I think these are greatly underestimated. Sure, I'm not going to be too well liked by many businesses that rely on big website design and construction jobs for their living, but I think most people could do well to start with a business card website first, before going all out with a massive online structure that might only be seen by your employees and their family, if that.
A business card website is a great first step in getting your business online. It means absolute minimal investment and allows you to test the market and help build up your customer base before spending large bucks where they may go to waste. At least this way, you can test, fine tune and then present the public (your customers!) with your new revised flashy online estate.
A business card website can be as simple as a digitised scan of, you guessed it, your business card! But hang on, why waste the time in that extra step? Your graphic designer (if you used one) would already have your logo image in electronic format, after all, they did the design and layout for you! It's probably in a file format used by their graphics program, but just ask for it to be saved or exported as JPG or PNG. Then you can use any basic web editor to import it into a page, adjust the META tags, and upload to your hosting provider!
Another thing to note is, it doesn't have to be a static page. “But, the JPG image would be static!” you might say. Yes, but that doesn't mean you can't include a link below it to send your visitor to an email form, where they can email you DIRECTLY from your website and you'll instantly receive their question or comments. You could include a small form where visitors can subscribe to your mailing list, which means building up your number of potential customers and allows for very quick and easy emailing of the latest products, services and special pricing and discounts.
You could also set up a survey and include it. Maybe even a survey of what they like to see in a business website regarding the presence of Flash and multimedia! Let your customers dictate how your newer bigger website should look! After all, they're the ones who will either be enjoying or suffering from it. I think we'd all prefer the former, wouldn't we? So why make that mistake when you have so much going for your online presence, and see what your customers really want to see? They'll thank you for it in returned business.
Don't be afraid because a business card website might seem too “simple” or too “plain”. Remember the great design principle, Keep It Simple, Stupid. Don't ignore it. It'll reward you and your customers over and over again.
Martin Coleman is a freelance writer and computer programmer. More information about his services and other articles can be found at http://www.martincoleman.com