After 10 years of building websites in Jamaica, Blitz Web Design, has emerged as one of Jamaica's top web development companies. We've seen websites come and go and during this time we've become keen on predicting when a website project will result in a website that will hit it big for our clients. We've also become experts at steering our client's websites away from the brink of disaster with proven strategies for online success in the Jamaican online market space.
The strategies outlined here should serve as your go-to guide for building a website in Jamaica from start to successful finish. In reality, however, 'finished' is a foreign concept in the web development world: a successful website requires constant input from you as the owner/operator. For a really successful website development project you should consider engaging a website partner not just a service provider.
We'll talk more about that later.
So You've Decided to Explore Building a Website
Ok. You have a Jamaican business or are an individual in Jamaica and thinking of starting a website. You either want to promote an existing business organization or you want this new website to launch a web-based business idea. As with any project in life you will need to ask yourself some basic questions before you begin:
What is the main purpose of this new website?
Deciding on your overall objective makes building your website a much more strategic and goal-oriented process.
Having a clear reason why you need a website in your mind will allow you to focus on achieving that goal instead of getting distracted by all the all the shiny objects involved in building a website: color scheme, font size, banner images and logo position can easily hijack your attention if you don't have a tangible, dollars-and-cents-outcome aiming toward. We find that our clients who can clearly articulate a goal, target audience, available market share potential and means of promotion both on and offline have a better chance of building a successful website in the long term.
Some tangible goals for your website project could include:
- Develop a promotional website with visually appealing interface design, standardized code and proprietary software as a service that gets 2000 unique visitors per month from inside Jamaica
- Build a promotional business website that gets 10 new inquiries from the contact form per month
- Establish a membership-based website that gets 50 new subscriptions each month from Jamaicans and Americans 18-50 years old interested in listing items for sale.
- Develop a website to establish brand awareness and serve as an informational adjunct to your offline promotional efforts. E.g reduce in office questions from customers which can be answered by directing them to a page on the website.
- Build a website for a medical practice in Jamaica which will store confidential records accessible securely from multiple locations.
- Design a Jamaican website to promote an international event for which persons must register before arriving on the island.
- Build an ecommerce website in jamaica to sell up to 10,000 cultural products per month to members of the Jamaican diaspora and interested foreign nationals through credit card purchases.
Your specific goal for your website may be different. The key here is to define a target audience, desired outcome and define how your target audience's interaction with your website will produce the desired outcome.
Which Professional Industries in Jamaica are Having the Most Success with their Websites?
While we try to ensure all our client’s websites are successful, there is a noticeable trend in the industries our most successful business clients come from. We measure our client's success by gauging how well their initial objectives match the usefulness of their present website design. Practically though, any reasonable measure of success also includes how much new interest and sales their website generates for the product or services our clients provide. Our clients include companies from many different professional industries and includes individuals with a wide variety of interests.
Here are the industries and genres where our clients tell us they are really benefiting from having a website at present:
Attorneys and Law Firm Websites and other Professional Service Providers
We get approached by quite a few legal professionals to build a lawfirm website in jamaica or a website for attorneys in jamaica practicing on their own. We have by far more attorneys as clients than any other single industry. We proudly boast the largest law firm in the Caribbean as one of our successful custom clients.
The canons of professional conduct for attorneys in Jamaica restrict the ways lawyers can advertise for clients. A professional website seems to be the perfect way for attorneys and law firms to gain exposure within these limitations. There also seem to be a lot of Jamaicans locally and in the diaspora searching for legal services relating to land and property acquisition especially expats considering a return home. The majority of our law firm clients use their website to get leads on potential clients who request consultations through the website. The Jamaican public seems to regularly turn to Google to search for legal services in Jamaica thus making a website a low risk investment for an attorney or law firm with a very good chance of successful professional exposure.
Similar professional service providers such as doctors offices, dentists, medical specialists, accountants and accounting firms form a large portion of our client base. Their projects tend to be similarly successful. One such client receives numerous online service requests from kidney patients who must have dialysis while visiting the island from overseas.
Large, Small and Medium-sized Manufacturing Company Websites
Quite a few of our web design jamaica clients are manufacturers. The feedback they give us is that their websites provide them with benefits in a number of ways:
- The website serves as a means of attracting new potential customers who have questions
- The site is the most effective means exposing the company's brand and products to the overseas market and potential distributors in those markets.
- Instead of constantly sending out sales brochures or catalogues, the website serves as a centrally located informational resource that sales persons can use to inform customers on the go.
Here too, Jamaican manufacturers have a huge audience of members of the diaspora searching Google for Jamaican products. Some or our larger manufacturing clients get website traffic from searches for a single product that may be more popular than all the others. In this way a single stand out product serves as a way of introducing their customers to their full product offering. Another website client of ours involved in manufacturing tells us that potential customers who come to them from their website tend to be more informed and make a decision to purchase quicker than customers obtained by other means.
Event Planning Websites
Our clients involved in event planning in Jamaica enjoy huge successes from a well maintained website. Jamaicans seem to regularly be searching for event planners, wedding planners, stage, sound and lighting providers and they are turning to search engines to find the right provider.
Our clients also tell us that because event planning is all about visuals and decor, high quality images and video on their website help to entice potential customers in ways a phone call or traditional ad cannot.
These clients are also successful at cutting down the time required to convey information to clients. This helps them to make decisions faster with a strategic website design which steers the visitors attention in all the right directions.
Travel and Tour Websites for Visitors to Jamaica
Our clients in the tour and travel industry and those who provide services to foreigners do very well with their websites right now. Tourists often perform a Google search before landing on the island to find places that provide, accommodation, food and beverages, entertainment and medical services. We have clients who utilize their websites to meet all these needs and who get many sales leads through having their website.
