What if I told you that 2017 was a good year for web design and E-Commerce in Trinidad & Tobago? Cart me off to St. Anns right? Most national indicators were actually UP in 2017, unfortunately not the good ones— crime (the real biggy), inflation, corruption to name a few, against the real losers— the economy, me, you, tanty and nennen mostly catching ‘we nennen’.
The surprising winners were websites and E-Commerce which even had Robert L. Ripley (you youngsters just Google), shaking his head. There were only two reasons for this:
- Economic survival necessity
- General business necessity
It’s the second point that’s more telling; local businesses are just moving forward, getting with the program, no more epiphanies, just business.
This is my annual review which I do , er, annually, where I, er, review, what happened, what didn’t happen, and what coulda, shoulda, wudda happened in web design and E-Commerce in T&T this past year. I normally break it down by quarters and overall plus give my expectations/predictions for the new year, so here goes.
Website Design & E-Commerce in 2017
Except for a four-month Trini ‘GRAS’ (— I don’t know the etymology of this local slang, so forgive the spelling, but it essentially refers to a prolonged dry-spell); MY YEAR overall showed NO drop in business, meaning that other months picked up the slack. I was able to finish most of my initial sites along with a few brought over from 2016.
I’ve long given up the hope to ever finish projects in the 6-8 weeks that clients like to hear. IT HAS NEVER HAPPENED and NEVER WILL. Not due to my fault, it’s always on the part of the client who can’t put together information timely.
First Quarter 2017- Slow then steady for website projects
I got one lone project in January which I didn’t mind as I always try to push to close those from the year just ended. Ironically, this site was only officially closed days before Christmas, so was first to open 2017 and last to close. FYI, this site is Caribbean Petrochemicals & Inspection Services (C.P.I.S.) and a rare South site as for some reason I get clients from mostly Central and North Trinidad.
Also in first quarter I got a couple of well known national names Reliable Appliances and Alston’s. Reliable launched by mid-year and the site has been doing great. This company had NO social media presence and it just exploded when their Facebook page was launched.
I got the feeling it was going to be a slow year generally but I saw no red flags, I felt the economy was depressing things as expected.
I want to dwell on Reliable Appliances a bit more. This project materialized via a partnership with a local advertising company called Hot Pepper Ltd. I had met the owner, Nicole Phipps a few years back when I was hired independently for one of her clients and we kept in contact. It’s my absolute PLEASURE to feature Hot Pepper Ltd., in this article and I wholeheartedly recommend her for all her services. I’ll do a full write up in a separate article.
Consultation with Ministry of Trade on National E-Commerce Strategy
A notable bright spot was getting an email from the Ministry of Trade for my input as a stakeholder in local E-Commerce. This would continue during the year till the final strategy was officially launched in December. And I really have to commend them for reaching out beyond the token consultation one normally expects; they were genuinely interested in feedback. But I believe they were compelled to reach out as scarcely anyone in the country has any clue about the workings of local e-commerce.
Second Quarter 2017- GUAVA SEASON and then some!
Well Lawdie Miss Claudie and bloody hell, EVERYTHING DRIED UP! And I mean dry, dry, dry. No phone calls, no emails nothing. My wife even asked me to check if my website was up, it was so bad. In my office I have a whiteboard with all projects listed by month, and for the first time I had to dispense with the monthly list and write APRIL to JULY… and only 2 projects!
Though it didn’t last, it was a bit scary that perhaps the economic climate finally manifested in my industry to such an extent, I mean slow is one thing but dead stop?
Third Quarter 2017- There you are, that's more like it!
Thanks August for heading off a stroke! I was seriously contemplating farming. I got a nice project from a local plastic bottle manufacturer, which is also a rare project as most clients are general business. FYI I do have other large manufacturers in my portfolio- Chief Brand Products, Nutrimix Feeds, SMI Industries come to mind.
The company is called Dynaplas and it’s still in progress. It will be an E-Commerce site using WIPAY and will target the export market.
E-Commerce projects finally come
Dynaplas set the tone for the rest of the year. E-Commerce started it’s ascent— phone calls, emails and all manner of inquiries started flowing once again and very robust. There was really a discernible upward momentum that would carry on for rest of year.
