Whether you're a sole trader or a multinational corporation a website is now an almost essential part of running a business. Even if you don't sell products directly online a site can still be used to showcase your services and skills or help people locate your premises. You could pay someone to create a site for you but there are plenty of packages around that allow you to do the job yourself at a fraction of the cost.
You can build a website using cloud tools without installing any software on your PC or you can go for a more traditional design package that lets you work offline and upload your design when you're ready to go live.
There are free options, particularly with the cloud-based tools, but these usually have some limitations such as restrictions on the size of the site, the number of pages or which features you can add. You won't have to worry about this with an installed solution but bear in mind that there will be additional costs to host the site and to obtain your own catchy domain name.
To help you decide which option is best for your needs here are - in no particular order - TechRadar Business Centre's top ten web design tools for small business.
1/ 350 Pages
Price: £0 to £19.99 per month
For sole traders and small firms the simplest options are the cloud-based site builders that allow you to design a website in your browser. These are ideal for start-ups or if you just want to test the water.
You build your site using a simple drag and drop process based on a choice of templates. Photos and graphics can be added to your pages and resized on the fly using floating toolbars, 350 Pages also supports embedded audio, video and Flash plug-ins. Hosting is included but you'll pay extra if you want to use your own domain name.
350 Pages has a free option that allows you to build a single site with up to 15 pages. If you want more pages or more sophistication, such as the ability to use eCommerce features to sell online, there are various pricing options ranging from £2.99 to £19.99 a month. These also remove the adverts that appear on sites made with the free version.
Price: £0 to £25 per month
Moonfruit works in a similar way to 350 Pages with a free starter option and prices ranging from £4 to £25 a month. There's a shop facility even in the free version whilst the premium packages offer mobile-optimised pages and access to the Getty image library.
The range of templates on offer is impressive and they have a cleaner more 'designer' look than those on some of the other cloud sites. The interface makes it easy to move items around resize them, change fonts, colours and more.
We were impressed by how easy it is to produce a stylish, professional-looking site using Moonfruit. If you're trading in a creative field the look and feel of its output will appeal but it's well worth a look for any small business.
Price: £0 to £2.54 per month
A drag and drop approach is taken by Weebly too. There are more than 100 themes to get you started and these can be customised to suit your taste. Useful features include the ability to create photo galleries and slideshows, embed multimedia and create forms. It creates a mobile optimised version of the site for you automatically and includes eCommerce tools.