Updated: Feb 17, 2022
Believe it or not, it's already three weeks into 2022. It's high time you start putting all those promises you made about improving your business marketing into action. For many of you, that starts with building a better and more effective cannabis website. The days of getting by with a website that looks like it was made in the early 2000's are long over.
Whether you are a cannabis farm looking to reach more consumers, a dispensary that's hoping to increase foot traffic, or an auxiliary cannabis service company wanting to expand your client base, a sleek, modern, easy to navigate website is essential. Best of all, premium web design is more affordable than ever, so there's no reason not to take the plunge in 2022.
Before you hitch your wagon to a specific web designer, it's a good idea to consider what type of website you need. We are constantly looking at the latest design trends and technology advances so that we can always offer our clients the cutting edge in web design. Here are a few tips and tricks you should consider when designing a cannabis website in 2022.
Pick The Right Web Platform
I've learned from bitter experience it's easy to make a quick decision about where you're going to build your new website and regret it later. Ideally, every cannabis business owner would take the time to carefully research where they are going to host their website and what platform they are going to build it on. Unfortunately, the reality is that these decisions often get made quickly and without proper consideration, and you end up getting stuck with hosts that are difficult or that raise their prices out of the blue.
The first thing you need to know is the difference between your domain registrar, your web host, and your website platform. The domain registrar is the company you pay to register your URL, for example hoodcollective.com. This fee will usually be quite small, between 10-15 dollars per year, and your domain host will likely waive this fee in year one. If you already have a domain, then you'll need to have access to the registrar information to make sure your new site is pointed to the right web address.
The first BIG decision you'll need to make is about a web host. This is the company you pay to actually save your website files. Popular hosts include GoDaddy and HostGator. They will often offer great deals if you sign up with them for 3-5 years. The only problem is that many of these hosts have terrible customer service, and once your promotion price expires, the hosting costs will likely increase by 5x or more. They know what a pain in the ass it is to switch hosts without losing any of your content and functionality, and so people are stuck. You definitely want to avoid getting to a point where you feel like you are stuck with a web host you can't stand.
The other decision you'll have to make is what platform to build your website in. One of the most popular web building platforms is Wordpress, which is free to use with thousands of templates to choose from, though many people elect to purchase premium themes for a nominal fee. Typically, when you hire a web designer to create you a Wordpress site, the cost of a premium template will be included.
Until very recently, we built most of our websites in Wordpress, because of the versatility. But over time, the platform has become so expansive, with such a huge variety of plugins and themes, it's become more and more cumbersome for our clients to effectively manage their websites on their own after we've completed the build. That's why we have started to recommend Wix as our preferred web platform.
Wix is similar to Squarespace and other more recent web design platforms in that it also doubles as a web host as well. This means that if you have a Wix website, you can manage your domain, your hosting, and your actual website all in one place, which is much more convenient for our clients. There is a monthly or yearly fee that's a bit more expensive than some combination of Wordpress and a Third Party Host, but the overall price is still much cheaper because we can build a Wix site for nearly half the price. And that's before you figure in the added convenience.
While we still can design websites in Wordpress when a client needs specific functionality that can't be found elsewhere, for most of our Dispensary and Cultivators, Wix is the best option for both price and ease of use.
Make Mobile Your Top Priority
Companies in every industry have been paying lip service to mobile compatibility, but without having the budget to design two complete versions of a website to accommodate both desktop and mobile, they tend to prioritize the former over the latter. This is no longer a viable option, as every year a greater proportion of search traffic is generated on mobile devices.
Did you know that the volume of mobile web traffic exceeded desktop traffic for the first time in 2017? In 2021, it's estimated that 56% of all online traffic originated on a mobile device. And the shift to mobile is going to continue in 2022. It's more likely than not that any given visitor to your website is using a mobile phone or a tablet rather than a traditional laptop or desktop computer, meaning that you need to focus on building the mobile version of your site first.
If you're a dispensary or a cannabis business that sees a lot of foot traffic, such as a CBD shop or cannabis cafe, that percentage is likely to be that much more in favor of mobile, as most of your customers are likely searching for you via Google Maps or a weed finder app. Popular search terms like "dispensary near me" are also much more commonly conducted on mobile phones as opposed to a home computer.