Shipping and Logistics Websites
The internet lends itself to this type of business very well. Shipping, logistics and courier company websites in Jamaica take advantage of a fairly large audience looking for these services online. Quite a few of our clients are freight forwarders and so their customers already use the internet to research products on their favourite websites and shop online. It’s only natural that these internet savvy customers would also use an internet search engine to find a reliable freight forwarder or shipping company website. A shipping company website design that strategically directs the user’s attention to services they are looking for works well for our clients in this industry.
Secretarial Organisations and Non-Profit Websites
Organizations that have a medium to large membership base comprise some of our most satisfied clients. They regularly use their website to communicate notices to their members and provide documents that are necessary for their members to fill out. Here, a well designed website has the advantage of making data capture easier: members can fill out forms in html which go directly to the secretariat or administrators of the organization.
The medical council of Jamaica is one such organization that chose Blitz Web Design to design its website to meet the above-mentioned goals. They’ve been very satisfied with how effectively the website allows them to keep in touch with the thousands of registered doctors across Jamaica.
If your organization has an existing base of members or is a church or non-profit that needs to communicate with multiple stakeholders, our experience tells us that a website will work very well for you.
Local Franchises and Distributors for Overseas Companies
Like with manufacturers, Jamaican distributors of products made overseas tend to do well by having a website. Our experience is that they are better able to convey information to their potential clients by having a website that lists all their products. They are also able to introduce lesser known products to their existing customers through their website.
Property Management, Construction and Real Estate Developer Websites
Property and real estate websites do well for our clients. They serve as quick reference points to showcase a house or apartment for rent or sale. A well designed website with high resolution pictures and even video will cut down on the time real estate agents need to travel to show a property. Similarly with construction company websites in Jamaica, their customers love to see a portfolio or previous developments completed by the developer and also see if there are any development units for sale.
Ecommerce Websites in Jamaica
Ecommerce website span a wide variety of industries. On the list of successful types of websites there are quite a few examples where ecommerce is concerned. However, we should note that e commerce websites in Jamaica or in any other country have a higher probability of failure than other types of sites. We find that ecommerce websites require a clear strategic approach, higher investment of time and money and aggressive marketing to their niche that many of our potential clients are not initially prepared for. The conservative approach is to use a low cost ecommerce website template as a safe way to start your ecommerce project if your budget is limited. Thats said, we've documented many of the pitfalls made by clients who have set out to build ecommerce websites and want to share those with you. Read more on ecommerce websites below to find out.
Personal blogs are a great way to document your knowledge and ideas about a topic that interests you. While your success may not be initially measured in dollars, there is something to be said for the satisfaction that posting your own thoughts and ideas for the world to see will give you. Your unique perspective as a Jamaican is valuable in the online space and can bring you traffic through search engines. There are many examples of small personal blogs that have become popular and get a lot of traffic allowing the blog owner to monetize that traffic in different ways. We'll discuss monetization strategies later on.
Unique Website Ideas
We've had many unique website ideas come to us over the years. The truth: despite our best efforts some websites are successful and some are not. Again, the initial objective of the website is a key benchmark for testing the success of each website project.
Those clients who come to us with a clear strategic objective, and who have educated themselves on the work involved with owning a website tend to enjoy higher success rates in our experience. We also see that clients who have some significant real world advantage do better with their website sales/revenue. They either exclusively distribute a product or service, have a patented product or service or leverage some form of notoriety or celebrity in boosting their website to becoming a success.
Again, despite our best efforts there are some types website ideas we find simply don't work and you should steer away from.
Types of Websites You Should Avoid Building
Over the years, some types of websites more often than not don't live up to the expectations of our clients. Tread carefully if you decide to build any of the following types of websites:
- A classified ads type website that lists everything for sale.
- Websites that sell clothing, shoes, jewellery of no particular genre and which don't have the real world advantage of a brick and mortar outlet to consolidate their niche
- Any type of new social media website or dating website. Unless you have an enormous budget it's better to just go make a Facebook page.
- Standalone membership discussion forums. Its an outdated concept and social media does a better job.
- Any type of website that does not account for mobile users. With 60% of internet traffic coming from mobile this is a death sentence.
- Websites with flash and limited text. Content is king these days. Your website must have content or it will be lost to search engines. Flash is also not mobile friendly
- Any website that requires users to pay or sign-up to get information that's free somewhere else.
Even if the above listed websites are well-built and visually appealing, factors such as a saturated market, low demand online, an outdated concept and an underestimate of time and cost commitment make these projects more likely to fail.
Perhaps the most important reason these projects tend to fail is that they are not niche enough. Your website must target a specific niche in order to be successful. The problem lies in the fact that most people underestimate how large a particular niche is and how competitive niches can become overtime. What may be a small website niche with a small market today may become a mainstream online industry in a few short years. This is particularly true with websites designed in Jamaica because many popular niches abroad are quickly gaining momentum locally.
Web Design Cost Expectations
Along with the time and effort you will put into your website what you pay to have it designed should also be seen as an investment. You expect to have your website return some kind of tangible outcome over time and that's exactly what it should do.
As with any other purchase, the more features you want usually means the greater your financial input will need to be. If you've set out clear goals for your website your spend should be focused on achieving those goals.
For example, most developers will charge more for a custom designed website as opposed to designing from a template. If earning revenue from your website is vital to the success of your project and your budget is limited, focus your spend on getting ecommerce, search engine optimisation, and some pay per click advertising rather than a custom design. Overtime with Blitz Web Design, we will allow you to perform incremental changes to the user experience design of your website for a low monthly cost. The important advantage here is that we focus on the factors which get you a return on your investment first, while staying within your budget and still producing a visually appealing website that can evolve over time.
