Website hosts and builders
Wes Knepp needed a website to showcase his Shorthorn show cattle. The 20-year-old farms with parents, David and Lisa, near Plymouth, Indiana.
“We set it up with a friend's help,” he says. “Our photos had to be re-sized because many clients don't have broadband. We're learning through trial and error. It's still a work in progress.”
His site (plainviewgrainfarms.com) is in good company. Today, millions of websites have sprouted up on the Internet. Few were created by computer whizzes who love technology. Most grew out of a desire to connect to people.
The growth in direct marketing is one key factor driving the decision to create farm websites. Jane Eckert, CEO of Eckert AgriMarketing, St. Louis, Missouri, has worked with many farmers to design, host, and maintain sites.
“A website is similar to a value-added enterprise,” she says. “You can start with a small investment, establish a presence, and if you keep your information updated, it will grow. Your site should have a personality to match your farm, and it should motivate people to visit or buy your products.”
An increasing number of farmers – like the Knepps – want to promote a separate enterprise such as custom baling or seedstock. Others simply aim to put a face on their business through their website.
Building a site is easier than ever, but it still requires asking strategic questions:
● Who is your key audience?
● What do your customers expect and want to know?
● What action do you want your customers to take?
● Do you expect them to visit regularly?
● What is your website budget?
Once you've answered these questions, the first step is to register a unique website domain name also known as a Universal Resource Locator (URL).
One of the easiest and cheapest domain name services is www.GoDaddy.com. The cost is $9.99 per year. Many web design companies wrap this cost into their design package.
The second step is selecting a web host (a computer server to store your site, share your files, and capture data on site visitors). It's also possible to host your own site. (For details, see table on the next page.)
A web host charges a development fee as well as monthly or annual ongoing costs for services such as storing backup copies of your site and protecting it from viruses and hackers. Most offer 24-hour phone support. Be sure to ask about:
● Technical knowledge/time required.
● Maintenance needed.
● Available storage space (and backup).
● Accessibility (remote access; security).
● Bandwidth needs (formula is average number of page views × average page size × 30 days in a month).
● Domain name services.
Before selecting a host, go online and read reviews of websites at free-webhosts.com, freewebspace.net, findmyhost.com, and webhostinggeeks.com.
The third step is choosing your design. This is more than a logo, masthead, or graphics; it includes the site structure and navigation elements. “The design component is critical,” Eckert says. “It must be geared to your audience.”