Beyond generally monitoring SMB website penetration and mobile site adoption, I stopped following SMB website vendors about five years ago. However it’s safe to say, almost 15 years after the practical beginning of the digital era, websites remain a major problem for SMBs. A large percentage of SMB websites are still poorly designed and generally ineffective as marketing vehicles.
A week or so ago I had occasion to speak with Aaron Sperling, the co-founder of vFlyer, which began roughly six years ago as a way to simplify the creation and distribution of online classifieds and real-estate listings in particular. Some time ago vFlyer introduced a DIY website product: vSites. The company just released a “2.0″ version of the product.
Sperling gave me a demo of the site building process. I was impressed by the usability and polish of vSites. From my point of view they look much better than most of the sites being mass produced for SMBs today.
Assuming the merchant has some copy ready it would be possible to build a template-based vSite in well under 30 minutes. However they don’t have to be built in a single setting. To illustrate the DIY process, I’ve captured some “step-by-step” screenshots (click to enlarge).
First the merchant is asked to choose the business category and subcategory, and then the types of pages to include:
Merchants then choose a template. They populate the address and contact details and then “build” and preview the site. It takes only a few seconds to see what it looks like.
The site templates are pre-populated with copy that can be used or changed. Indeed, every element on the page can then be swapped, manipulated or otherwise edited. It’s all very WYSIWYG.
Merchants must register to save their site designs. Basic sites are free. However if you have or want a custom domain or more storage and more pages, there are two pricing levels: $12 or $18 per month. Pretty affordable and less than I pay for the hosting of this blog.
The sites are all SEO-friendly and include the ability to integrate social media posts and updates through a social media toolbar. However vSites currently don’t allow merchants to publish updates out to Facebook, Twitter or other social sites. This was a feature I suggested to Sperling.
SMBs can also incorporate a blog if they’re inclined. My memory, however, is that these sites aren’t yet optimized for mobile devices. But that capability I believe is coming.
I’m aware there are a number of free website builders out there (e.g., Wix) targeting the SMB market. Yahoo and Intuit are also big builders of SMB sites, as well as domain regitrar GoDaddy. However I was quite impressed, as I said, with vSites’ capabilities and simplicity.
I also believe these guys would be a good partner for local/SMB sales channels that aren’t currently deeply involved with another vendor or a home-grown solution.