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If you are used to looking at websites you can immediately spot who built them. Designer sites tend to be beautiful but impractical (slow to load, difficult to navigate), whereas Programmer sites work wonderfully but look terrible ! The trick is to combine both to produce an attractive site that works well.
The recent change in the way the search engines work means that designers are actually more free now than they used to be. Before it was all about putting the right phrases in the right places. Now it is all about getting the right links from the right websites, and crafting them in such a way that they will have maximum effect.
At Tate Web Design we design most of our customer sites, and they are very happy with our work. However if you want to use your own designer, or hire a specialist yourself or through us then that can be arranged. Make sure any designer you use knows the rules of website design.
Bear in mind that websites are not designed like brochures, but need to be much shorter and more punchy. So long paragraphs are out, bullet points are in.
The golden rule of building websites is to make them easy to navigate and fast to download. Specifically, no page should take longer than 6 secs to download using a 56k modem, and ideally should exactly fill the default screen setting of 800 x 600 pixels without having to scroll down. Your visitors should be able to access ANY part of the website in 3 clicks or less, and the main navigation should always be present on each page.
Try and pesonalise your website with photos of you and your team. When your clients enter your shop or office they are given a lot of visual clues. when they enter your website try and create the same helpful and personal feeling. Photos tend to be the best way.