Yahoo Unleashes Small Business Site Builder

Yahoo launched a free website building service this week, designed for small businesses that seek to build an inexpensive online presence. Yahoo SiteBuilder is touted as an innovative design tool that enables small businesses to build professional websites quickly and easily. The new tool is available from Yahoo for free, as long as the small business becomes a customer.

Yahoo Small Business developed its SiteBuilder from scratch specifically for small businesses. The program, in development for over a year, is Java-based, so no programming knowledge is required for users to build a site. The user-friendly interface allows for drag-and-drop editing so that small businesses unskilled in basic hypertext markup language can easily build a professional website in a matter of days — not weeks and months. Users can choose from 206 different templates designed for 25 different vertical industries.

Helen Chan, Yankee Group senior analyst of small and medium business strategies, said Yahoo SiteBuilder meets critical small business needs in the marketplace

“It’s obvious the Yahoo Small Business team has put a great deal of thought and commitment into making the tool simple, straightforward and intuitive,” Chan said. “Yahoo SiteBuilder is the great solution for small businesses who want an effective, professional and customizable website quickly and easily.”

Rich Riley, Yahoo Small Business vice president and general manager, said the company is dedicated to delivering innovative solutions to meet the growing needs of small businesses.

“Yahoo SiteBuilder is the latest example of our ongoing commitment to provide small businesses with easy to use tools and services to help them create a unique, compelling and professional online presence,” Riley said.

Yahoo is offering the new tool for free. Existing Yahoo webhosting customers can publish their sites directly to their account. New users can publish their sites by signing up for any one of the three Yahoo webhosting packages, ranging from $11.95 to $39.95 a month.

Yahoo SiteBuilder provides an element of customization from more than 200 templates designed specifically for small businesses, such as professional services, interior design, real estate and travel, among others. Yahoo SiteBuilder enables users to drag and drop images anywhere on the site, insert backgrounds, layer designs, edit content, preview the site and undo any mistakes before the site is viewable on the Web. Users are walked through building a site step-by-step, from creating a page to publishing the entire site.

Yahoo SiteBuilder also allows for offline management, providing small businesses the freedom to modify their site without being connected to the Internet. In addition, Yahoo SiteBuilder uses open standards and is designed to create multi-page sites versus individually linked pages, allowing for navigation bar-building and link management.

Yahoo is a leading provider of shared-hosting services to small businesses with hundreds of thousands of customers. This evolution is ongoing as Yahoo Small Business continues to bundle more services around what small businesses need to go online.

“It is expected for businesses these days to have a Web presence, whether they are a restaurant or a flower shop,” Riley said. “Small businesses trust Yahoo for their online solutions because we are focused on providing tools and resources that make it easy for them to succeed.”

Nearly 70 percent of small businesses don’t have websites, according to a Verizon Communications study completed early in 2003. Many smaller businesses, some hobbled by the economy, are wary of investing any time or money in e-commerce projects or even simple websites. Unlike larger companies, a Web presence isn’t always viewed as an essential marketing tool for smaller businesses.

In 2002, there were 22.9 million small businesses in the United States, according to the Small Business Administration. It defines small businesses as independent entities with fewer than 500 employees, which means some 16 million small businesses might be thinking about building an online presence right now.

Riley said that the number of employees a small business has is not necessarily the driving force behind building a website.

“Generally we’re working with small businesses that have fewer than 100 employees,” Riley said. “But a small businesses measure of online sophistication does more to drive the businesses online more so than the number of employees.”

With the new site-publishing tool very little online savvy is required. Consequently, Yahoo’s Riley said he hopes that the availability of SiteBuilder will open up the Web to more and more small businesses.

“We thing this is a huge opportunity for small businesses,” Riley said. “We think the market is changing and small businesses are accelerating the change.”

In addition to website hosting, Yahoo offers a variety of small-business services, from e-mail hosting and e-commerce stores to micro advertising buys. In February, Yahoo teamed with Cisco to build an information center that helps small businesses figure out their networking needs. The partnership is designed to make Yahoo a one-stop online shop for small businesses.

Small Business Computing Staff
Small Business Computing Staff
Small Business Computing addresses the technology needs of small businesses, which are defined as businesses with fewer than 500 employees and/or less than $7 million in annual sales.

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