Some electrical contractors market their business by handing out business cards, printing up brochures and getting listed in the Yellow Pages. These advertising techniques can help drum up local business, but having a Web site can attract potential customers nationwide and even worldwide.

Now contractors can create a professional looking site without spending hours plowing through HTML code or paying big bucks to a Web-design company.

CNET Networks Inc., San Francisco, Calif., partnered with Trellix to offer an online Web site creation tool called Quick Page Builder.

Unlike other online tools, this one is free and does not require you to download any software. The company will give you 15MB of free Web space in exchange for displaying banner ads on your site.

You also don't have to learn HTML, which can often be confusing for first-time Web page builders. Simply go to http://cnet.com/quicksitebuilder to launch a Web page for your business.

After registering your personal and business information, sign in with your user name and password and select from one of the ready-made templates on the “All My Sites” page. You can select from categories such as online photo albums, organization sites, personal sites or professional services.

Contractors who want to set up a home page for their company can go straight to the category, “Building and Manufacturing.” The template, “Trade Contractors,” is geared toward skilled trades, such as electricians, and is a perfect place to start.

The first task is to name your Web page, which will most likely be the name of your business. You can then select what pages, in addition to your home page, you would like to include. Then check the boxes alongside the page names, such as “About Us,” “Our Services,” “Commercial Solutions,” “Residential Solutions,” Customer Accolades,” “Specials/Coupons” and “Contact Us.”

The next step is to select from one of the more than 50 Web site designs, which will determine the look and style of your site. CNET suggests the “Houses” design, which features a row of houses and blue blocks, but you're free to select any of the designs for your site. The easiest way to see all of them at a glance is to click on “Thumbnail View,” which displays miniature versions of all the designs. While many of the designs would work well for an electrical contracting company, the “Blueprint” design seems to be made for trade contractors (see screen shot at right).

After you select a Web site design, you will be able to start editing your site. Sample blocks of text will appear in different spots on the pages. To modify the text, simply click on the “Edit” button next to each paragraph and type in your company's information.

Many of the pages also have room for photos, which need to be low resolution (72 dots per inch) and in a GIF or JPEG format. If you try to feature a photo that is too big, it will most likely drive your customers away because of the time it will take to download. CNET offers a tool called “Web Photo Manager,” which allows you to prepare your photos for the Web. You can rotate, crop and resize your images, upload multiple photos to the Web at the same time or use automatic photo optimization for fast Web downloads.

Once you have installed the program, you can upload the images to CNET's Picture Gallery.

After you have your photos in the right format, you can replace the sample photos with your own snapshots of recent construction projects or executive staff members. To do this, you have to simply click the “Edit” button again, which will be next to the sample photos. You can then delete the sample photo, select one of the photos from CNET's Picture Gallery or add one of your own.

To add one of your own photos, click “upload,” which will allow you to browse through your files on your hard drive and save it for your Web page. Along with the “Edit” buttons, a toolbar at the bottom of the page will help you add text or photos as well as “Web gems,” such as a guestbook, links to other sites, maps, MP3s or animated graphics.

If you have any questions as you're working, you can turn on the “Help” button.

Your Web page is automatically saved as you work, so you don't have to complete it all in one sitting. Instead, you can work on it when you have time. To get back to your site, you need to type in your login username and password. Then click on your site's name, which will be under “Current Web sites and Content.”

After you wrap up your work on your Web site, click on “Preview Site” to see what it would look like on the Internet. Then you're ready for the final step — publishing your site. Once you click the “Publish” button, your site will be visible to everyone. CNET will then give you the URL for your site and allow you to announce your new site to your friends, business associates and customers via e-mail.

You can also spread the word by getting your page registered with electrical search engines, such as Electric-find.com, which has a specific section devoted to contractors' Web pages. For a $50 listing fee, the search engine will include your link with other contractors in your state.

Unlike printed brochures or phone book listings, you can change the content of your Web site at any time. Once you publish it, it is not set in stone, but is rather a continually evolving marketing tool for your business.