With quite a few players in the web development marketplace the cost each web designer in Jamaica quotes will be unique. You should choose to do business with a web developer who is willing to stay within your budget while giving you the features that will make your website return on your investment as soon as possible. Perhaps most importantly, choose a Jamaican development company or individual who has consistently shown that they have the knowledge and experience to be able to guide you toward best practices and eventual success. Look specifically for:
- A company that is willing to share knowledge and expertise without charge BEFORE you start the project.
- A consistent track record of experience not just building websites but building successful websites. You would be better of doing business with a lotto scammer than engaging a company without a portfolio of successful clients.
- Engage web programmers who are also graphic designers or have graphic designers as a part of their team. Do not simply assume that your programmer is also equipped with creative graphic skills.
- Chose a company that can show you their method of pricing and doesn't just pick a number out of the air. Companies that don't have a specific pricing strategy are more likely to overcharge you in the long run.
- Choose a company you can easily find on Google for a relevant search term. If a company claims they can optimize your website for search engines they should be able to do it for themselves first.
- Bigger is not always better. Website creation is a highly democratized field: a small company can produce work on par with much larger firms. In some cases the smaller firm may offer more attention to detail. We are all using the same coding languages and standards. Go with a small to medium-sized firm such as ours that can dedicate a staff member to handle your needs. Remember, larger companies will have more expenses that they must pass on to you in order to be profitable.
- Avoid companies that offer custom design for under $5,000 Jamaican dollars. They are applying the 'wholesale' model: get many clients and charge each a small amount. It should be clear to you that 'wholesaling' something that requires attention to detail and visual appeal is a bad idea. Companies like these will get you a website cheap, but don't expect them to offer any personalized service or to give you advice on how to make your website a success. If you are serious about building a successful website, go with a web development company in Jamaica who will charge a little more but has a vested interest in your project and returning on your investment.
- Expect to pay more for features such as e-commerce, advanced SEO, custom web application or mobile app design. Discuss these costs in detail with your web developer before starting to design your website.
If you expect your website to be your main income earner in the foreseeable future, look for more than just a web development company. At least one company in Jamaica, Collective Names, is now offering technology venture services. Tech venture services is a new concept to Jamaica where the website developer does not charge an upfront cost for building your website but instead becomes your web development partner providing expertise and skills and also earns a share of revenue from the website. In such an arrangement you can be sure that your web development partner is not simply building you a static website but has a vested interest in its success.
Expect to pay a deposit to get work started on your website design. A deposit lets your designer know that you are serious about the completion of your project and initiates the contract between yourselves. Each company in Jamaica will have a different payment structure but generally most will ask for a 50% deposit to begin design work. Some developers will ask for interim payments during the course of the project. You should ask up front about these payments and the milestones that determine when they are due.
Is’nt the Cost of Website Development going down?
In general the answer here is: yes. Basic websites are alot easier to develop with the use of content management systems and professional web templates. This means that most web developers in Jamaica and world-wide have lowered their costs for developing the average website. However, this does not necessarily mean you will pay less for the particular type of website you intend to build. Feature-rich websites that involve membership sign-ups, complicated e-commerce shopping carts and checkout windows or which require a custom database to store data specifically relevant to your business will still attract higher costs from web developers due to the time involved. Even with your best planning as a lay-person, there will be variables that you would not have taken into account which your web developer must consider in order to structure his code or configure the content management system. Additionally coding languages such as HTML have been expanded to include new features and best practises. If you want to keep your website line with current trends you should take into account that these new features may take time to implement and will contribute to the costing of your job.
Know your Web Design Terms
Knowing the terms we use when explaining how we design your website will allow the flow of communication to proceed smoothly. Knowing the terms commonly used in website design will also help you to get a better idea of the time and components involved in putting together your website.
What’s it Mean?
Domain or URL or Web Address*
This is the text people will type in their browser to get to your website on the world wide web
Top Level Domain Name (TLD)
Saying ‘TLD’ is basically the same as saying ‘domain’ with the exception that TLD is additionally used to refer the last part of the domain eg. .com vs .net vs .gov.jm
cnn.com or arin.net or auditorgeneral.gov.jm
Every website must be stored on a central computer that’s always connected to the internet and can handle multiple requests from around the world. That computer is called a hosting server. Web Hosting simply means establishing your website on one of these servers and there is usually a monthly cost
All websites are hosted on servers. We Provide Competitive Web Hosting Rates
Nameservers are strings of text resembling a domain name that links your domain name registered with one service provider to another service provider who is responsible for hosting the website that the domain will lead to. Nameservers are supplied by your web hosting provider for you to input your domain registrar. In some cases your web host and your domain registrar can be the same company.
Our Nameservers are ns1.blitzwebdesign.com and ns2.blitzwebdesign.com
A sitemap is a visual representation of every page on a website and how those pages link to each other. Sitemaps can be text only or can be visual in flowchart format
Content Management Systems (CMS)
CMSs store all website information in a database and allow new features to be added to a website easily. A non technical person can easily use a CMS to update a website.
WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, Magento, and Expression Engine are the top content management systems right now
HyperText Mark-up Language (HTML)
HTML is a W3C standard coding language that outlines the structure of your website using <tags> HTML 5 is the latest version currently available to web designers
Cascading Style Sheets (CSS)
CSS is a coding standard used to determine how the HTML structure will look. CSS adds color and further structure to an HTML layout. CSS 3 is the latest version of this coding language available to developers. CSS can produce grid-based designs, fullscreen layouts, column layouts and a wide variety of other usability formats. CSS also determines web typography including, font-size, spacing, style and much more.
Responsive websites adjust to the screen, device or browser on which they are viewed.
Displaying a different version of a website for a cell phone.
Hypertext Preprocessor (PHP)
PHP is used to dynamically generate web pages. PHP pages may be mixed in with HTML pages to generate an entirely new page based on conditions specified in the code. Languages such as PHP allow you to dynamically update your website using a content management system.
