have needs unique to the world of web building. Of
course, any business can claim that. A hotel needs to be able
to show their rooms, and would like to take reservations online.
A retail store would like to post their products... and possibly
sell them. But small family farms are unique for several reasons:
- More often than not, small farms
produce products that don't ship well. The FDA might have
something to say about a farm shipping eggs UPS second day
- Small farms often offer a wide variety
of experiences and products which make organizing the site
difficult and counter-intuitive. For example, a farm might
offer hand make soap, wool yarn, farm visits, bed and breakfast
stays, and tea on the lawn in July.
- Small farms generally need to update
their pages frequently as their inventories change, which
gets prohibitively expensive if you're paying someone else
to maintain the site.
- Small farms often haven't considered
marketing, or advertising, as part of their overall farm
budget, and are uncertain how to calculate "ROI"
or "return on investment" for their advertising
dollars... so they simply don't advertise.
Does your farm need a professional
web presence? We've
put together this series of questions to help you answer that
- Do you check your email
at least once a day and are you comfortable answering email
even when the people writing you are sloppy with their spelling
and punctuation? Bottom
line: you will find yourself "talking" to people
in email who ask you the most amazing questions, or contact
you to share their farm experiences as a child, or who just
seem flat out flaky. All of them must be responded to courteously,
using business English. You have no way of knowing if the
person on the other end of that email is just cruising the
net, or someone who can do you a real promotional service
because she's head of her spinning guild. If you don't have
the time to spend answering an average of 5 new emails a
day... do not upgrade your website.
- Is your site a business
site... designed to promote sales... or more of a hobby
site, designed to describe what you are doing and how much
you enjoy it? We are very enthusiastic about backyard
farming as a wholesome, wonderful, hobby. And have built
a site dedicated to sharing our enthusiasm. But a hobby
site and a business site are two entirely different things.
If you want a professional site for your hobby, and you
have the budget to spend on it, by all means, hire a designer
and wow the world. But if your farm is a hobby run on a
shoestring, and you don't have enough product to sell to
break even on your hosting fees, let alone pay a designer,
you might want to wait to put up a professional site until
you do have goods or services to sell.
- Have you set up a budget,
do you have an idea of how much you can afford to spend
on your web presence, both as an upfront investment, and
in ongoing fees? Never
mind what such things actually cost... what do you want
to spend? When we decided to bring animals back onto our
farm, we set a budget. What we could afford to invest in
the project. Then we went shopping and discovered we'd budgeted
much too little for the expectations we had. So we scaled
back our expectations. If you don't set a budget,
and stick to it, a web designer will drain your bank account.
They aren't doing it because they're greedy, but
because your bank account isn't their problem... they have
been tasked with building you a great site. And if you don't
stop them, or set clear limits, they'll reach for the moon.
- And in that same vien...
Do you have a clear picture of what you absolutely must
have on your site, what you'd like to have, and what you'd
hang on there is there is money left over? Web
designers are like the computers they use... they do what
you tell them to. So if you change your mind in the middle
of the design, it gets very expensive, very quickly. You
need to make not only the types of pages you want on your
site clear to your designer, but the tone (cute, warm, cool,
professional), the colors you want, any special limitations
or expectations you have. Most designers will cut you some
slack... none of them will cut you 9 yards of it.
- If you're going to be maintaining
the site yourself, do you have the software, time, and expertise,
to do so? In some
cases, it may in fact be a better use of your time to pay
someone else to maintain your site. And, rather than paying
them cash money to do so, you could offer them a "piece"
of the site. I'm sure you've seen, or heard of, free hosting
services which host your site for free in exchange for hanging
banner ads on your pages. If you don't have the expertise,
or time, to maintain your site and keep it growing, it never
hurts to ask your designer if they'd like use of some pages
in exchange for help in keeping the site exciting. For example,
your designer could build an Amazon.com bookstore for your
site... and take any profits from the sale of books. This
invests the designer in the success of your site, and you
get a free page which pumps up your site. If you are going
to maintain the site yourself, make sure you understand
what they've done to your site, what your file size limitations
are, and how to save any changes you make... so you don't
wipe out your new site!
So... are you a small farm ready
for a big web presence?
If so, you can jump right in and make your first decisions
about your new site, or, at the bottom of this page, you'll
find links to additional articles and resources.
If you're ready to go online, you
need to make your first decision:
Make your choice and we're on
Budgeting for a Web Presence: Anticipated
Ecommerce: selling online without
inventory (or tears)
Ecommerce: The Powerful Hosting Retail Store: full ecommerce
at a bargain price (coming soon!)