Intuit's Web Tool: Not as Easy as It Seems

Bean-counting powerhouse Intuit ( INTU) is prospecting for Web development gold.

Big companies are bending over backward to serve smaller ones: Monsters like Google ( GOOG), Microsoft ( MSFT) and IBM ( IBM) are offering full lines of small-business products. Basic website development is near the top of the list. With 20-million-plus small businesses out there, even a couple of bucks from each makes for a nice piece of bread. Even accounting heavyweight Intuit is jumping into the Web-development fray.

The Mountain View, Calif.-based accounting and business software company bought startup Homestead for roughly $170 million in 2007. Intuit made Homestead founder Justin Kitch its chief growth officer.

Homestead's Web site development service enables not only design, but also e-commerce and search engine optimization support. Considering that Intuit is the last small-business accountant standing -- Microsoft announced recently it was stepping back from its Money software line - Kitch's product is central to Intuit's future.

My assistant and I used Homestead to build a test Web site for a new sports technology radio show we're developing. While Homestead requires some tinkering, it provides decent results. We made a simple Web site in three hours.

What you get: A reasonable Web site design tool for about $25 a month.

Homestead offers basic packages that start at $5 a month, but I don't recommend them because you only get five pages. The most expensive package gets you more pages, support and tools for $50 a month.

Homestead offers you three basic modes for Web development: design, edit and upgrade. The design software offers 2,000-plus templates, most of which are pretty bland. There are categories like services, hospitality and personnel. The service also provides a downloadable design tool called SiteBuilder, which you can use to develop sites from scratch.

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