A frightening number of small businesses do not yet have a web presence - 18% according to a recednt YouGov survey commissioned by the British Chambers of Commerce and Microsoft.  (Read more in the new brochure, ‘Make IT work for you: A 20-minute guide to technology for growing businesses', which you can download here.)

You want - need - to go online, but don't know where to start. The options are

  • a) Build it yourself
  • b) Get someone else to do it on your behalf - either a web specialist or your son/daughter
  • c) Use a free package that gives you the building blocks to d-i-y.

Building it yourself is often the route people try first, partly because it's a fun thing to do and because it's personal - it's your site, your business. The downside with this though, is that you can very easily spend hours and hours choosing your colour scheme, font size and page layout for example, when you should really be working on higher-value tasks like chasing new business.

The second option - getting someone else to do it for you - is also attractive. You don't waste time making the same mistakes others have made before (too many graphics making page load time too long, confused navigation, lack of contact information, etc) and you'll get expertise on subjects like search engine optimisation.

The son/daughter route is a risky one - they may have the technical skills, but they will almost certainly lack business nous.  And the temptation to get carried away with whizzy graphics and special effects may prove too much for them...

(Take a look at ‘Ten online mistakes to avoid' here.)

Which brings us to the third option - using a paid-for or free package, such as Microsoft Office Live, which gives you some control over colours and design and which also takes the strain out of developing it yourself. You can be up and running within a couple of hours, and presenting a more professional image to your customers with an online presence. If you already have a website but aren't sure that it's performing as well as you'd like, BT offer a free website review here and they'll then create a written project plan for your business, outlining what you can achieve online on your own, or by using their fixed-price build service. And you can create your own website on BT Tradespace here.

We'll be looking into building your own website in more detail over the next few weeks. In the meantime, a good place to start is 'Don't just build a website, build one which works for you', which you'll find here.