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"I want the family farm - the backbone of our country's heritage - to thrive and survive for future generations."

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Put Your Website in the Hands of Your Customers
By: Jane Eckert

The use of our smartphone’s and tablets is now a major part of daily life.  Most of us—and more importantly, most of our customers—don’t have time to always be in front of a desktop computer to get emails or to look on the Internet.  On the go constantly, we rely constantly on our smaller screen devices ever at hand. 

According to an independent survey company, SeeWhy, people are less inclined to power up their laptops or desktops once they get home at night, but they don’t have the same resistance to using their tablets. And more of those people may not have PCs at home at all.

The Boston-based study found that “ten percent of respondents admitted that they had bought something (online) while on the john, or at least in its vicinity. The bathroom actually placed last out of all locations in the home, after the living room (44 percent), bedroom (23 percent), kitchen (19 percent), and outside (14 percent), but this WC stat still shows just how powerful tablets are becoming as a virtual storefront.”
And those numbers just apply to tablet devices the home.  Look around you in stores, restaurants, on the street, and even at the driver in the car next to you—chances are you’ll see plenty of people on their smartphone or tablet.  Reviewing the statistics from our own web clients, we see many farms realizing more than 50% of the site visitors are using smartphones and tablets.  One Little Rock pumpkin patch had 73% of his site visitors using mobile devices in 2014, and a 12-month farm in Parkville, Maryland is consistently seeing 61% mobile web users. To the north, a Brampton Farm with well over 200,000 site visitors annually had 59.7% of their 2014 visitors connect using smartphones or tablets.

So what does all this have to do with your farm business?  Pleasing your customers.  Here’s what Google says:  A recent survey revealed that a poor mobile website experience would drive 1 in 3 web guests to a competitor.  The Google sponsored research found that half of smartphone Internet users said that “even if they liked the business, they would use it less often if its website failed to meet their mobile-friendly standards.”

Ouch!  If you have not yet made your website design friendly to these smaller screens, now is the time to consider doing so!  And to do this, you have two or three options.  Some businesses have two websites, with a primary website, and then a mobile website designed specifically for smartphones.  The concern is that smartphones have different size screens, and there are also tablets of various sizes that are too small for viewing the primary website, but too large for the mobile site.  There are also time and cost factors, which we’ll look at in a moment.

Here at Eckert AgriMarketing’s FarmWebDesign, after a few years of creating mobile friendly websites, we now instead recommend that our clients use an alternative design called a “responsive” website.  Rather than having two websites (primary site and a mobile site), the Responsive Web Design (RWD) detects the user’s screen size, and reconfigures appropriately.  Based on your customer’s needs, the layout will change, fonts will resize, and images will resize or be “hidden” to provide the ideal viewing on the device in hand.  While some templates provide a basic responsive design, a skilled web developer can customize the responsive site so that smartphone viewers have all the key information right at their fingertips.  This custom work significantly improves page loading time, readability, user-friendliness, and even provides direct dial buttons for customers who want to call.

 “RWD is an approach to provide an optimal viewing experience—easy reading and navigation with a minimum of resizing, panning, and scrolling—across a wide range of devices (from desktop computer monitors to mobile phones)” according to the Nielsen Norman Group.

From the perspective of the business operator, there are several other advantages to the responsive web design.  First of all, you will reduce your upfront costs by paying for a single website instead of both the mobile site and a primary website.  The responsive website does require more programming and testing, but typically the cost over a standard website will only increase by 20 to 30%, saving you up to 80% of the cost of the second website. 

Secondly, in terms of updating the website, there is only one responsive website to review and update, versus two.  Whether you are doing updates yourself, or paying a designer for his or her time, this is a savings that will only grow as time goes by. 

In summary, the advantages to implementing a responsive web design strategy for your business are as follows:

  • A single RWD will save you money over creating two separate websites.
  • A single RWD will be a time saver and more efficient.  Your web designer will only have to make changes to your site once and not worry about a second design.
  • A single RWD will provide site uniformity for your URL (domain) and hence should improve your overall Search Engine Optimization (SEO) efforts.
  • A single RWD will make it easier for your existing customers to find information quickly in either format.

 

The Internet world keeps changing and our need to maintain a current and effective website remains one of your most important marketing tools for your business. I encourage you to talk to your web designer about the RWD format or give our designers (Danny & Bill Mauk) a call if you have any questions.

In November 2013, Joshua Steimle addressed responsive websites for Forbes Entrepreneur, saying: “… if your company depends on its website enough that losing the business it brings to you would be a serious blow, getting a responsive website before the end of the year should be your #1 online marketing goal.”

The research is now telling us that in 2015 mobile devices will overtake desktop PCs as the major global Internet platform, and you need to be prepared for this eventuality.  In short, you need a website that is available anywhere, including people that are on the go.

Jane Eckert, a national speaker, author and agritourism expert, is principal of Eckert AgriMarketing (www.eckertagrimarketing.com), a firm that helps farmers sell products directly to consumers and develop their operations into tourist destinations, and Farm Web Design, an Internet marketing firm specializing in agritourism farm websites.  She is also CEO of RuralBounty.com, a consumer based directory of agritourism farms in North America. Jane can be reached by phone 314-862-6288 or at jane@eckertagrimarketing.com