Designing a website for the cannabis industry requires considerable planning, long-term thinking and technical knowledge to ensure that your website will meet your company’s needs now and into the future.
Your cannabis website must be designed in a way that meets certain technical criteria to satisfy the Cannabis Act and Regulation. For this reason, you not only need to think about what your cannabis website design will look like and how your content will flow, but it’s critical to understand the functionality you require to keep you out of trouble with Health Canada.
Your cannabis website must be designed in a way that meets certain technical criteria to satisfy the Cannabis Act and Regulation.
Here are some of the most important considerations when thinking about cannabis web design:
The Goal of Your Website
When thinking about cannabis website design, it’s important to first understand what the goal of your website and who your target audience is – if your goal is to promote cannabis, cannabis accessory or service related to cannabis on your website, then you need to consider your website’s ability to have an adequate age-gate verification process, the ability to execute search engine optimization (SEO) activities, the ability to capture people’s detailed contact information so that you can add them to a list and promote directly to them using email and other means of communication and potential e-commerce capability.
On the other hand, if the goal of your website is to provide information about your cannabis company to investors and you don’t intent to promote cannabis, cannabis accessories or services related to cannabis, then your technical requirements may look quite different and a basic website may meet your needs. This is why understanding the goal of your website is an important first step.
You also need to consider the website content management system (CMS) you go with carefully – platforms like Wordpress, as an example, can be more flexible and may have more of the technical capabilities needed than platforms like Wix or SquareSpace – for this reason, before deciding what platform to design your cannabis website on, you should first give serious consideration to the functionality you need.
Here are some things to consider:
Age-Gating Your Website
First of all, it’s important to understand that according to the Cannabis Act, promoting cannabis, cannabis accessories and services related to cannabis is generally prohibited under the Act unless certain conditions are met. Once of the exceptions is when the promotion is considered an “Informational promotion” or a “brand preference promotion”. However, in order to be allowed to promote cannabis, a cannabis accessory or a service related to cannabis through the informational promotion or brand preference promotion exemptions, the promotion must be:
In a communication that is addressed and sent to an individual who is 18 years of age or older and is identified by name;
In a place where young persons are not permitted by law;
Communicated by means of a telecommunication, where the person responsible for the content of the promotion has taken reasonable steps to ensure the promotion cannot be accessed by a young person.
This last point is where age-gating your cannabis website becomes very important – a proper age-gate verification may be considered a reasonable step to ensure the promotion cannot be accessed by a young person. However, there is considerable debate within the cannabis industry as to what a “reasonable step” is and Health Canada has issued letters to several Licensed Producers indicating that it has found “online promotional content on websites and social media sites is being made available by some license holders without any steps being taken to ensure that the promotion cannot be accessed by a young person. In other cases, the steps taken (e.g., simple self-attestation of age) may be easily circumvented.”
Needless to say, ensuring your website has a strong age-gate is critically important if you plan to include promotional activities on your website.
Choosing the Right Platform for your Cannabis Website
For the reasons mentioned above, choosing a content management system that can meet your technical requirements is a very important aspect of cannabis website design. Not only should the CMS have the ability to provide an adequate age-gate, it should allow you to engage in SEO activities – when it comes to SEO, not all content management systems are equal! SEO is important to the cannabis industry because while cannabis related pay-per-click advertising is generally restricted by Google, SEO is not and should be leveraged to drive more traffic to your website.
Images, Visual Elements and Other Considerations
When considering cannabis website design, another important thing to consider are the sections of the Cannabis Act related to promotional activities because these have a direct impact on the types of images and visual elements you can include on your website. The Act specifically prohibits promotional activities that:
Could be appealing to young persons;
Set out a testimonial or endorsement;
Depicts a person, character or animal whether real or fictional;
Shows a way of life associated with glamour, recreation, excitement, vitality, risk or daring; or
Contains information that is false, misleading or deceptive or is likely to create an erroneous impression.
Obviously, the design elements used on your cannabis website cannot contain any of these, although the definition of some of these exclusions are less than obvious.
These are just some of the elements that need to be considered when planning and designing your cannabis website – this is not easy and many website and design agencies that don’t work exclusively in the cannabis industry may lack an understanding of exactly what needs to be considered.
Cannabiz Social works exclusively in the cannabis industry and we have an intimate understanding of the Cannabis Act and Regulation. We also have a network of cannabis layers and a variety of experts who can provide guidance if necessary.
Before you get into the detailed work of designing your cannabis website, you should first ask yourself if you are working with an industry expert that will have your back. Call us to learn more.