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"When they started, templates were rather boring and badly put together, but over the last year or two, a lot of companies have come up with really good templates," said Debbie Everson, owner of SearchMaz, a San Francisco firm that helps businesses market their Web sites.
For a non-techie, small-budget retailer taking its first steps onto the Web, the best bet may be a turnkey operation from a well- known company. Once you've got some experience selling on the Web, you can decide whether to shift to a more customized option. "The best entry is to go to the small-business area of Yahoo and look at their programs," said Patrick Cook of the Small Business Technology Institute, a San Jose nonprofit. "They have everything from basic sites to e-commerce. As your business progresses, you can grow with those plans. With Yahoo, you have the strength of their name, a robust and secure e-commerce solution, and the biggest servers with the biggest pipes. It may be somewhat impersonal, but you know they have the faculties and the corporate muscle." There's much more to learn about starting your site than can fit into one column item. The Small Business Administration in San Francisco and San Jose offers a variety of free and low-cost workshops in e-commerce.
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