HTML coding and cannabis might not be a great idea if you don't know what you're getting into, and is best left to the pros.

Rory Savatgy

An online presence is essential for every business, and your dispensary should make a website the center of your online identity and marketing efforts. If you don’t have a site built yet, there now exist more options for moving forward than ever before.

Because your dispensary’s website may be the first and only thing that a potential customer sees, you need to make a great impression. Your site should look professional, clean and clearly reflect the personality and mission statement of your dispensary or cannabis business. It should integrate your branding in a big way, feature the interior of your shop, show off your products, and provide contact information.

What type of developer do you need?

Template Designers / DIY Website Builders

Typically the lowest-cost option, template or DIY designers commonly utilize a content management system (CMS) such as WordPress or SquareSpace. These designers will use pre-built templates and make slight tweaks to give them a new look for your site. They do not typically know how to manage every aspect of a website, and will not be as likely to help solve back-end issues or develop complex custom features or solutions. They may use third-party programs and plugins that could become broken or obsolete as the internet evolves, leaving your website with problems down the line that they aren’t able to fix. Only select this option when you are working within a very limited budget.

From-scratch Designer / Developers

This category includes companies or individuals who build websites from scratch using a coding framework. They may start with a platform like WordPress or Drupal as the backbone, but will fully customize and develop everything on top of it. You may also want to hire a graphic designer to do the mock-ups, then hand those designs to a from-scratch developer to build into code. Keep in mind that websites have multiple layouts for desktop, tablet and mobile, so you will need to receive a mockup for each of the three layouts.

Creative / Branding Agency

A creative or branding agency will be the most expensive option but will provide the most value long-term. This option is perfect for a dispensary looking for someone to build a brand from the ground up — or to perform a rebrand. If you are looking for media exposure and to attract high-end clientele and tourism, an experienced agency would be the way to go. They may also offer extended services like printed material design, social media marketing, apparel design, consulting and more. Be sure to go through the agency’s online portfolio to get a sense of what it is capable of before making your decision.

Questions to ask developers that you are considering

Once you’ve looked at your budget, identified your needs, and decided what kind of designers you will need to hire to work on your website, you will need some additional information before making your final decision. Consider hiring your web designer a lot like hiring a new employee; you need to vet each candidate to make sure there won’t be any surprises along the way. Here are a couple of questions to ask right away:

  • How long will the project take? If they don’t already, ask them to explain each step along the way and where you will need to make approvals to move forward.
  • What is the billing process like? Depending on which type of developer you are working with, you may be able to make several payments as the project hits certain milestones.
  • Will your developer configure your hosting, web domain and email? Make sure to clarify if you need to set this up in advance, or if they will take care of it. Will it cost extra to have them set it up?
  • Do they offer ongoing service for site maintenance and updates? If so, will you be billed weekly or monthly? Is it a pay-as-you-go situation or do they work on retainer?

As you can see, there are a lot of options out there for your website, depending on how much you are willing to invest. Just remember that your website will be a vital asset to your business, so investing heavily up front could mean much stronger returns in the long-run.

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