Fourth Quarter 2017- Seems like old times
While the rest of T&T were bawling, it’s all sunshine and roses for me. I’m fortunate to be in the right business one; and two, I’m peaking at the right time as now I really know my stuff and I’m known as one who knows his stuff. I’m also known to give away the farm (not that one!) as I I freely impart my knowledge.
Largest online store in country launched
This site happens to be my largest project to date and had been in the works since 2016. It’s a Magento store using the First Atlantic Commerce (FAC) payment gateway. The product catalog is 20,000 products which would make it the largest of any local online store in Trinidad & Tobago.
But it’s going to be dwarfed in 2018 by an even bigger Magento store for a large national retailer which I’ll be starting in the New Year. I can’t reveal yet, so all in good time.
Foreign Exchange Blues for USD Green
The lack of USD has forced some creative solutions by some people and I’ve gotten calls and emails asking for my take on how to earn USD via websites. I’ll tell you what I’ve told them. If you have an online store here in T&T, any transaction that originates here is settled in TTD. Because the customers is using a credit card doesn’t mean you’re earning USD. Only if you make a sale outside T&T do you earn USD. More on this in an article in early 2018.
General 2017 Highlights
In addition to the quarterly breakdown, let me touch on specific areas of interest with regard to local website design and more importantly E-commerce.
WIPAY Payment Solution Update
Having chance to field-test WIPAY and interact with the company for various clients, there are both positive and negative elements to report. On the positive side, I’ve signed up quite a few clients and I’m glad that we have them as an alternative to PayPal, very accessible, affordable and easy to integrate. Negatively though, this company is very Trini. I’ve received direct phone calls all the way from New York with complaints about WIPAY’s sign-up process, that they are hard to get responses from and that their site lacks information. I’ve had to use my ‘contact’ to push for resolutions which shouldn’t be.
If WIPAY doesn’t brush up on these soon I do believe the market is ripe for a competitor. WIPAY also hasn’t cemented their brand so there isn’t much to protect. I believe a new entrant can easily roll over them and establish a better payment service. There are a few other limitations I’ve observed with WIPAY, and all will be detailed in a separate WIPAY review article.
E-Commerce set-up process still fuzzy
People interested in setting up online stores appear to still be unsure about the process and the options available. While I have many articles describing the process, my permanent How E-Commerce Works in Trinidad & Tobago- a Concise Guide was meant to summarize the entire thing in one place. I will revisit this guide early in 2018 and try to improve.
PayPal still on people's minds
Despite the introduction of WIPAY, people still keep asking about PayPal, I’ve received numerous questions via comments on my old PayPal article asking about set-up and how to withdraw funds back to T&T. I believe many are still unaware of WIPAY but I also believe that many are just hung up on PayPal and can’t let go.
My advice is to PLEASE LET GO. PayPal is too much of a headache to get working right, they limit monthly withdrawals and force account creation for those who don’t have one in order to pay.
Ministry of Trade- E-Commerce Strategy Officially Launched
The official document is “National e-Commerce Strategy 2017-2021”, and it was officially announced Wednesday 6th Dec 2017 at the Trade Ministry, Nicholas Tower, Port of Spain. As of publishing this article, there is still no link to it on any government website which is no surprise; I would have been surprised if there was one. I have a full review already prepared which will be my first article of 2018.
Articles still my bread & butter
Man, my articles continue to reap huge dividends! Seldom do I get an inquiry without mention of my articles and how helpful they’ve been.
Comment of the year award!
What's new from Forward Multimedia in 2018?
There’s going to be a slew of new things in the new year and all are already in the works.
- Full update of my site content, EVERYTHING— new banners, images, all services rewritten from scratch in new format.
- First video tutorial in January, starting topic— you guessed it: E-COMMERCE’, which I’ll do on a whiteboard. I’m calling the series FORWARD WHITEBOARD which I’ll do once per month.
- Full court press on my TT Online Store Directory; I’m really going to push for E-Commerce plus put pressure on the Ministry of Trade to implement their E-Commerce Strategy.
