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

Articles/Press Releases

Weaving Your Website, Part Three

By Jane Eckert - Eckert AgriMarketing

(This is a 3 part series. Use the menu at the right to review part 1 or 2.)

In the first two articles on "Weaving Your Website", we discussed the importance of defining your purpose and audience for your website, and talked about some of the basic design components that make up a good website. Now it’s time to get down to what may be the toughest part of the job – communicating the experience of your farm through words and pictures.

I hope you have realized by now that people are not coming to your farm just to buy your tasty, beautiful, and nutritious fruits and vegetables. In fact, they are not coming just to see your farm. No, they are coming – not to see the farm – but to experience it! They want to breathe the air, see the rolling countryside, taste the fresh apple cider, touch the animals, and yes, smell the unique sweet mixture of hay, fruits, animals, and barnyard.

That’s why they come to the farm and why they return, year after year, season after season – to experience the farm. The challenge in preparing your website is to find ways to help them sense this experience, while still sitting in their family room at the computer. You must find images and words that relate this experience so effectively that they can’t wait to get there with the family!

Here are the four primary rules:

  • Use lots of large photos
  • Use as few words as possible
  • Use descriptive words
  • Use action verbs

 

This is the full image taken at Holy-Field Vineyard and Winery in Basehor,Kansas.
Here is the same photo, cropped to bring you closer to the experience.
Photography

Size: The best size for photos seems to be about one-third of your screen size, knowing that some of your site visitors will be using 15 inch monitors, while other may be use 21 inch monitors or larger. (If you are sizing the images yourself, you will typically be in the range of 250 to 350 pixels wide, at 72 dpi. The photos below are 250 pixels wide.) This size also keeps the photo file small enough that it will load fairly fast – knowing that no one is going to sit still very long waiting for a web page to load onto their screen.

Cropping: Most digital cameras take an image at 2048 x 1536 pixels in size or larger, so you are going to reduce these in size to get them onto the website.

But before you just shrink the photo, study it a moment. Determine what makes the photo is interesting. More than likely, only a portion of the photo is going to be interesting, so considering cropping the photo to just the interesting component, and then shrink what remains down to size. (see example)

This will give you a more interesting photo, and allow you to make the interesting aspects within that photo larger on the screen.
(for a better understanding of digital photography, see http://www.photo.net/equipment/digital/basics/)

Selection: Select your photos based on how well they communicate the experience of your farm. While you can set up a beautiful shot of the barn and grounds after hours, and get it just perfect, it will not show the experience of family’s enjoying their visit.

Creating good photos: Here’s a recommendation on how to get good “experience” photos. You need to pick a small group, say, a boy scout den or Sunday School class, and invite everyone in the group and their families to a free day at the farm. In exchange, they give you photo rights, and agree to give you 30 minutes of “posing” under your direction.

During your 30 minutes, pose the families so that several clusters of people are seen in each shot. One cluster may be eating cider donuts, another carrying fresh produce, and another of mom taking of picture of dad with the kids. In other words, create a single picture that shows lots of family experiences. Then move to another location, select another group of families, and capture more experiences in the second image.

Good copy: The secret to writing good copy is a red pencil. Think about and write out what your website visitor may want or need to know, and then take the red pencil and edit it shorter and shorter. Find the quickest, most interesting way to say what is needed. Often, websites can use bulleted lists to show something quickly, and bring more attention to the items. For example:

  • Enjoy our brand new Corn Maze
  • Select just the right pumpkins
  • Gather your fall decorations and party specialties
    • Indian Corn
    • Corn Stalks
    • Hay Bales
    • Gourds
  • Enjoy cold, farm-fresh cider and fall snacks
  • Don't forget our delicious fall vegetables
    • Winter Squash
    • Sweet Potatoes

Use action verbs, and descriptive adverbs and adjectives:

Instead of saying “Our cider is delicious,” try “You’ll love our delicious homemade cider!”

This also puts the emphasis on “you”, encouraging her or him to think about the experience of tasting fresh cider on the farm.

Good design: There are millions of resources and opinions on good design, almost all of them agree that you need to start from the basics. Pick just one or two font styles that go well together, and reflect your farm’s personality. If your’s is a bed and breakfast, perhaps you want to choose a slim Helvetica or sans serif font (tall and stately), or perhaps something more traditional, like a Times Roman, which has the serifs like old textbooks. Never use script fonts that look like handwriting, as these are often unreadable on a website.

Helvetica

Times Roman

Dom Casual

If you want fun and fantasy, look at some more modern fonts, such as Dom Casual, Journal, or Lucido for your headlines, although text copy should still be in a more basic, easy to read font such as Times or Helvetica. Use the same fonts throughout your website, and stick with a basic, dark color. Black or a dark green or blue are usually the most readable. Then you can use a second color for emphasis, such as your headlines or keywords.

Good match: There is no end to a discussion of how to create and design good websites, for there are thousands of variables and considerations. But the most critical factor is that you match your website to the experience you offer at the farm. If you offer bulldogging livestock, go for a website that helps them anticipate the macho experience! For the red hat ladies, your website should reflect elegance, leisure fun, and style. Let you web visitor see and read about the family fun for this year’s fall festival, with a totally new, trickier-than-ever, mystery corn maze.

Whatever your specialty, help them experience it online. Use pictures and words to convey the experience, and they’ll be eager to experience it again on your farm!

Jane Eckert is the founder of Eckert AgriMarketing (www.eckertagrimarketing.com), a full-service marketing and public relations firm that helps farmers to sell directly to consumers, diversify operations and become tourist destinations. She is also CEO of www.RuralBounty.com, a search directory for agritourism farms and ranches in North America. Jane can be reached at 314-862-6288 or you may email her directly.