This trend is one of the primary reasons we're switching most of our clients to Wix. With Wordpress, it's possible to find some mobile-friendly themes, but in 2022 mobile-friendly is no longer enough. Wix has made the seamless integration of mobile and desktop sites there main focus, meaning that it takes only a little bit of extra work to ensure everything is working smoothly on both platforms.
It may seem like we're shilling for Wix and that we're getting some kind of cut, but that's not the case at all. We actually charge more for Wordpress sites and usually make more money when we do. But we like the ease of working with Wix, and most importantly, it's much easier for our clients to manage their websites after we're done with the build.
Consider Cannabis SEO From The Very Beginning
Just like with mobile, there's no excuse for a cannabis company in 2022 to not focus on SEO as they are building their website. From the very beginning of your design process, you want to keep SEO best practices front and center. This will impact the way the site is laid out and the type of design elements that will be included.
First of all, search engines will promote sites that are fast and user-friendly. This means that any images and designs you are using in your site need to be small enough that they will load quickly on browsers. When doing an SEO edit of a website, one of the first things we'll look at is how whether the images have been optimized for fast loading. Sometimes this is an easy fix, but with poorly designed sites, it can be a real pain for us to go in and swap out images or replace them with smaller versions.
Another important consideration when building your website to maximize your SEO potential is the layout. Google loves to see regularly updated content, like a blog or a news feed. It also likes to see broad and deep content on your particular area of expertise. So, for example, if you are a cannabis law firm, rather than having a single page listing all of your services, each type of service or area of the law that you specialize in should have its own page.
On top of that, each of these pages should have multiple links to other pages on your site, and you need to have a site map, or better yet a footer or menu that links to all of your pages from one place. This makes it easier for search engines to crawl your site and better understand how all these topics relate to one another.
Obviously, building your site with SEO from the ground up is much easier and more cost effective than doing it after the fact. That's why we always strive to make easy to navigate, content rich sites for our clients.
Design With Call-To-Actions In Mind
A call-to-action, also known as a CTA, is one of the most important elements of a well designed website, cannabis-related or otherwise. The call-to-action is the request or sell that you are presenting to the potential customer who is visiting your site. Whether you are trying to convert a sale or just convince your visitors to gather more information, well-crafted CTAs are how you ensure that your website is accomplishing what you want.
As an example, many cannabis businesses use their website to gather information about their potential customers, by encouraging them to leave their contact information, or convincing them to sign up for the weekly newsletter. Of course, one of the most common CTAs is to buy or shop now, with a button that sends your visitors to your online retail portal (which for many cannabis companies will actually be managed through a third party, like Dutchie.
What ever the desired actions are, they don't happen by accident. You have to make it easy for your website's visitors to request a quote, leave their contact information, or consider a purchase. Before we start designing a website, one of the main questions we ask our clients is what their goals are, ie, what are the desired outcomes for all of the people that find their website. This makes it much easier to build a website that will actually accomplish these goals.
Remember, because a lot of traditional advertising is unavailable to cannabis businesses, it makes it even more critical that they have a high success rate converting web clicks into sales or foot traffic.
Invest In High Quality Photos And Video
A website is only as good as the pictures and videos it has featured. In 2022, it's more important than ever to feature high quality photography and video that shows your cannabis business in the best possible light. With internet and wireless speeds increasing all the time, your customers have gotten used to seeing magazine quality photos and high definition videos when surfing online. Text based and log image quality websites are definitely a thing of the past, or they should be!
If you are a new business just starting out, you may not have the ability to procure professional photography of your store, dispensary, facility, and team, nor have the budget to hire it out to someone. In that case, you may want to rely on stock imagery. While there's nothing wrong with doing so, and we recommend this course of action to our clients all the time, it's essential that you pick out photography that truly represents your brand and doesn't stand out as obviously "stock." This can be a challenge, but certainly not impossible.
It's also possible to get high quality photography without paying a professional. With smart phone technology advancing every year, pretty much everyone has an amazing camera in their pocket already. They just may not know how to use their iPhone to take photos like a professional. You should work with your web designer to understand exactly what kind of images they need and get tips on how to do so on your own.