Sizes are measured in pixels on your computer screen. We may ask you for images that have a certain pixel width. This simply means we want the picture at a certain size.
The average computer screen is 1366 pixels wide by 768 high as of March 2012
User Experience Design (UX Design)
UX Design speaks to features of your website that make information or products more accessible to website visitors. UX is geared toward making website more user-friendly and improves accessibility.
Using filters to help customers search through a larger production catalouge
What you See is What you Get Editor (WYSIWYG)
A WYSIWYG editor works inside of a content management system to allow a non technical person to update a website. It basically makes editing a website as simple as writing a MS Word document.
WordPress and other CMSs all have WYSIWYG editors
PNG, Jpeg, gif
These are all types of images that can be placed online. PNG and Jpeg are most commonly used. Gif images are mostly used for animated pictures.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
SEO is a series of techniques implemented by a internet professionals geared at positioning a website well in search results for a targeted term. Ease of web navigation can also affect SEO
e.g. placing in the top 10 results for the search term ‘law firms in the caribbean’
Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Advertising
PPC advertising presents a link to your website or webpage to users on a search engine or other website. You pay the PPC provider a small fee for each click that a user makes to get to your website.
e.g. Google PPC ads that show up above some search results
A landing page is the first page a visitor encounters when they get to your website.
e.g. your landing page can be your homepage but that is not always the case
Online Payment Processor
Any website or service that allows you to accept credit cards online
e.g. paypal, payoneer, 2checkout
Online Payment Gateway
Gateways are a specific type of payment processor that provides its own coding language (API) allowing you to collect payments through a website or other application
e.g. paypal, 2checkout
Choosing a Domain Name
Your website will be accessed by persons clicking on or typing in your domain name. Think of your domain name as a physical address that people can access your website content by typing it into a browser.
There are two popular trends when it comes to choosing a domain name: you can either register a descriptive keyword domain name for a branded domain name
A descriptive or keyword domain name contains keywords that describe the purpose for your website and also keywords that you hope someone will type into a search engine to find your website.
A branded domain name ignores descriptive keywords and instead uses your own unique company name or unique brand name that you've made up for your business. Here is where you can go crazy making up unique combinations of words and phrases. As a Jamaican, you should have no shortage of phrases and tings whe yu can mek up whe sound good. Through or false? Is Through!!!
Seriously though, there's a huge debate among tech professionals and search engine optimisers as to which type of domain name is better to use. This is especially true since Google recently dialled down the importance of keyword domains. This means that keyword domains won't give you as much traffic from a search engine as they previously would. Engineers at Google have also publicly stated that the search engine giant tends to prefer unique branded domains in more recent times.
So does that mean you should always go for a branded domain name over a keyword domain name? Not so fast.
If you are entering a very small niche or even starting a new niche of your own it's still a better idea to go with keyword domain name. That’s because you need a descriptive keyword domain name to differentiate your website from topics that may have similar words but not relate to your niche. Let's say you are starting a website for visitors to Jamaica who want to visit only the Cockpit Country in Trelawny. That's a pretty specific niche that may not have many players to give you competition right now. In a case like this it would be better to go with a descriptive keyword domain like cockpittoursjamaica.com or similar name. However if you want to build a tour and travel website to sell tours all over Jamaica, go instead with a unique branded domain name. The competition to sell travel tours to Jamaica is much higher. A unique branded domain, (think expedia.com or travelocity.com) with a word or two that are unique to your business will give you more traction than trying to compete for keywords in an already saturated online marketplace.
Whether you choose keyword domain names or branded domain names try to make your domain as short, pronounceable and memorable as possible. You will gain traction if people can easily remember your domain name and type it into a browser. This is called Direct Type-in Traffic and can save you a lot of work in trying to retain your customers and visitors.
A Word on Top Level Domain Names.
How to Register a .com.jm Domain Name.
.com.jm domain names are administered by Mona Information Technology Services Ltd (MITS). MITS is located on the campus of the University of the West Indies. At least up until the time of writing this, .com.jm domain names cost $1500 JMD per year to register. They require you to fill out a form stating the domain name you want along with your company name and you must also certify that you have the legal right to use the name you request. Since MITS will also ask you for the nameservers you want your new domain to point to, it’s a good idea to secure web hosting for your intended website before registering your name with MITS. Don’t want the hassle? We will handle this process for you.
Registering Expired Domain Names:
In some cases the exact domain name you want will already be taken. Domains which are previously registered will eventually come up for expiration at some point. This gives you an opportunity to register the expired domain name if the previous owner is no longer interested in renewing it. Some companies like Godaddy also offer a paid service of back-ordering domain names as their expiration dates approach. You should be careful when trying to back-order domains because:
- There is no guarantee the original owner will let the domain expire. Domain owners have 90 days to renew their domain names AFTER they have expired. Three months is a lot of time for someone to change their mind and decide that they want to keep the domain name. If they renew the domain name its usually a hassle to get a refund on the backorder fee.
- Back-ordering is a competitive process. If the domain approaching expiry is a popular one, the process can involve an auction with many persons from many different registrars. Again, if you lose out in the auction and another person in obtains the expired domain name you have to manually request a refund which takes time.
Registering domains that have fully expired is your next best and safer option. We did an extensive article on factors you should consider when registering expired domain names. It’s a valuable read in case you decide to go this route.
Custom Web Design
Custom Website Design relies on talented graphic designers producing a unique layout for your website’s homepage and inner pages. Equally talented programmers then translate that design into a functional website.
In deciding when to request a custom designed website, you should have already established your goals and objectives for building the website in the first place. From there, consider a few key questions:
- How does a custom design fit into my objective for a successful outcome for this website?
- Will the website having a unique look contribute to my overall objective?
