Everyone has a Web site these days (you do, don't you?). Some are for fun, while others are pure business. If you're planning a new site, you have to know its function before you can create its form. Then, if you don't want to build it yourself--or know better than to try--you'll be better prepared to hire someone to do it for you.
Decide if the Web site will be for personal use or a business tool. Do you want a purely informational site for prospective clients? Or will it be interactive, so that visitors can buy a product or service online?
Ask friends and business associates to recommend some Website designers. Identify at least three suitable contenders to compare their styles, prices and technical expertise.
Review the designers' Web sites to see samples of their work. Ideally, look at examples of sites that are similar to your business.
Ask designers to describe their approach to building a site. Some concentrate purely on getting information to visitors, while others focus more on design aesthetics or technical issues. Find out whether the individual is a designer or a programmer at heart. Technical experts typically don't have the design talent needed to make a site look great as well as work seamlessly. Likewise, a designer may not be as up-to-date on the latest Web technology and know how to engineer the site correctly. A firm with several experts may be the wisest way to get all of the expertise you need.
Find out what specifics they would recommend for your site including how many pages you'll need, how the content is best arranged, how to apply technical solutions to problems and other issues. Compare these recommendations and gauge how experienced the designer is. Pay attention to how well they communicate and if you could establish a good rapport.
Bring along a list of Web sites you like and why. Discuss with prospective designers to get feedback and be confident that they understand what you want your site to look like.
Discuss their fee structure. Does the cost include Web hosting, registering a domain name, or updating the Web site? (This is frequently a hidden cost, since many sites need to be updated by a trained programmer or designer.) Ask whether you will be able to maintain the site yourself.
Set up a schedule that details what each phase will accomplish, what materials they need to get from you, and an overall timeline for the whole project. Fees will be tied to the schedule.
Web sites are like advertising: You'll want to match yours to your company identity. A graphics design firm will want a flashy intro page; a mortuary might opt for something a bit more conservative. Don't be afraid to keep shopping if a designer seems too expensive or doesn't jibe with the sort of Web site you have in mind. There are plenty of designers out there.