How to build a Website

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Photo from Homesweet Homegrown

A website is one of the best things you can do to boost your credibility and online visibility. If you want more control over what consumers can learn about your farm, and make it even easier for them to find you both online and in person, it’s time to build a website! 

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There are so many reasons to build a website: 

  • Keep organized: Your social media feeds are inconvenient to scroll through, and sometimes outdated. A website is a great place to state your contact information, market hours, and growing practices so that people can quickly find them.
  • Save paper and money! Instead of printing out brochures about your farm, simply direct your customers to your website.
  • Be available 24/7:  Think about what customers usually ask you...and let your website do the talking! 
  • Be easily found: Customers are re-assured when they can find out about your business online.
  • Look credible: an informative and visually-appealing website can win the most skeptical consumers over. Make sure to highlight your farm’s certification(s) and location somewhere on the homepage.
  • Tell your story: A website has more options for sharing news, photos, and formatting knowledge so it's easy to find.

No, you don't have to hire a designer.

You may think that building a website requires coding skills, but today’s tools are actually very intuitive and well designed. Skip hiring a professional, and design it yourself! For free or as little as $5 a month, you can have a website that is smart-phone friendly and dynamic.

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How to build a website, from start to finish:

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Photo from Sassafras Hill Farm

1. Consider the purpose of your website. Doing this will help you decide what services you'll want on your website. Do you want to...

  • Share your farming stories? Consider websites that have blog pages.
  • Sell products online? Maybe you want to sell jars of honey online, or even CSA subscriptions. Consider websites that have e-commerce options.
  • Connect with your customers? Consider websites that can help you collect emails for your newsletters. Some websites even help you write newsletters.

2. Choose a platform for your website.  Website builders know how to buy a domain, build a custom website, and how to choose a host for that website, but if that sounds like too much work for you, don't worry! There are plenty of great services today that can host your website and even help you build it. 

You can build your own website easily with the help of the services below. In addition to the information we provide, you might be interested in this great summary written by PC Mag on what website platforms are offering, and how to decide which one to use. Weebly and Wix are the most generous in terms of their free websites, but all of them are reliable and free or affordable options.

  • Weebly: All you need to start building your Weebly site is a name, an email address, and a password. The most basic account is free, and you can upgrade to have features like an online store. Botany Bay Farm uses Weebly - check it out! 
  • Wix: The most basic wix website costs $8/month, which is a great value for what you get: a standard website, blog, or online store. They were rated the best website service by PC Mag because their templates are easy to edit. What's more, they store images you've uploaded to your site so you don't have to re-upload them.
  • Squarespace: With less templates and more limited templates, Squarespace might be a good option if you're easily overwhelmed by too many choices. You can choose to have a store on your website, and there's free compatibility with MailChimp, which is a newsletter building service. Olivette Farm's website is an example.
  • Small Farm Central: Small Farm Central was founded in 2006 to serve the technology needs of farmers. Their team can help you through the ins and outs of building a website, and they even have a CSA subscriber tool (called the Member Assembler) to help you organize your CSA data. Here's an example of what their websites look like (this farm is CNG!). 
  • Wordpress: If you want a free website that's highly customized, you might want to try out Wordpress. Steel Wheel Farm's website is an example.

3. Choose a domain name for your site. A domain name represents a specific place on the internet, usually following the format of websitename.com. Most of the platforms above will be included in the domain name, unless you purchase your own domain. For example, if you use Wordpress, your site will look something like yourfarmname.wordpress.com.  If you want to own your domain name so that it ends immediately with a .com, your website will be easier to remember and will look more professional. It could look something like yourfarmname.com.

GoDaddy.com is a good place to buy your domain. Owning your own website that ends in .com is as cheap as $2.99/month. Another option is Bluehost.com, which is a little bit more expensive ($3.49/mo), but has perks like a free email that's associated with your website (sue@yourfarmname.com, for example). Having an email with your domain name is also more professional.

How do you pick a domain name? Your domain should match the name of your farm, and should be easy to spell. If your domain is already taken, keep the farm name in the website and try adding the name of your town or state at the end.

Once you've purchased your domain, take the steps (they're a little different for each platform) to install your website to that domain.

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4. Set up your website

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Once you've chosen the platform for your website, and chosen your domain name, you're almost there! Next, choose a theme or template for your site (like the Wordpress themes, above). There's typically hundreds of free layouts to choose from. The above platforms all have "responsive" themes, which means they look good on phones and desktop computers alike. 

When you're choosing a theme, think back to the brainstorming you did before. Do you want a blog on the site? Or maybe you want to highlight your beautiful farm photos? Keep those things in mind when choosing a theme.

5. Make your homepage.

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Every website has a unique landing page. What you include on it is entirely up to you! Maybe you want to keep it simple with a photo of your farm and your contact info? Or maybe you want it to be a hub of information, with your Instagram feed and your market locations. Olivette Farm (website above), makes it easy for people to join their CSA with a button on the homepage. Regardless of your approach, here are the things you need on your homepage:

  • Put your logo somewhere prominent, like the top left corner, where eyes begin to scan as they read a page.
  • Add your social media accounts somewhere on the side or bottom of the page, and link it to your feed
  • Keep it simple: consider making the background a beautiful, high resolution photo of your farm or the food you grow. See Moon Dog Farm's website as an example. 

6. Design your About Us page. Everyone likes to know more about their food, and who grew it. Make your About Us page short and sweet. Mention who the site is for--your customers--and what they can do on your website (can they ready your blog posts, or sign up for your newsletter?). Also take a moment to explain why your farm is different from others like it. Be sure to include a high-quality photo of you and your farm family or farm team. Everyone wants a face behind their food! Here's an example of what Tumbleweed Farm explains with just a few sentences and a photo. 

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7. Consider adding a Blog or Recipe page.  

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Most of the above platforms have a built-in blog that will appear as another page on the site. A blog is another really great way to drive traffic to your website, since a website with more pages comes up faster in Google searches than a website with fewer. Lucky for you, blog posts count as "pages." 

Go ahead, try blogging! Blog posts should be short; just 200-300 words, studded with a few quality photos. Your first post can be about the launching of your new website. Use this opportunity to tell readers about you, your inspiration, and what you hope to accomplish through your website. 

Future posts could be as personal or informational as you want. Why not write about...

  • your first day of planting
  • an upcoming farm tour
  • first day at the farmer's market
  • the aftermath of a snowstorm or heavy rain
  • seeding in the greenhouse
  • your favorite meal to make with rutabaga (this looks so good, Steel Wheel Farm!)
  • reflections of the past year, and words of gratitude (such heart-warming words from Moon Dog Farm!)

A blog post can be a great tool for marketing, too. If you want to share that your CSA membership sign-up is open, for example, a simple announcement on facebook doesn't cut it. Write a blog post about your CSA season that your CSA members can share on facebook and via email. Just post that link on Facebook or Twitter, and tell your followers to share it with their friends. Explain what kind of produce to expect in your CSA season, how to sign up for it, how to pay for it, and when the CSA begins and ends. 

8. Pour some coffee and get started!

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photo from Tumbleweed Farm's Andrea Bemis

WANT MORE? 

You can download our extended PDF version of this lesson by clicking on the button below! We'll also give you tips on some great plug-ins and how to install them. 

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