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Why Do Small Businesses Neglect Their Websites?
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By Carl Weinschenk

It's astounding how little attention small businesses pay to their websites.

I've spent much of the past three years surfing the Web for interesting content related to information technology and telecommunications. The bottom line on websites: Most big companies get it. Most small companies donít.

To some extent, the disparity in the quality of sites can be attributed to the fact that the IBMs and Ciscos of the world have money and people to throw at the Web. They have creative departments, not just one person whose job is to think about this stuff when he or she has a moment. They also have executive buy-in. Indeed, creating and maintaining the site is fairly high on the priority list for most big companies.

Small and startup businesses, of course, lack these advantages. But using that as an excuse simply doesnít wash.

Creating and maintaining a representative site, in reality, isnít difficult. Launching the site costs some money, but it won't break the bank. Web designers demand fair compensation, but in most cases are reasonable.

Once the site is up, the costs go down. Hosting costs next to nothing, and rudimentary updates--deleting stale and adding fresh information--can be done in a few minutes. We're talking about a half-hour a week to do the basics.

Most people probably assume that the damage from a substandard Website simply is that the company doesnít benefit from the Web. It's more than that: A bad Website drives people away. Would a car dealership leave trash laying around, let windows grow filthy and abide salesmen with showroom floor desks piled with pizza boxes and stacks of files? Of course not. But doesnít a Website full of inoperative links, two-year-old calendars and three-year-old press releases impart the same message of general sloppiness and inattention?

Few people argue with the idea that a site with timely information clearly presented builds interest and eventually leads to increased business. The problem is that many people simply pay lip service to that reality without doing much about it.

I'm at a lost to understand why bosses and managers, who struggle mightily in an increasingly competitive world, would treat their websites with such benign neglect. But that's the story, at least in many cases. Perhaps people at small businesses simply are too busy. Maybe it's that some folks tend to bypass things with which they are unfamiliar. And, in most cases, the website creation and maintenance are foreign territories.

The situation doesnít seem to be changing much. Big companies usually have good sites. Some small companies do a great job, and others have functional sites. For the most part, however, small sites just arenít very good.

Carl Weinschenk is the Editorial Director of SmartBiz.
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