered over a 50-stack of VistaPrint cards, even with the unfair advantage that I had to spend ~10 minutes bending and tweaking the VistaPrint cards just to make them lie sort of flat on the table – cheap packaging results in bent cards, another point for MOO. The VistaPrint cards were super-high-gloss coated while the MOO cards bore a subtle satin finish, an option most printers don’t even offer. With most printers it’s matte paper or new-car glossy clear-coat with nothing inbetween – MOO’s cards even felt like satin – I couldn’t stop rubbing the first one I took out of the pack between my fingers. The MOO cards are also just larger than average – not enough to keep them from fitting in standard cases or anything, but enough that in a stack of other peoples’ business cards, yours will stick out just a bit, as though refusing to be lumped into the same pile as those other cards.
MOO’s cards reek of quality in the same way the VistaPrint cards reek of mediocrity. To be fair, VistaPrint is advertising a new ultra-premium paper that’s supposed to be 30% thicker, and which might be more comparable to MOO’s paper but I didn’t have any of those to test and I’m not going to pay for yet another batch of cards. The VistaPrint cards I tested here are, by my estimation, pretty representative of the average business card I’ve been handed, and that’s what I’m trying to compare MOO’s cards to. I’m saying “VistaPrint cards” but what I really mean is “average cards.”
I next took it upon myself to attempt to punish a sample of each card as much as I could without just deliberately folding them in half or setting them on fire. I held the cards lengthwise between my thumb and fingers and squeezed. After a tiny amount of pressure, the VistaPrint card bowed out dramatically. Releasing the card resulted in the card retaining most of the curve it had when I was actively bending it – these cards did not snap back. The same amount of pressure bent the MOO card hardly at all, and it went right back to being straight as a board the moment I let go. Applying a little more pressure to the VistaPrint card, I accidentally folded it in half, putting a nasty crease down the center that created wrinkles in the glossy plastic coating and ruined the underlying text. It was way too easy to accidentally destroy the VistaPrint card. I tried applying the same pressure that had destroyed the VistaPrint card to the MOO card and was surprised to see almost no difference in the amount of horizontal deflection. I found myself applying more and more pressure until the two ends of the card were at a 90 degree angle to one another – it took quite a lot of force and the paper completely stood up to the abuse. This left only a slight bend in the card. While I was able to bend both cards back so that they would lay flat, the VistaPrint card was creased and wrinkled irreparably, while the MOO card showed no sign that I’d ever bent it at all.
Flipping the cards over to the back, I was happy to see my faint ghost-like logo hiding down in the bottom-right corner and the nice large QR code proudly emblazoned in the top-left. I attempted to scan my QR code and… Aw crap. I realized almost immediately that I’d only left a 1px border around the QR code and that it would never scan this way. I contacted MOO, originally intending to see if they could print me some stickers I could put over the QR codes or something and they ended up sending me another box of cards with my corrected design absolutely free. Another point for MOO: great customer service.
When my new box of cards arrived, they were consistent with the first batch but with a working QR code, of course. I suddenly wondered: what if it’s just the grain of the paper? It’s much easier to break a board striking with the grain than against, so maybe paper is similar? I’m obviously no paper expert but it didn’t seem like it would be a fair comparison if I didn’t at least give VistaPrint’s paper one more chance to hold up along the short axis of the card. It took only slightly more pressure to bow, then crease, the VistaPrint card. Surprisingly, it was almost impossible to bend the MOO card along its short axis. I squeezed so hard I felt like I was risking a very severe papercut, but without applying pressure to the flat surface of the card with another finger (which is cheating!) I could not make the MOO card bend. Honestly the only down-side I could find was that the satin finish on both the MOO cards and their packaging tend to show oily fingerprint marks much easier than the plastic high-gloss VistaPrint cards – especially that first card that startled me with the silky smoothness. After rubbing that first card for so long it bore a permanent grease stain that made it look like I’d been eating bacon pizza and hadn’t washed my hands. Casual handling still left prints, but significantly less so.
Now admittedly, the MOO cards cost more than the VistaPrint cards, but not by a large enough margin that “you get what you pay for” should have been this big a factor. After adding up the base cost, the extra cost for the glossy coating and pretending I’d paid the extra $4.99 for a full-color print on the back side, 50 cards would have cost me about $18 from VistaPrint. A 50-count box of MOO’s standard cards cost about $20. I also paid an extra $4 for rounded corners, an option VistaPrint doesn’t even offer. Without the rounded corner option, that means the VistaPrint cards are $0.36 each and the MOO cards are $0.40 each. With the rounded corners they’re $0.48 each – what can I say, I’m a baller, I can afford the extra 8 cents for the rounded corners, and even if I weren’t willing to pay the 8 cents, for 4 cents per card extra I’ll take the “OMG these are freaking indestructible” option.
In short, my business card is the longest-lasting part of my first impression. Long after that semi-random person I met at that semi-random convention has forgotten my hair, shirt, shoes or tie, they’ll still have my business card. I’d rather hand them something solid, durable, silky smooth and screaming of quality than something utterly average and forgettable.