A farm with any marketing goals at all should have a website. Modern customers, when exposed to your business through any other marketing efforts (paid advertisements, press releases, brochures) are far more inclined to look to a website for more information than to make a phone call or stop by your farm. If you are promoting your business through any other medium but do not have a website for the people you attract to visit, you are missing a big opportunity to pull people in. Having a professional-looking website also provides credibility, and can be incredibly simple to build and maintain.
Elements of a good website
Good Content: Good website content should be readable and concise, subdivided for easy readability, and up-to-date. Be sure that the site provides the answers to the questions you are asked most often: what you grow, where a customer can purchase it, how to contact you, etc. Photographs are an excellent way to draw readers into your site.
Layout: Using standard layout norms for your site will make it useable and tidy. More details and a handy graphic are available in CISA's Marketing Manual referenced below.
Navigation: Most small farms have relatively small websites, so navigation shouldn't be a major challenge for your users. Make sure that as readers click through your website, there are "breadcrumbs" that make it possible to navigate back through the pages. All pages should be visible on the menus.
Design: Web design is a huge topic! See the manual referenced below for some basic guidelines.
Integration: Your website should be accessible from any other online presence you have, including social media like Facebook or Twitter, or online business profiles like CISA’s website or localharvest.org. Similarly, you can drive people toward your social media outlets from your website. And don’t forget to include your web address on your packaging, business cards, and in all forms of advertising!
Where to Start?
First, you need to decide what sort of design software and hosting you want to use. If you hire a web designer, they will often host your site in addition to building it. If you want to build a simple site yourself, there are many options for building and hosting sites for free.
Commonly used design and hosting services include:
- Weebly (weebly.com): Free hosting and simple drag and drop templates. Good place to start for website newbies.
- Wix (wix.com): Free, including hosting, and simple to use.
- Wordpress (wordpress.com): Basic level is free to use. Highly customizable- can be very simple or more complex. Gives users 3 GB to work with. This software seems to be the favorite and most popular of many different sources.
- Squarespace (squarespace.com): Free trial available and most basic option is $8/month. Design-conscious and easy-to-use drag and drop features.
Based on marketing workshops held in 2008-2009 and again in 2011-2012, Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA) has developed a marketing guide that includes more information about the elements of a good website, in addition to tools for developing a marketing strategy, utilizing press releases, designing print materials, and getting started on social media. The full manual is available as a free download here.
Claire Morenon is the Program Coordinator for CISA and wrote CISA's Marketing Manual. For questions regarding the Manual or its content, contact Claire at email@example.com.
If you are a Local Hero member farm, you can contact Devon Whitney-Deal, Local Hero Member Services Coordinator at 413-665-7100, ext. 22 or firstname.lastname@example.org to inquire about setting up one-on-one technical assistance with a web designer if you need help.