Jet King Travels

This site features a newsletter facility powered by jNews from Joobi. It was my first attempt at supplying a newsletter function and it was successful!

The template used, AS002005 came from AS Designing. It didn’t need a lot of work. The main changes I made were to the header colours, fonts and the insertion of the Jet King logo of course. Overall an easy template to work with.

The owner can now create, edit and delete articles and publish new specials for customers. Articles relating to travel can also be added, increasing the attractiveness of the site to web users and search engines.

Flight Enquiry Form

Jetking Enquiry Form

Jetking Enquiry Form

Most of the work for me came from providing two check boxes at the end of the Flight Enquiry form to allow users to subscribe to the newsletter after they have filled out the form. jNews comes with a subscription box but it is separate and I wanted to encourage users to subscribe by saving them entering their email address for a second time.

After completing the Flight Enquiry form users can tick the “Subscribe to Newsletter” box. If all fields are OK an email is sent to the supplied email address so that they can confirm their email address. An email is also sent to the Jet King sales staff so they can check requested travel requirements and then contact the customer with the information ready to go.


Newsletters

Sample Jet King Travels newsletter, written by Rinet IT.

Sample Jet King Travels newsletter, written by Rinet IT.

A broader reach is obtained with the newsletter facility. The site can have a number of lists but currently Jet King only has one. For a number of news lists keeping the newsletters coming out would be a large job.

jNews has a throttling feature to prevent overloading the mail servers. The default is 20 emails followed by a 20 second pause. For a large number of emails sending out newsletters can take quite a while.

Sending out the newsletters is easy however. Click the send button and leave the browser page open until it’s done. I suspect that if the page is lost from the browser then the emailing process stops too. Best not to risk crashing your browser or your computer until the job is done!

Newsletter Creation

The free version of jNews comes with only one template but the purchased version includes quite a number of them.

You can create and edit your own newsletters using any of the installed editors. My preferred method is to not use the editor at all and use Dreamweaver to work with the HTML. If you have subscribers who have selected No HTML then you have to make a non HTML version as well. jNews does some of the work when you create a new newsletter, but subsequent changes do not seem to copy down.

Newsletter Statistics

jNews keeps track of some statistics including:

  • Mailing reports
  • List reports
  • Subscribers Reports

These can be fetched over a variety of date ranges and date intervals. There is a graphing facility but you need some data for anything meaningful to be shown, and this would occur after a number of newsletters have been sent out.

Mailout Limits

The list worked fine up to about 200 emails but after this there were problems hitting the host’s limit of 200 emails per hour. Worth trying out for the SMTP server is MailJet. But you need to be registered for a couple of days before the 200 email limit is removed. I also had problems with the php page timing out.

I also tried out Mail Chimp. This is an online newsletter marketing manager. The free account has very generous limits of up to 2000 emails for the list and 12,000 mailouts per month. There are also impressive statistics for your newsletter performance as well as some great looking templates. You can set up forms for use on your site but it’s always apparent that Mail Chimp is there. Not necessarily a good look for your business.

I think it’s worthwhile considering upgrading to jNews Pro, where you get a scheduling capability as well as some very effective templates. The emails are sent every hour until all of them are done and you do not need to be logged in for this as the scheduling is handled by the server. This would also avoid the time out problems. You also get much better statistics and the mailing list is managed “in-house”. Everything has your business name on them.

More information about jNews from the documentation.

Post jNews Pro Installation

jNews Pro is now installed and the scheduling works well, but there are a few quirks that are not mentioned in the sales brochure (as usual!). For scheduling to work the date must be set to the next day. The same day but a time in the future is not recognised by jNews. Effectively you cannot start a mail run whenever you want.

Scheduling Issues

The scheduling can overload your host even if you use jNews Pro’s recommended settings. The scheduler sent out too many emails, causing the site account to be disabled for a time which was not good at all. The “Scheduler max frequency” setting seems to be ignored. The only way to regulate the send rate is to set the cron task to about 20 minutes. The “Maximum emails per task” seems to work OK.

Another annoyance is the template management. If you pick one out and start changing it to suit yourself (ie, remove all jNews references) there are some background colours that just refuse to go. It seems to be based on the “default” template. I had mine set to “Elegant Navy” and the blue background just refused to go away. There was no reference to it in HTML. I fixed it by changing to the “Acajoom” template and starting over. Very frustrating!

Conclusion

After installing jNews I regret that I didn’t give the online mail houses a better go. The only problem with them is making the forms and letters looking like they are from your business. Some are better at this than others.

jNews caused some real heart ache including an outage of the entire site. Separating your mail out function from your site would remove this risk.

The templates, email scheduling and subscriber management are much better on the online mail houses. Mail Chimp, for example, tells you how many users opened your mail. Nice!

Next time a client wants newsletter functionality I won’t be using jNews!

 

This business has been sold and the Jetking website is no longer operating.

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