One of my favorite parenting traditions come December is creating our family Christmas card. Sort of. It’s an arduous, time-consuming task, one that I usually tackle on my own and way too late. Since it’s all about showing off the little sugarplums, I take care to photograph the kids all year long. But by the time I’ve selected the “perfect” photo, printed address labels, and made it over to the post office to buy stamps, most of our recipients are ooh-ing and ahh-ing after New Year’s!
This holiday season, I vowed to be different and figured I’d give e-cards a try, which seemed like an environmentally-friendly (no paper), cost-effective (no postage), modern way to send holiday greetings. I was happy to get the opportunity to review smartecard, especially since it appealed to my philanthropic sensibility: 80% of each one-dollar “donation” to smartecard is allocated to 501 (c) 3 organizations.
To create my cards, I went to the smartecard.org website and got started by selecting from the 17 non-profit organizations they support, among them Doctors Without Borders and World Food Program USA. I chose Homes For Our Troops, which builds specially adapted homes for injured veterans. I then viewed the sample, and was intrigued to learn that each “card” runs more like a video, with a photo and caption on each “frame.” This is nice because you can pick several shots (I selected ten) and tell the story of your family’s year. Although creators are limited to one photo per frame, there are some cool effects to choose from; individual images can fade, zoom, slide in, bounce, and even pan across the screen. There’s also an extensive selection of 21 songs from which to choose for background music. I had fun experimenting with different melodies and found they could really alter the tone and feel of the greeting.
I do have a few gripes, however, which in all fairness are not all totally the fault of smartecard. My biggest one: there’s no “help” button. When it comes to anything techie, I need a help button. And like all things computer-generated, you must be hyper-vigilant about saving. At one point, I didn’t click ‘save’ after previewing my nearly-finished card and I lost an hour’s worth of work! Uploading photos my your desktop appeared easy at first, but you are limited to 12 uploads at a time, and it is inconsistent –my computer froze twice during the process. What’s more, while you can adjust the size and placement of your photo within each frame, you can’t edit or crop it (so that middle aged, pot-bellied guy in a Speedo behind your family smiling on the beach is staying there…unless you edit him out before uploading).
Although the uploading process may have been frustrating at times, the finished product was something I was really pleased with. And talk about instant gratification: friends can email you directly after viewing the e-card. Comments to me included “That was beautiful!” and “Wow! I love, love, love it.” Smartecard even generates a report allowing you to see which recipients viewed your e-card (and how many times!)
Bottom line: smartecard is economical — a dollar a card is much cheaper than any “traditional” card I’ve ever sent in the mail (and your donation qualifies as a charitable tax deduction!), it’s good for the environment, and it’s good for the non-profit organization of your choice…all in all, that made it good for me!