- If my objective is increased sales, am I really sure that people won’t buy products from the website if it doesn’t look exactly the way I picture it?
- Do I have consistent brand messaging in the custom designed website that I have in mind?
- What do my potential customers want to see and is it in line with what I think would be a good to have on the site?
Only you can answer these questions. Considering them carefully can save you time, money and keep you focused on the success of your website.
When We Recommend Using Custom Web Design.
As previously discussed, we measure the success of our client's websites by how well they've achieved their initial objectives. Not all clients want websites to improve their customer base, bring them more income or serve as a sales tool. We've actually had clients say to us “we don’t expect or want to get new customers through our website. We just want a web presence."
In cases like these the success of a website is heavily dependent only on how it looks. This is particularly true in cases where the website will form one part of an overarching marketing strategy or promotion where consistent branding is essential. In these cases, unique visual aesthetics may outweigh the need for, or be the perfect addition to, technical features and tangible sales. The website simply needs to make an impression. You should definitely go with a custom designed website if this describes you or your company's objectives. Consider custom design if you are:
- A marketing agency seeking to establish your brand
- A small, medium or large jamaican company executing a rebranding strategy and trying to establish brand quickly
- Any company or individual trying to break into a new niche or new market in which you were not previously involved.
- A Jamaican government agency whose website must conform to CITO standards or other regulations
- Any company or individual whose objective involves making a visual impact with their website.
Web Design From Templates or Themes
We find more of our clients are choosing to begin the website design process using a theme or template. They were initially hesitant to use templates for
fear that their website would look cookie cutter and look like everybody else's website. That may have been the case a few years ago but now, with millions of stunning website templates available, you can easily find a template that looks great, impresses your visitors and for all practical purposes is unique. After your web designer adds your images, text and original content and does a few tweaks to things such as colour scheme your template maybe just as good as a custom designed website.
The main difference is that with a template you will spend a lot less than with a custom designed website. Starting a business in Jamaica can be tough and can cost a lot. Modern website templates can work just as well as a custom website if your goals include attracting customers and increasing sales.
Besides a lower cost for website development, there are actually quite a few advantages to using templates that you might not be aware of:
- In most cases templates take advantage of the latest trends happening on the Internet right now. This means that well designed templates are on the cutting edge of what's hip visually and is also more likely to use best practice code that is current.
- With a website template you may also experience faster turnaround times while paying less to have your website built. Remember always consider how what you are spending is contributing to the success of your website and a return on your investment.
- Most high quality website templates are created by developers who offer ongoing support and updates for the code that the template is built on. Automatic ongoing updates means that using a template can be a very secure solution for designing and managing a website in the long term.
- The variety of designs with templates is enormous. There are millions of high quality templates available online. In practise, it's unlikely that with so many options your website will look the same as everyone else's which is often the main concern with using templates.
The Difference Between a Template and a Theme
Website templates and themes are often used to mean the same thing but in reality they speak to different functions. 'Template' is a general term used to describe designs that layout web pages in using HTML or dynamic coding languages. Themes are specific types of templates that are built to be used within an existing framework such as a content management system. Strictly speaking, if you have a template for a WordPress website that is called a WordPress theme.
Mobile Responsive Web Design
Whether you choose to build your website with a template or with custom website your website must account for mobile devices.
Jamaican Internet users follow the global trend of increasing mobile device usage. If your website does not account for mobile device uses you will miss many potential business opportunities.
Good mobile responsive design should:
- Detect the type of device (device-sniffing) and browser or user-agent (browser-sniffing) a visitor is using and present a different version of your website to them
- Detect the window screen size even for desktop users and adjust the website accordingly.
- Present a simple navigation menu for mobile users (e.g hamburger menu) which is more suited for smaller screens.
- Hold the short attention span of mobile users by presenting the most important information first.
- You large responsive call to action buttons and text to create a fluid, flexible and elastic content experience
The panning, scrolling and resizing that your website does in response to mobile browsers significantly improves the experience, encourages them to interact with your site and even complete a sale.
Additionally, large search engines such as Google are now using your website’s mobile compatibility as a way to rank you in their search results. If your website scores poorly for mobile compatibility your search engine rank will suffer.
Mobile responsive web design is no joke and it’s not something you should ignore. If you have an existing website and it does not use mobile responsive principles you should seriously consider having it redesigned.
Dollars and Cents: Building an Ecommerce Website in Jamaica
Essentials to selling with a website online.
Building an ecommerce website in Jamaica can come with it’s own unique challenges but can also have it’s own unique rewards. Consider that:
- Internet usage in Jamaica is growing but is still not on par with more developed countries.
- The spending power of the Jamaican population also poses challenges when trying to sell from a website locally.
- Credit Card and Credit/Debit Card usage in Jamaica is becoming more widespread but is still at relatively low levels.
- Despite challenges with conducting ecommerce in Jamaica, many popular niches abroad are just taking hold locally. This opens up many avenues for entrepreneurs to see success in a wide variety of niches.
These points make marketing products for sale to Jamaicans through an ecommerce website a task you must consider carefully before getting started.
You might think it easier to just market your products internationally instead of just to Jamaicans on the internet. But here again, the concept of sticking to a niche must be considered. Will your website have a significant advantage in competing for American customers over much larger websites run by companies that are actually in America? You may answer yes or, after consideration of our ecommerce essentials list below, you may find it better to focus on a smaller niche inside Jamaica.
Here are essential factors and considerations that should be in place before you begin your ecommerce website design:
- Develop a content strategy early on. Content is what will bring customers to your website more so than what you are selling. Almost everyone does research before they buy from a website. You need to become a reliable information resource on the products you sell to encourage more sales. e.g. Commit to maintaining a blog on your ecommerce website and update it weekly.
