Birds of a feather flock together – that’s the founding principle of most niche online dating sites. FarmersOnly.com does this for people who aren’t bound by the limits of a city or appreciate farm life. Any why not? The differences between life and the city and life in the heartland are huge and, considering the greater distances between people outside of dense population cores, down to earth country types have traditionally had to go to great lengths to find someone to share their life with. It makes sense too, as how many random people can you bump into when you spend the entire day alone in a field.
Profile layout for FarmersOnly’s members
Is splitting off from mainstream sites wise, though? My first impression is to answer ‘yes’ as the two different ways of life give rise to different expectations and ideals. But before we pile on the praise, let’s see if the site holds up to biased criticism.
Layout & Design
While us city folk might snicker at the site’s lack of polish, this isn’t a case of a site owner refusing to get with the times. Farmers Online founder, Jerry Miller (as quoted in the NY Times), justifies the ‘scaled down/back’ approach due to the fact that “A lot of farmers have dial-up modems, so that’s something we took into account…We wanted to make our site as user-friendly and quick as possible, because only a small percentage of our members have high-speed Internet access.”
Farmers Only landing page
This is an example of a niche site getting right. They know that their community actually see fancy graphics as a very real hindrance to daily site use. It’s a smart business plan and it’s paid off. Since the site went online in 2005, membership has grown to over 100,00 people in all 50 states and Canada and estimates its responsible for roughly one wedding per week.
For the most part the site is easy to navigate. Features are found in intuitive places and all that, but sometimes important information is buried deep within the site’s FAQ. For example, I can’t understand why “How should I get started?” is the 54th question, it just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but that’s being overly picky.
For those of you who are familiar with my reviews or dating sites themselves, Farmers Only will be recognizable as it’s pretty much the standard for online dating sites these days. The standard (read: free) membership will only let you whet your whistle. You can search the site for potential matches and send ‘flirts’, the site’s version of the Facebook poke. It’s usually a good tool to use when deciding whether to join. If you do decided to get the premium membership, FarmersOnly.com’s features truly open up.
|Standard Membership features||Premium Membership features|
|• Search for other Farmersonline.com members|
• Send onsite 'flirts' to others, but not composed messages
|• Search for other members|
• Send onsite 'flirts' to others
• Send/receive unlimited emails to members
• View 'last online' status of other members and their status updates
• Post unlimited photos
• Block members from contacting you
As you can see above, the features offered in the premium membership encompass the standard membership’s features while building on them as well. Once, and if, you have signed up for a paid membership you’ll be able to reach out to other members in a few extra ways; but that’s it. I understand the underlying philosophy that governs the form and function of Farmers Only, but as online dating sites go this is really bare bones and I have a tough time accepting its limitations.
The cost to get a paid membership isn’t exactly over-expensive as you can get the cost down to $9.49/month if you subscribe for a six month period.
|Length of paid membership||Price per month||Total cost|
I liked bumping into a site that wasn’t trying to play catchup with the eHarmonys and Match.coms of the world. It has a business and design philosophy that fits the niche well. Put another way, the site doesn’t come off as a city slicker’s cash grab, and I imagine this fact goes a long, long way into making the site a favorite among country boys and girls.
The price-to-features ratio is all off. You can’t, or at least shouldn’t, scale back your site’s design and features for good reasons while, at the same time charge your members a rate comparable to ‘fully-loaded’ online dating sites. Isn’t that like a Vegetarian restaurant determining the price of their soy-based products on the basis of the cost of meat? It feels that way to me.
In addition to this slight costliness, FarmersOnly.com also has fewer members than one might expect. This may be the niche-ness of Farmers Only backfiring a tad. In addition to fighting the mainstream sites for members, Farmers Only has to also fight the type of traditionalism that led to the need for Farmers Only’s existence in the first place. In other words, if the Internet sucks somewhere, people are likely to avoid adopting its use.
All in all, the site isn’t that bad – but it isn’t that good either. While layout and design issues can be explained away as being intentional and pragmatic, I can’t get behind what I see as bad value for your dollar.