Cannabis Website Design & Development 101

Website design and development is no easy task for any business, let alone a cannabis business. Your site is the first handshake you have with a potential customer. 

It is critical to have a fully functional, user-friendly, mobile-friendly, and visually appealing website that is designed with your marketing objectives in mind. And that’s just the beginning of a long checklist of things you need to have a decent website.

The recent, and ongoing boom of the industry means new brands and new cannabis websites are popping up quickly. Add on the legislative hurdles and you get a crowd of business owners rushing to get their site up and running.

In the rush to get their product in front of people business owners often outsource their website design to the first person they can get in touch with. The problem here is that designing your cannabis website intentionally and correctly from the beginning is the make-it-or-break-it factor that will have you standing out from the crowd. 

A rushed website will be noticed by your target audience, and you’ll sink to the bottom of a quickly saturating industry. In other words, the key to differentiating yourself from the competition is to have a visually appealing and effective website.

Here is a crash course into what you need to know about designing and developing a cannabis website:


Understand Your Why

When we work with our clients on website design and development projects, we always start with one question: Why? 

Why do you want to build your business website? What is the primary goal of your website? What do you want to happen? Are you looking to increase in-store foot traffic or generate online purchases?

Brands need to have a clear goal on what they are marketing and what results they are trying to achieve with the design of the website. In this sense, a good website should have clear and simple navigation: fewer choices, simple pages. 

The Nielsen Norman Group found that in order to capture a site visitor’s attention, you must clearly communicate your value proposition within 10 seconds. In other words, your website’s why should be clearly identifiable within the first ten seconds of being on the site to capture visitors.

For cannabis or CBD product brands, this might mean building a community around the brand. To do so, the primary goal of the website could be to capture readers and turn them into email subscribers or Facebook Group members. For dispensaries, it could be encouraging purchases. For B2B cannabis businesses, it could be getting site visitors to trial your service or book a call.

No matter what the goal is, your customers should not have to jump through hoops to get to the page that has the action item you want to lead them to. In marketing terms, this means you need to optimize your buyer’s path or journey. 

A good website should be easy to navigate. Your visitors should be able to find important information right away: hours, location, contact forms, email signups, etc. There are different goals behind each feature. For instance, a medical cannabis page might have more concrete steps to book an appointment or get a card, while enticing adult-use shoppers involves being more creative and roundabout. 

Another example is that dispensary websites should have a clear button to get to their menu immediately. It is likely what consumers are there for in the first place; they should have easy access to that content. Similarly, B2B business websites should be transparent about specifications (size, output, etc.) and have a frequently asked questions section. This avoids confusion for site visitors and filters out any need for communication about product/service questions from real leads.

“What if I have more than one why?”

While there may be multiple goals for each section of the website, one page should not be overwhelmed with multiple goals. For example, when we designed our client BFF Hemp’s homepage, the goal was to increase sales of their CBD product. Therefore, when you visit the website, you can really only do two things: shop or learn more about the company. Because their site’s purpose is to sell CBD, everything leads a visitor to the shop products page.

Some cannabis businesses, such as dispensaries, may have a retail store and online shopping platform. In these situations, you have to make a decision and clearly guide a site visitor based on your goal. 

Factors to consider in making that decision might include your biggest return on investment (ROI). Are you making more online or in-person? Which experience builds more customer loyalty?

The primary focus of website design and development will always be to inform the buyer’s journey. There should be an informed reason for each feature and element on your site, instead of just liking the way it looks. 


Anticipate E-Commerce Features

There are a set of standard practices for a good buyer journey and these are typically the features that you would expect to see on any e-commerce website or platform. From a good layout and high-quality product images to the intuitive categorization of products and useful product filters, your product shopping page needs to be functional and detailed.

This page should have all the needed tools to sort through a product by features, such as color, price, rating, etc. When a user clicks in to each product, they should be able to see high-quality images, good descriptions, testimonials/reviews, and other information that your customer would need to know before making the decision to purchase. 

Users who purchase online are likely to turn to different factors when evaluating whether or not the product is right for them. One of these deciding factors is the product image. Customers want to see the product they are getting and it can deter them if there is no image. Although it takes an additional investment to get professional product photography done, it is so important to have it on the site.

Ultimately, as the site visitor follows the buyer’s journey along with different pages of your website, you want to convince them that your product and your brand are worth purchasing from.

You can even enhance this experience by including features such as a suggested products reel to cross-promote other products or an easy-to-use shopping cart and wishlist. To see if these features are actually working, you have to constantly tweak your website strategy. 

In other words, once your site is up and running, it is not a done deal. For instance, you might play around with the layout of your product page to drive people to different products and then conduct A/B testing to see which layout works better. This is helpful because unlike the physical space of a restaurant or dispensary, websites allow you to see exactly where users found you and how they got to your site. 

In this way, you can narrow down exactly how a user navigated through your website and track where they went before they converted. Then, you can keep using the same path to convert more and more people.

Figure Out Inventory Management & Integration

A major pain point with cannabis businesses tends to be online ordering systems and inventory management. Payments can be tricky and sometimes that means you have to manually update your inventory, which makes it extremely difficult to give customers a seamless experience.

This is where inventory management partners such as dutchie come into the picture. These partners fully automate e-commerce platforms for cannabis retailers. Their menus allow your brand to be highlighted while their technology converts the highest possible percentage of browsers into buyers.

Overall, consumer expectations around purchasing have changed thanks to COVID-19, and will likely persist even after the crisis is over. The technologies that consumers expect from retailers in traditional industries, like online ordering and payments, delivery, and up-to-date digital menus, are now taking hold in cannabis. Dispensaries will need to figure out their e-commerce strategy, including which technology partners they can rely on, in order to keep up.


Build a beautiful cannabis website with Cannabis Creative

With a new and professionally designed website, you can showcase your brand in a way that leaves an impression in the minds of your consumers. Work with our experienced team of cannabis marketing professionals to get a custom-designed website perfect for your needs. Contact us to get started today.

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