Two in five (40 percent) small firms spend over £1,000 on hiring someone to create a website for them, or buying software so they can do it themselves, says Serif.

Research by the software firm revealed a quarter of small firms admitted they're unaware web design software is available while 32 percent admit to spending £100 or more per year on web hosting and 15 percent have forked out for an SEO specialist.

Gary Bates, managing director at Serif, said the research may reveal why more than two thirds (69 percent) of sole traders don't have a website or still want to improve the one they have.

"Small businesses are looking at ways to cut costs in this current economic climate, so taking web design into their own hands can be a really cost-effective solution."

Nearly three quarters (74 percent) admitted they'd need help to develop a website as they believe they don't have the time or skills.

"Even the busiest of people can get online. If there are existing text, images and other media readily available, we know this kind of site could be designed and published quickly," added Bates.

He said if small business owners can use a word processor to mix text and graphics, which 85 percent of the respondents claimed they were able to do, then it's easy to make a website with software such as Serif's WebPlus X5.

"This means it will be even faster and easier than commissioning a designer or agency to create one."