Some ideas include to invest in a tripod or phone stand that will allow you to take photos that are straight and in focus, rather than tilted at a weird angle and blurry because you couldn't keep the phone still as you were clicking the shutter button. It's also likely that you know someone in your family or friend group that's at least an amateur photography, and they'd probably be more than happy to help you out.
Speaking of video, in 2022, video marketing is becoming more and more popular in the cannabis industry. Professional video content is one of the best ways to tell your brand story, and it definitely gives your website a professional feel. More and more mobile users are turning to video first as a way to make shopping decisions, and well placed videos on your website are one of the best ways to reinforce your CTAs. Finally, video specifically designed to boost your SEO will definitely help increase your visibility in search engines.
Incorporate 360 And 3D Elements Into Your Site
In terms of trends we think will continue to grow in popularity in 2022, we expect big things for 360 photography and 3D design elements. You may have heard a lot of talk about the metaverse, and while the reality of this is still a ways off, it's possible to get some really cool 360 and 3D stuff right now.
360 photography is especially great for embedding a tour of your dispensary, farm, or indoor grow onto your website. This allows your visitors to feel like they are actually there. It's also possible to create cool 360 effects with close ups of your cannabis plants and flowers, which will definitely grab the attention of your potential customers.
In terms of 3D design, this is especially useful for cannabis infographics and conveying important information about your business in an elegant way. 3D design is also great for showing off upcoming products that haven't launched yet, or advertising your soon to be open branch of your dispensary chain.
The key with new technologies like this is to be creative, so work with your web designer to come up with cool ideas that no one has thought of yet.
Emphasize Cheerful, Optimistic Designs
If you are trying to establish your brand for 2022, or undergoing a rebrand, one thing to keep in mind is that people are definitely looking for something to be happy about. With nearly two years of Covid, and plenty of other real-world news to make people feel anxious or worried or downright depressed, brands that can offer something positive and optimistic will definitely have a leg up.
When applying this to your website, think about including a bright, vibrant color palette. Brands that include multiple different colors, all on the cheerful side, will likely be more popular than duo-tone, minimalist, and black and white aesthetics.
The same should apply to your design elements. Avoid harsh edges and sharp corners, and instead emphasize rounded, smooth, and soft designs that may appear more welcoming to your prospective customers. Likewise, typography that is bold, more rounded, and even fun will definitely be more appealing than stark fonts that are associated with a more futuristic or minimalist aesthetic.
Keep these ideas in mind as you build your website in the coming year.
Always Put Your Customer First
Finally, our last advice is perhaps the oldest truism in marketing. Your number consideration when building your website should always be your customer. Think about your website from their perspective, and imagine what they want to see when they click on your link.
One of the most common mistakes we encounter in marketing is that business owners will focus too much on the information they want to convey to their customers, and not think about the questions they actually want answered. You want to talk about all the hard work that went into growing this amazing cannabis, but your customer is probably more interested in how much it costs and where they can buy it conveniently.
Of course, there are a lot of questions that your customers will have, and providing those answers on your website in an easy to navigate manner is extremely important. I'm sure you're like me in that you hate going to website and finding it impossible to get the information you need, whether it's a phone number, contact person, product list, or even just a simple description of what the company does.
Don't make your customers work to get what they want. The websites that do a good job of anticipating what people are looking for and making it simple to find are invariably the ones that work best. This is why professional, well-thought out cannabis web design is so important.
Choose The Hood Collective For Your Cannabis Web Design Needs
While we recommend that your cannabis business build your website before you even open your doors, it’s never too late to build a better online presence. Whether you are a brand new company getting ready to come to market, or are a cannabis veteran that's still relying on an outdated site, now's the time to invest in your digital hub.
At The Hood Collective, we specialize in building premium, highly effective cannabis websites for businesses of all shapes and sizes. No matter what your budget, our team of web designers, copywriters, and digital artists will craft a website that maximizes your SEO and makes it easier to convert visits into actual sales. We'll help you navigate the entire web design process and even take the time to teach you how to manage your site once it's live.
Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.