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Mark Evans

Start-up takes hassle out of website building Add to ...

A website is an absolute necessity for most businesses.

In the digital world, not having one is akin to being invisible. Even if it’s simple, with only a few pages, a website provides an online presence and a measure of credibility.

But for small businesses, websites can be a challenge: they can be relatively expensive to create, and it takes time and money to maintain and update them. It explains why many are outdated, badly designed and terribly written.

It was a problem Elliot Yeo and Angus Woodman decided to tackle with a new startup called Patroniz, which aims to make it easy for small businesses to create and maintain their websites.

Patronize is a $49-a-month online service small businesses can use to get a well-designed website they don’t have to worry about updating or upgrading. They also have access to support services for making changes or addressing problems.

Mr. Yeo says the inspiration for Patroniz happened when he came across small-business owners who wanted to do digital marketing. In many cases, they had just spent $5,000 to $10,000 to develop a website, leaving them with little money to spend on marketing. And Mr. Woodman was being approached by friends and family members who wanted him to create or rebuild websites for them.

Armed with what they saw as a void in the market, the St. John’s-based entrepreneurs decided the time was right to offer a service such as Patroniz, which will be launching soon, although it is already accepting beta invitations.

“We are focused on restaurants, bars, clubs, coffee shops and yoga studios,” Mr. Yeo says. “As we go, we will build a more specific solution for each vertical. There are a lot of website-building services out there but everything is so generic, and each offers a million options. For business owners to get in there to build something themselves, they get perfection paralysis because there are so many options, they don’t know what to do.”

Mr. Yeo says using Patroniz is a fairly straightforward process. After someone signs up for the service, Patroniz’s algorithm looks at the company’s business information to decide the best way for the website to be designed. Mr. Yeo says Patroniz recommends that a company provide professional photographs to provide some personalization and customization.

When a business wants to update its website or make changes, Mr. Yeo says Patroniz offers a curation service to ensure there are no problems.

While there are many other services, such as Yellow Pages, that provide websites to small-business owners, Mr. Yeo says Patroniz wants to be more “disruptive.”

“The market is still difficult for small businesses, and it’s very template driven,” he explains. “This is why we handle the design and Internet market. The way it is built into our app, we look after the technical stuff and always update your website so it is never falling behind.”

Bottom line: For small-business owners that want a hassle-free website service, Patroniz may be appealing because it should meet their needs to provide basic information. For companies looking for more sophisticated or customized designs, or looking to integrate services such as e-commerce, it would probably make sense to find someone who can custom build and design a site. I recommend my clients use WordPress because it offers a lot of flexibility and it lets them easily update and change their website’s information.

Special to The Globe and Mail

Mark Evans is the principal with ME Consulting, a communications and marketing strategic consultancy that works with startups and fast-growing companies to create compelling and effective messaging to drive their sales and marketing activities. Mark has worked with four startups – Blanketware, b5Media, PlanetEye and Sysomos. He was a technology reporter for more than a decade with The Globe and Mail, Bloomberg News and the Financial Post. Mark is also one of the co-organizers of the mesh, meshmarketing and meshwest conferences.

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