- Make a list of all the advantages your ecommerce website business will have. These may include: lowest price, better product variety, established relationship with suppliers, in demand niche with few large competitors, you may have an exclusive distributorship, you may know the niche well and have an established track record or celebrity status etc. Also consider if you have any real-world advantages within your niche that your competitors may not e.g a physical location, ability to ship cheaper etc.
- Determine who your primary customer is likely to be. What other websites are they likely to visit, what keywords are they likely to use to find you on search engines
- Consider how you can make it easier, cheaper or a more rewarding experience for someone to purchase from your website rather than purchasing in a physical store? List all the ways.
- How will your website integrate with existing sales channels like amazon or ebay? Are these channels relevant for your type of product or service?
- Establish collaborations and partnerships with complementary service providers who are already having success online. E.g: Plan on selling cell phone accessories? Partner with another online business selling actual cell phones, offer them discounts and free advertising. Also get backlinks to share traffic.
- Decide from the start on a payment processor or payment gateway solution. This means deciding on the company or service that will handle credit card transactions on your website. e.g. Paypal.com is a free service that most of our clients use to handle payments.
- DO NOT budget all your money on the design of the website. Many well-designed websites fail because there is no budget allocated to marketing and on-going maintenance. e.g set aside at least 20% of your overall budget for a pay-per-click advertising campaign after your website is launched.
You may have other factors to consider for your particular product or service as the above list is by no means exhaustive. However, we find that when the above-listed factors are in place our clients are more likely to have a successful outcome with their ecommerce website.
How to Design an Ecommerce Website for Maximum Sales
Ok, so you’ve done your initial checks, determined your advantages within your niche and are ready to start building your website. Now it’s time to decide what is most important in the actual design of your website.
At this stage of the process your thoughts should be those of your customers. What is the first thing your customers want to see in order to make a purchase? What will make your website more inviting and easier to use? Here are some absolute essentials for the design of an ecommerce website:
- Content Content Content. Your site needs to be focused on content. You don’t have to choose: you can have well-designed websites that are content rich. Content is even more important for ecommerce websites because people tend to do research before they buy.
- Focus on landing pages, MORE THAN the homepage: succesful ecommerce websites with multiple product pages that get high traffic tend to get only a small percent of that traffic going to their homepage. The majority of their traffic goes directly to inner pages that are optimized for what the user is looking for. These inner pages are called landing pages. Your landing pages should be bright and information-rich with large fonts and call to action buttons directing people to make a purchase.
- Consider Long Form Sales Pages: Long form sales pages encourage a user to make a purchase by providing extensive information and periodically encouraging the visitor to sign up or complete the purchase. Here’s an example
- Be Transparent: Let your customers know who you are. Have an ‘About Us’ or “Our Story’ page that tells your customers why you started the website. People feel more comfortable purchasing when they can make a personal connection with you or your brand.
- Focus on Security: Besides making a connection, your customers also need to feel secure. Have an SSL certificate (the small browser lock) on any page that collects personal information from your website visitors. You should also be clear about your terms of service and any refund policies.
- Make Checkout Simple: the easier it is to complete a purchase on your website the more sales you will get. Have no more than 3 windows/panes in your checkout process before the customer’s credit card is processed.
- Integrate Social: Allow users to share their purchases with friends. Every product should also be shareable with friends on facebook and other social media platforms. You should also have active social media accounts to aid in your marketing.
- Make it Mobile Friendly: You could lose as much as 60% of your potential customers if your website does not account for mobile users.
- Use SEO best practises: Every page of your ecommerce website should be optimized for search engines
- Collect Customer Information: Integrated into your website should be a way to collect customer data and send messages to them overtime. It’s easier to convince someone who has made a purchase from you before to do it again.
- Listen and Adjust: Get feedback from your customers and change aspects of your website overtime in response to their suggestions.
Your ecommerce strategy for your Jamaican ecommerce website must take these factors into account.
Payment Processors: How to Get your Money into Jamaica from Overseas Payment Gateways
Getting sales from your website is good but if you reside in Jamaica you will need to get that money into the country somehow. There are a few restrictions that you should know about that many of our clients are unaware of:
- The two major banks NCB and ScotiaBank do offer ecommerce payment gateways directly to customer accounts BUT, the process appears to be time consuming, expensive and not geared toward small businesses. For this reason our clients tend to opt for paypal
- PayPal is a free service that can handle payments to a website via a credit card. However (up to the time of writing this), paypal will not directly wire money to a Jamaican bank account. If you are in Jamaica you must request a cheque from paypal which can take more than 2 months to arrive. There is also a limit to the amount of money you can withdraw in a single month to Jamaica ($2000USD)
- If you have a United States Bank account Paypal will wire money directly to that account and there is no limit.
There are other online payment processors that you can use. Each has their relative benefits and drawbacks within the Jamaican context. The major ones are:
- Payoneer (not really a payment gateway but can be used to accept payments directly to a Payoneer account)
Stacey-Ann Hayls, is a Jamaican social media practitioner who has a comprehensive write-up that answers many questions Jamaicans will have about accepting payments online. You should also read her Payoneer Review to see how you can use that service to get money directly to Jamaica.
Web Hosting Jamaica: What to Consider When Hosting your Website.
How and where your website is hosted can affect its success at attracting visitors. Most people are completely unaware that their efforts at putting together a solid website can be derailed by low quality web hosting.
All your website's visitors must connect to your web hosting server to view your website. Your objective should be to make this process as easy as possible for legitimate traffic and as difficult as possible for hackers and other malicious traffic.
If you haven't already identified a reliable web hosting provider, be sure to consider these important factors before choosing a web hosting solution
Shared or Dedicated:
Most websites do well on shared web hosting (meaning your website sits on a server along with other websites). Dedicated web hosting, where your website is the only site or one of just a few sites on the server may become necessary if you plan on:
- Streaming media content
- Getting a huge amount of traffic initially after launching the website.
