There is a digital divide between small businesses and consumers.

Only 51 percent of small businesses have websites, according to the Score Association, a Herndon, Va.-based nonprofit organization of small-business counselors and mentors supported by the Small Business Administration.

Only 51% of firms have one, and many of those lack basic information

Among small businesses that do have websites, many are lacking basic site components such as a phone number, physical address, email address or social media accounts.

To add to the problem, 4 in 5 consumers have used a smartphone to shop, yet 93 percent of small-business websites are not optimized for mobile.

This digital divide is hurting small businesses.

The owners of these businesses give many reasons they don’t have websites: They don’t think they need one, it costs too much, they don’t have enough time, it’s too complex.

But they’re missing a huge chance to connect with customers. Ninety-one percent of consumers have visited a store following an online experience, and 37 percent use the Internet to find a store at least once per month.

While you can go the do-ityourself route, it may be better to hire a professional website designer to create a site or audit your current page.

Michael McCranie, founder of the small business-focused website design firm Type3WebDesign.com, suggests the following when looking for a Web design firm:

  • The contract should be project-based, not hourly, and should spell out what the firm is doing in detail, such as who is providing content for the site, what content management system is being used and what the creating design standards will be.
  • The contract should spell out that the small business, not the website design firm, retains ownership of the website, including content and domain name.
  • The design firm should be able to provide the small busi- ness with customer references and links to its work on active websites.
  • The firm should listen and be responsive.

A website can be as simple or as elaborate as you want; however, the most important factor is that it provides value to your consumers.

McCranie said a good website should:

  • Be visually appealing.
  • Share great content above the fold, or before users have to scroll.
  • Include contact information such as email address, phone number and physical address on every page.
  • Load each website page in under four seconds; two to three seconds is ideal.
  • Include a regularly updated blog.
  • Be mobile-ready so it can be viewed on all devices.

Search engine optimization is vital to help consumers find your website. It’s important to invest in it because it can help to drive tons of new business, said Grant Kantsios of the Charlotte-based Kantsios Consulting.