BT Group is testing an online service to help small and medium-size businesses build an internet presence with nifty features such as blogs, podcasts and click-to-call capabilities.
The service, called BT Tradespace, is free during its beta period. It is aimed at businesses with little or no technical knowledge.
Users can build web pages for their company using templates. The pages are then listed by business category on the Tradespace website. The service also includes tools for creating a blog, podcasts and other features to attract visitors.
Eventually, BT will establish "community channels" for certain types of business, where visitors to the site can share content they find interesting. If a person likes a particular podcast, for example, they can alert other users in their community group to it.
Visitors to a company’s website can have contact information for the business sent to their mobile phone or email account, and click to see a map with the firm’s location. Tradespace also enables free calls to the business from a mobile or landline phone using a "click-to-call" button on the company's site.
Information about how much the service will cost and when it will be rolled out commercially was not available.
Malcolm Pankhurst, the director of seating supplier Backchairs Direct has registered on Tradespace. He already has a website but was looking for a way to make his business more visible. "It's generally easy for people to find me, but I think more and more people are attaching themselves to specific communities," Pankhurst said.
Tradespace has full-featured tools to build a site, said product development consultant Mark Rowatt Anderson. "It makes it really easy for people to set up blogs and social networks for businesses that aren't used to that.”