Marketing Tool: A Website for Your Farm
Any 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.
Elements of a Good Website
- Readable and concise: Some customers may be interested in reading in great detail about your growing practices, history, and passions, but the most effective websites are focused on making information as accessible as possible. 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. Readers should not have to scroll to find important information, unless you are purposely providing a lengthy narrative.
- Subdivided: Breaking up chunks of text improves readability. Create separate pages for separate topics, use headers and bulleted or numbered lists to make the pages easier to absorb.
- Illustrated: Photographs are an excellent way to draw people into a site, and farmers are usually fortunate to have beautiful settings and products to photograph!
- Up to date: Especially for businesses selling seasonal products, it is of vital importance that customers can trust that the information on your site is timely. Posting that you grow strawberries is useful, but posting that you have pick-your-own strawberries and you are open daily starting on June 1st is information that leads directly to a sale.
Using standard layout norms for your site will make it useable and tidy. The standard website has a logo and business name at the top, navigation across the top or down the left side of the page, content in the center, and the footer is often used for contact information. The right side of the site can be used for a search box or a sidebar.
Many small farms will 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. Redundancy, or giving people multiple ways to access a page, can be a useful tool. Don’t build any “orphaned” pages, or pages that can only be reached by following one hidden path. Pages should be visible on the menus and accessible through a number of paths. For a local business with a small website, there is no reason that customers should have to click more than three times to access any page from your homepage. Search engine optimization is a complex field, but there are simple things you can do to make sure that your site comes up easily when people search for it. Search engines prioritize headers on your site, so don’t use only bold or italics to highlight pages or sections. Page names are prioritized by search engines, so give each page on your site a unique name to provide more keywords that will lead search engines to your site.
- Contrast: If you have distinct elements on your page, make them visibly different enough that they stand apart. Links should be clearly visible, headers should be visibly larger than the body of the text, etc.
- Repetition: Be consistent! Use the same font, headers, photo size, etc throughout the site. The brain has to work to process lots of variation, so make it easy for your site visitors to scan your pages and find the information they are seeking.
- Alignment: Line up elements with a grid. Don’t place elements at random. If you have a menu box on top of a search box, make both of those elements the same width. Keep photo sizes consistent.
- Proximity: Group things together to imply a relationship. Adding bullets to a page menu can help people navigate the site must more easily.
Websites cannot, themselves, reach out and grab customers the way that paid advertising or flyering can. If you have the capacity to manage any social media efforts or a newsletter, your website will be a central piece of building an ongoing online relationship with customers. Include the web address on your packaging, business cards, and in all forms of advertising. Let customers know you exist through other forms of communication, and point them towards your website as their initial welcome to the farm.
Case Study #1: Robin Hollow Farm
Polly designed the Robin Hollow website herself with IWeb, saying, “I had some web skills, and I watched a LOT of tutorials on YouTube.” The site is modern, simple, and easy to navigate. It is consistent with Robin Hollow Farm’s other materials in general appearance and color choice, and is consistent in its use of the taglines and the logo.
This material is based upon work supported by USDA/NIFA under Award Number 2010-49200-06201.
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