1&1 MyBusiness review

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According to research carried out by hosting company 1&1, 46% of small companies in the UK don’t yet have a website of any sort. Of that number, just under half would like a site but have been put off by the perceived cost and hassle of the process. Luckily for that 20% or so, 1&1 have just the product to entice them into the internet spotlight. Fancy that.

There are, essentially, four ways to create a web presence for your firm: build it from scratch using HTML, CSS and, usually, a server-side programming language such as PHP; create it using a content management system such as WordPress; buy a template-based website creator CD; or, finally, use an online template-based site creator.

£10 per month buys you unlimited pages and bandwidth, a handful of email addresses and a domain name
For many businesses, building from scratch is overkill and WordPress would be a better choice. This still involves some, albeit pretty basic, understanding of concepts such as domain names and FTP and this is enough to put many businesses off, even if they were aware of this option. A template system might seem to be the ideal solution but, to date, they’ve been very poorly implemented and tend to result in dated looking, poorly optimised sites.

1&1’s MyBusiness service aims to change that. It’s not the first service to combine web space with an “instant site builder” but 1&1’s product is by far the most sophisticated aimed at businesses. £10 exc VAT per month (minimum period 12 months) buys you unlimited pages and bandwidth, a handful of email addresses and a domain name: in other words, the complete package for many businesses.

This is all very well, but what really matters is how good the end results are. Websites are an important form of marketing and if your site gives the wrong message about your business by being poorly put together then it’s worse than not having a site at all. Fortunately, 1&1 My Business makes it possible to create and maintain a good quality site with no technical knowledge: quite a feat. In fact, it’s a viable option for many existing sites in need of an upgrade as well as businesses with no existing website.

The first step in setting up your new site is to go to 1&1’s website. You then pick your business sector from around 100 choices. These range from solicitors through building firms to charities (if you’re an IT consultant or graphic designer then a template driven product such as this is not for you) and include a number of “catch all” categories in case your business doesn’t exactly fit. Your choice of business type determines the initial design of the site and the functions it offers: although most of these parameters can be changed later.

A new design is never more than a couple of clicks away
Enter a few details about your company and the initial site is created almost instantly. You can then log into the site and edit everything from the layout to the underlying CSS all through a dialog-driven interface. It’s refreshingly simple and, whilse the layouts and colour schemes aren’t going to win any design awards, the end results are perfectly serviceable.

The key to getting the most out of this tool is to remember that you don’t have to accept the default look and feel. Indeed, you may well find the design selected by the system looks dated and you’d be better off with a simpler, more modern looking layout. That’s fine: a new design is never more than a couple of clicks away.

You’ll find that MyBusiness populates your site with pre-written content of variable quality and you’ll need to spend some time re-writing it. Again, this is dead simple. Once logged in, simply click on any text and you can edit it in-situ, order it on the page, add new text or delete it. You can do the same with any graphic and even the navigation. It’s hard to imagine that it could be any simpler. MyBusiness also includes extra functionality such as a “Contact Us” form or an appointments diary depending on the business type you selected.

MyBusiness incorporates tools to make your site more search engine friendly by allowing you to edit the page titles and Meta tags. All of this would be of little use if the generated HTML was, as with most template-generated sites, a complete dog’s breakfast but MyBusiness generates reasonably clean, table-free code that Google will have no trouble indexing.

Of course, you don’t get the same level of control as you would by building the site yourself and you’re not going to be able to easily move your site to another host but if you run a business and you don’t yet have a site, you now have one less excuse. You even get a free 14 day trial to get you started: no strings attached, no credit card needed.

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Software subcategory Web development

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