- Providing software as a service (SAS) to your website visitors
With most web hosting providers, including our company, web hosting is scalable so as your website grows in popularity so can move up to more robust web hosting plans.
Shared hosting is most always significantly cheaper than dedicated hosting because the hosting provider gets to share their cost amongst many users.
You should, however, be aware that many shared hosting plans tend to cram many websites on a single server, sometimes many thousands. This can have the effect of causing your website to load slowly in turn affecting user experience and your rank on search engines. Having thousands of websites and email accounts of different types on the same server also puts the overall server reputation at greater risk.
Each web server on the internet is assigned an I.P address. On a shared hosting environment a single I.P address is usually shared amongst thousands of users. You have no way of knowing what the other users on the server are doing with their website and email. It’s always up to the web hosting provider to make sure users on the server do not use the shared I.P address of the server to host malicious websites or use email for spamming. If the hosting provider fails in this effort, all users on a shared server will be negatively affected by a single user using their email or website for malicious purposes.
You should also be aware that the bad reputation of an I.P address can linger for years even after it has been disassociated from the server that originally caused the problem.
Use online tools like mxtoolbox.com to check the reputation of the DNS or I.P address of a hosting provider before signing up for hosting with them.
The closer your server is physically to your target audience, the faster your website will load for them. If you are targeting Jamaican visitors, go with a provider with servers in the United States. If you are targeting European visitors go with a web hosting provider with servers physically located there.
You always should try to balance the need for close proximity with a need for good uptime and reliability.
Uptime and Reliability
Ask your prospective web hosting provider about their uptime and reliability of service. Its common for many providers to state a 99% uptime guarantee.
Their terms of service should speak to a minimum guaranteed standard of service.
Even the best hosting providers will have problems from time to time. You should additionally ensure that your web hosting provider has a backup system in place to store versions of your information by date. Some provide backups at an additional cost or automatically integrated into their service offering. Be sure to ask which is the case. Having versions of your website files stored over a period of time will allow you to rollback to a previous configuration in case you get hacked or have some other type of system failure.
Managed Web Hosting and Other Value Added Services
At Blitz Web Design we offer managed web hosting services rather than just server space to put your website. Managed website hosting takes the hassle out of dealing with tasks on your server such as:
- Implementing a schedule for backups
- Creating and editing email addresses for users
- Upgrading software versions such at PHP, Apache, etc as needed when new versions are released.
- Monitoring the server health for potential threats before they happen
- On-going maintenance on the website code and content as requested.
Self-Hosted email on your own domain name
Most every web hosting package comes with the ability to have your own e-mail addresses at the same domain name as the website. If you want to have a professional online business and have your customers trust you, self-hosted email is a must. There's alot of spam that goes around the internet these days. Anyone can make an email address with Hotmail, Gmail or Yahoo but only the owner of a website can make an email address that has the website’s domain name in it.
This seemingly small detail can potentially make the difference between a customer responding to your email or ignoring it as spam.
Launching and Marketing your own website
Most websites go live on the internet without much fanfare. We always tell our clients that once your website goes live that is when the real hard work begins. That said, there are some preparatory steps you can take to boost your website traffic soon after it goes live on the internet:
- Harness an online blog community: Get a number popular bloggers in your niche to post articles about your website or online product. Try to get them to post at the same time on the same day giving a positive review of your website.
- Setup launch landing pages on your website explaining as clearly as possible what you are offering and how it can benefit your potential customer. Video is always a good medium to launch with as you can convey a lot of information in a short time.
- Boost visits to your launch landing pages with a targeted Pay-Per-Click campaign. Choose keywords best related to what you offer.
- Combine your online launch with a real-world in-store/in-office promotion if your business also has a physical location
- Send out an email blast informing your existing clients about your new website.
- Offer discounts for customers who sign-up through your website as opposed to other means
Spend the majority of your time, effort and spend implementing the website launch strategies listed above for a better chance at success. Still, many people think that a website launch has to entail a party or a press conference. In our experience, launching your website with a physical event is a toss up and not guaranteed to give you much traction or long term visitors.
The more quality content your website has the better chance it has to be found online. Clear, well written content should form the basis of your website marketing strategy.
Writing as an authority on your subject area has always been the best way to attract visitors to your website through search engines. Additionally, since most internet users now access content through social media, you will be able to multiply your content marketing and distribution effort by combining it with well-planned and consistent social media posts.
Content in the form of videos embedded on your text pages should also be a consideration. Videos tend to hold the attention of your audience longer. Your visitor retention time is a key indicator of how engaging your content is and will result in higher search engine rankings overtime.
Here are some cool ways to create content that gets your website seen:
- Write articles for your own website rich in keywords that help search engines lead people to those article pages
- Write an e-book or long-form article explaining in detail how to do/use/purchase a particular product or service that you provide.
- Promote landing pages on social media
- Give something away for free on your website. Require that persons sign-up to your newsletter in order to get the free stuff.
- Create an informative how-to video about a particular topic in your niche and encourage viewers to share it online through social media.
- Engage other websites in your niche to partner on content creation and sharing links in search engine friendly ways.
- Offer clients discounts for placing a link to your website on their website.
- Engage in popular online forums and discussion groups. Put your website link in your signature or mention it where appropriate.
- Do social media round-up pages where you catalog what people on social media are saying about your product or service.
The mistake many of our clients make at his stage is focusing too much on their homepage content. We’ve written extensively on why your homepage is no longer the most important page on your website and why you should be focusing much more on your inner pages and landing pages.
We normally recommend establishing your website first and then using social media to market your site’s content after.
Jamaica has an active social media audience across all the major social media platforms. Facebook reports that there are approximately 700,000 persons living in Jamaica that use their website so if your marketing strategy involves promoting to Jamaicans living on the island you should take this number into account.
