- Online, offline and mobile-based editor
- Free professional designer service
- Various internal customization options
- Virtually unlimited themes
- Video file support
- Permanent coupons and discounts
- No data syncing between editors
- Time-limited photo storage
- Inconsistent design selection
‘If you are new to the market, you have to do something big to get noticed.’ This is probably the motto that the founders of SmileBooks had in mind when the company launched its photo printing services in 2016. And indeed, they introduced themselves with a big bang: for starters, not every photo company can say that it provides online, offline and mobile-based services for its clients, not to mention the option to ask for the help of professionals in the creative process. By becoming a SmileBooks customer you will immediately notice how the company cleverly uses an online editor for simplicity and straightforwardness while the more advanced offline Design Software is used for more complex creations. SmileBooks lets you include videos (via QR codes), choose from a selection of countless designs, use a range of covers and paper covering the whole spectrum of quality, and all with cost-friendly prices regardless of the software you use. And to top it all off you can make use of non-expiring coupons and discounts to get SmileBooks’ high-quality products even cheaper.
The online editor is the most streamlined and easiest to use of all three photo book builders by SmileBooks. The layout of the program is far from typical but it is at least very logical, and it allows you to change the book’s size, cover, background, style and more while editing. By default the editor shows all the pages of your book, therefore you’ll need to choose a specific page to start the customization process. Photos, which are stored for 30 days unless you buy extra storage, can be uploaded at any time during editing with the option to choose between placing them into the book manually or letting the editor do it for you. These can then be moved and rotated, resized should you receive the low-resolution warning, swapped with other pictures within the same page, have masks and frames applied, or moved to the background. To make things easier, there are several pre-made layouts waiting for you to pick from, but it is possible to let the program suggest one as well.
SmileBooks also allows you to add text that can be placed the same way as photos, with the addition of a choice of several fonts, sizes, alignment options, and text and background colors. The editor is also full of countless clipart (embellishments) under 41 different themes, while even the drag and drop-style backgrounds have 33 different categories. Sadly, backgrounds have to be applied manually to each page, since books in the online editor have to be started from scratch. And even though you can save your work for later, the online editor does not provide an auto-save feature.
SmileBooks Design Software
As its name suggests, this is a full-on design program available as a download for Windows and Mac, and therefore it boasts everything the online editor has to offer while also adding several advanced features into the mix. The most important change is that you can actually further customize the photos you add to your book (from online sources, too) and even include videos by creating a film strip or adding a QR code. Another huge difference is that it is possible to apply styles to your book and not have to manually add the backgrounds – though that is still an option. The software also rates the quality of your added images in the form of three smileys, with the saddest emoji warning of a low-resolution.
The program itself is a true powerhouse and a dream tool for editors, but its download and booting time is very slow. Frustratingly, the Design Editor does have some other very annoying features: it alters the system’s default image display software and it doesn’t sync with any of your online projects.
The iOS or Android app is definitely an interesting addition to SmileBooks’ photo book editing options and it, too, has its own set of unique features, such as the option to doodle, include photos from your Amazon Cloud Drive and to apply different effects onto your pictures. There is also a range of choices to make between photo book covers, paper types and sizes (in this order) whether you decide to start your book from scratch or have it auto-filled. However, using the app is a tad uncomfortable on smaller smartphones (even in the default horizontal view), plus, like its software counterpart, it saves projects to its hard drive without syncing with your online account.
Good luck in finding the ideal theme for your SmileBooks photo books, because it is close to virtually impossible. We are not saying that the design selection is bad; quite the opposite, it is so vast you can easily end up lost. However, there’s some guiding help thanks to the number of styles.
Like we said before, the online editor is the only program that doesn’t allow you to pick styles, only backgrounds. The Design Software, however, contains a total of 57 different themes under 26 categories, while the app offers 17 styles and a choice of 13 additional themes when also taking into account the free Design Service. But to complicate things further, the Design Software ups the ante by enabling the option to download further themes and apply them to your books.
This means that the exact number of styles in SmileBooks is virtually unlimited, providing endless customization options even after you have chosen your book’s size, paper type and cover.
SmileBooks photo books are available in three different shapes in seven different sizes: 5×5.5, 4.5×6, 6×8, 8×8, 8×11, 11×8 (the only portfolio-style book), and 12×12. However, keep in mind that certain covers and paper types cannot be paired with particular book sizes: for instance the two smallest books are only available with saddle stitch binding and regular paper. Larger books starting from 6×8 can be printed with soft or hard covers – even with layflat bindings – while the largest 12×12 products can have faux leather and linen covers as well. As for photo-quality paper: only the four largest books can be paired with the two layflat paper types (glossy or luster), but with the exception of the two smallest products all books can have luster photo pages. And speaking of pages, the number allowed highly depends on the binding and the size of the book, though it always has to be between 26 and 154 pages in total. Just be sure to fill the entire book with photos, otherwise it will be printed with blank pages.
The pricing policy of SmileBooks is pretty consistent and, compared to the competitors, modest. The smallest books can be purchased for as low as $7.99, but even the standard 8×8 book with softcover is only $17.99. To make things better, the costs of shipping always stay between $3.99 and $12.99. The only things that significantly raise the price of the book are the inclusion of photo paper with a layflat binding. Ordering additional copies will also include a volume surcharge, which is $1–$4 per copy. If you want to have more than the default 26 pages, you can purchase more (in pairs) for prices varying between $0.40 and $4. There are extra services you can purchase, too: each video with three years online storage is $2.99, 2GB of photo storage costs $8.95 while Design Service is $0.39 per page – but only if the book is ordered.
SmileBooks is also full of discounts and coupon offers, most of which have no expiration date. This is why new customers can save 30% on the purchase price and why anybody exceeding the $100 pricepoint is able to cut costs in half.
Support & Shipping
SmileBooks’ regular customer service is not the company’s forte: although you can choose between email, live chat or phone support, the staff is only available from Monday to Friday between 6:00 and 12:00. Furthermore, the phone support option is only visible in the app which makes absolutely no sense. Aside from the above, you can watch three tutorial videos on the company’s Facebook page which, like the Twitter account, has been dormant since 2016. However, the company’s FAQ makes up for everything, since it has crucial information like international shipping, which is only provided for Canada.
Speaking of shipping, the turnaround time is typically 5–12 business days without an option of expedited production or delivery. Another thing to keep in mind that SmileBooks’ production process is fully automated, therefore an order cannot be cancelled or changed once it has been placed. This is important if the product you ordered is damaged due to the company itself, since the only way to resolve this is to apply for a replacement within seven days of delivery.
There is no doubt that SmileBooks is a champion when it comes to the versatility of its photo book editing options. The online editor is already a perfect choice if you want to quickly put together a manifestation of your most cherished memories, but SmileBooks’ Design Software definitely puts the cherry on top – not to mention the fully functional iOS/Android app and the designing service. It’s a bit of a shame, though, that SmileBooks fails in the smaller details, such as the limited storage option, the overcomplicated offline editor, the inconsistency of themes, the lack of syncing between the three different programs and the mediocre customer support.
Still, the cons are easily outshined by the many pros: with the various features the programs provide, the appealing extras, the acceptable pricing policy and the non-expiring promotions, SmileBooks is a photo company that deserves to be mentioned next to the leaders of the photo book market.