The Web Levels The Playing Field For Small Businesses To Compete
Every day, the business headlines focus on large Fortune 500 companies, but as you probably already know, the true engine driving the U.S. economy is overwhelmingly small businesses. And, thanks to technology, for the first time in history small businesses had the capability to create a brand and compete - particularly online - on the same level as larger, more established companies.

As you build your company's first website, or even more importantly, you're planning a redesign and update of your existing site, your number one priority is designing a professional, polished website. It may sound like common sense, but online, your website is your business. When potential customers visit your site, they will develop an opinion about your business - not based on the service or product that you actually provide - but based on the appearance of your website.

With common web tools, templates, or affordable website design services, your website can put you on the same level with your competitors - even competitors with much larger staffs and experience.

Appearances Matter
As you've always heard, appearances matter - both offline and online. So, how do you figure out the type of site you want or what your redesign should look like? First, you should check out the competitors in your field. But, be aware, their site may also be starting to show its age...don't stop here. If you're selling something online or creating an ecommerce site, check out the top ecommerce sites online -,, Red Envelope, and many others. Again, there's no reason that you can't aspire to build a site that will look and feel just as big as some of those companies. You're a small business, but with the web, you don't have to "look" small.

Make notes about the things you like and dislike. And try to figure out what elements appeal to you about the sites that you really like. You don't have to have a degree in visual design to figure out what looks professional and what doesn't. As you finalize the design of your site, you should almost always err on a design that's professional vs. personal. It may be tempting to add "homey" touches to your site - colored backgrounds, prominent photos of your family and friends, etc.. If you're tempted to add those elements to your sites, take a few moments and revisit those top, professional sites that you reviewed during your design process. If they don't include the "personal" touches you're considering adding to your site, then you should follow their example. Keep your website focused on your business, and share family photos, funny videos with friends and family on a strictly personal web site - separate from your small business's online destination.

It's absolutely okay to develop a unique, web personality for you and your business. But, as noted above, throughout the design process continually remind yourself that your website is the first impression that someone will have of your business - and what you're selling.

Finally, remember that despite the huge growth in high-speed internet connectivity, there are still potential customers signing on with a dial-up connection. And, more and more people are surfing the web on mobile devices. If you're tempted to add a resource intensive graphic or applications on your home page, keep in mind this could limit the potential customers that can view your site. For these potential customers that's the equivalent of putting up a "Closed" sign on the front page of your site.

With a little planning and research the possibilities of what your business can do online are endless. I love to see the innovative ways our small business customers have created their online brands. Now it's time for you to get to work ... and I can't wait to see the site that you're dreaming about and planning.