Your particular social media strategy may be different depending on your product/service or target market. In some cases with some target markets, you may find that you won’t get much traction from social media at all because your niche's audience may be too low.
You should think of social media as a place to quickly share snippets of longer content items that may be available on your website. For example on Facebook, attention spans tend to be short. Create a unique and informative image (infographics) with large fonts that will attract clicks rather than just posting a link to an article on your website. Usually with all social media platforms you will get many more clicks by using infographic images rather than plain text.
You should also consider how the attention span of users differs across the major social media platforms. In order of decreasing attention span you have:
Youtube > Linkedin >Facebook > Twitter > Instagram
The length of your content should be tailored to match the attention span of users of these social media platforms.
Once you have gotten the attention of your social media audience you must engage. Engaging with your audience could mean offering a questionnaire, answering their question or concern or simply finding out more about their needs in other ways.
Social media and content marketing, put to good use can greatly help your website promotion efforts. Both of these online marketing strategies additionally form a good basis for search engine optimization.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
SEO speaks to a series of features on a website that contribute to the overall goal of increasing search engine rank position.
It should first be stated that SEO is an imprecise art. No one on planet earth can promise you any particular position on any particular search engine. Search engines such as Google operate as independent companies and determine their search engine rankings by their own proprietary measures. The best that your web designer can do is perform best practice optimization techniques to give you the best possible chance of having a high search engine ranking.
Many of the strategies which contribute to good SEO have already been discussed throughout this book. We won't list the more technical details of what goes into a good search engine optimization strategy here, suffice it to say that with any online strategy geared at attracting visitors, content remains king.
Do You Need a Web Developer or a Tech Partner?
After reading this our hope is that you will now be equipped with the questions and knowledge to go about building a successful website in Jamaica. Hopefully we're impressed on you that having a successful website is a long term process that requires effort and foresight.
More than just having the knowledge of what to do, there can be an enormous benefit to having experienced web developers as part of your team. This is where you must decide if you want a web development service provider in Jamaica or would rather have a web development partner. A partnership arrangement means that your service provider assumes some or all of the costs (and by extension some of the risk) involved with building your website in return for part ownership or a share of the revenue from your project or web company. Collective Names is one such Jamaican company offering technology Venture Services for web and mobile applications.
If you think your web development project would be better served by having a web development partner instead of just a service provider who you pay on contract, you should definitely apply for Venture Services assistance from Collective Names.
Track your results
Tracking the success of your website project is an important aspect of the overall website management process. Having established your goals for the website from the start you will now be able to look at different metrics to see how well your website's performance is now matching your initial intended objectives.
The simplest way to to know what's happening with your website is to have a feedback form that asks users for suggestions or comments in areas of concern to you. Running surveys on your website can also give you more detailed feedback that may be helpful in changing the future direction of your website.
Quite a few tools exist which you already have access to that can tell you even more detailed statistics about your visitors and how they interact with your site. Here are some of the tools that you should set up immediately after launching your website:
- Google Analytics: This is available for free to anyone with a gmail account. Setup Analytics on your website to see details of your web page's bounce rate, click-through rate, visitor retention time and an explanation of what these terms mean and why they are important.
- Google Webmaster Tools: Webmaster Tools like analytics helps you to determine certain key metrics happening with your website. Webmaster Tools has the additional benefit of guiding you in terms of your content organization and your search engine visitorship. Webmaster Tools can show you what keywords are getting you the most traffic and will serve as a helpful guide in creating content to better target the keywords that are working for you. You can also get insight into how your website structure and mobile compatibility affect your search engine rankings.
- Also, throw in a server side web statistics software like AW Stats. Server-side statistic software can be a little more accurate in terms of telling you how many unique visitors you have in any given month. Server-side stats will also tell you how much bandwidth your website is consuming so you will know how your content is being consumed by your users and how that consumption is affecting your web hosting spend.
- The level of visitor engagement on social media especially visitors directed to your social media pages from your website, is also good indication of how well your website is reaching your target audience.
The tools listed above are either all free or come with a standard web hosting plan. You should definitely take the time to learn these tools and use them to inform your website strategy over the lifetime of your project.
GO GET STARTED BUILDING YOUR WEBSITE!
We hope that in providing this free ebook we can better inform the Jamaican public on some tried and tested ways to ensure that building a website will turn a success. Along with the techniques presented here, your hard work, planning and determination to overcome obstacles along the way will put you ahead of the crowd in securing success for your website.
If you are in Jamaica or any part of the world and know someone planning to build a website, please share this ebook with them in hopes that it can guide their project toward success.
Brandt Fuller is C.E.O of Blitz Web Design Magazine and Agency. He's spent many years in the web development. Besides also being editor-in-chief here at Blitz Web Design Magazine, Brandt is our resident S.E.O expert and commentator on trends and technology news. My Google Plus.
- Advertise With Us
- Blitz Web Design Jamaica
- Blitz Website Templates, Themes and Trends
- Buy Beautiful Premium Joomla Templates and Themes
- Buy Beautiful Premium WordPress Themes Here!
- Buy HTML Website Templates Ready to Use!
- Buy Our Facebook Landing Page Templates and Increase Your Audience Engagement!
- Buy Premium Drupal Website Themes
- Buy Website Templates and WordPress Themes
- Church Html Templates
- Domain Registration: How to Choose a Name
- Hire Our Services From Anywhere in the World
- Law Firm Website Templates
- Mobile Layout Templates
- Our Web Design Clients
- Real Estate Html Templates
- Responsive Html Themes
- Stories On E-commerce And How to Accept Credit Cards Online
- Templates with Mobile Layouts
- Website Design, Web Content Writing, WordPress Websites
- Writers Website Templates