Completed sites launched in 2017
I usually complete about half a dozen sites in any year with the majority remaining works in progress. Partly because it’s just me and one freelance assistant and I’ve chosen to remain a small operation. I keep getting ‘Zaf you could have such a huge business why don’t you expand”, but I’ve seen big business and I want no part of it. As I write this I’m shut down till after New Years Day and I’ve been winding down all of December which most business owners can’t do, especially in our economy.
Here are my completed projects, you may click the logos to open up the websites for a look-see. As I close the year a glance at my board shows that nine (9) websites are still pending that are 2017 sites of which three (3) are very close to completion and should be launched before end of January.
Click logo to visit website
Global web design trends for 2018
I’ll just mention a few briefly here for completeness as you can easily Google the same authoritative sources I use. T&T is hardly a trendsetter in the world of web design, we’re not even good adopters obviously, after all, we’ve only gotten in the game after two decades.
And a little joke about this: a 2016 client from Central, a big sign company, hired me to redesign their ancient website but apparently wanted the design to move in the same natural progression of design trends. By the time I finished the homepage it looked like a site from the early nineties. They also wanted the same desktop layout on mobile devices with the menu straight across and not the standard ‘burger’ style menu. Needless to say, they dropped me as I obviously didn’t know what I was doing.
Back to 2018 trends, what are they and should you care? Well the trends are more creative use of typography, animated visual elements, emphasis on video, more interactive content, unconventional layouts. No doubt a very modern and up to date website will be a plus, but I would be judicious and not over zealous in using them. The key is using tastefully. You wouldn’t want your visitor bawling “Oh gawd, mih eye, mih eye!”
My predictions for website design & E-Commerce 2018
Nothing spectacular, just a continuation of the slow steady march. Overall I expect that website design will continue to grow in Trinidad & Tobago but not by leaps and bounds. We’re past the point of ‘the website is a strange and wondrous thing, we should get one’. Trini business owners all know that the website is as standard as a business card, it’s a matter of getting around to it.
E-Commerce will continue its ascent however, there will be many more players; many big brands will make their debut. With the introduction of WIPAY, many smaller sites will offer convenient online payment. I also expect that service-oriented business will come on board.
I do expect that social media will be the go-to tool of 2018 with focus on Facebook advertising via campaigns and boost-posts.. Video will also feature more prominently as it’s the general trend in the industry and Trinis are waking up to it’s value. Facebook’s ‘slideshow’ feature makes it easier to create simple videos out of images as more professional video production is expensive.
There is a lot of interest in Mobile Apps locally but it’s very expensive and few reliable freelancers available. It’s hard to monetize in our local market to be worth the investment and one has to really design and execute well. I don’t see any uptick in mobile apps except for the bigger companies and perhaps a couple of independents but they will be few and far apart.
I’ll be surprised if any of the Ministry of Trade’s National E-Commerce Strategy sees the light of day, and like I said before, I’ll try to work with them. I’ve long accepted how local politics work.
Well there you have it. My take on what was and what might be. I can conclude that 2018 is going to be a great year for website design and E-Commerce in Trinidad & Tobago despite the bad economic outlook. Thank you to all my loyal clients and readers for a good year. I will continue as I’ve been doing, freely passing on what I know as it has always been my pleasure. See you here again in 2018!
NEW YEAR ARTICLE MADNESS! Never miss an article!
If you are a regular reader or not, I urge you to sign up to receive advance notifications of pending and published articles. In 2018. Not only will you be notified as soon as a new article is out, but like I mentioned earlier I’m updating my entire website, so I’ll also inform you when rewritten pages are live.
Also, I have a NEW newsletter in 2018 I call ‘SPICY’ which will have additional info, plus some more personal insights that i won’t share in my articles. So SUBSCRIBE before you go.
Forward Multimedia’s Regular Newsletter provides general news and updates to clients (subscribed automatically) and non-clients who subscribe.
My Exclusive Newsletter provides giving additional insights, tips and info, plus VALUABLE STATISTICS about website usage and online shopping in Trinidad & Tobago that won’t be on my site and articles