Searching your favorite search engine for "web designer" is like throwing darts - blindfolded. You never know if your dart will hit the mark, or even come close to hitting the dartboard! Fortunately, finding the right web designer at a fair price isn't difficult when you know how. That's why it pays to follow these steps:
1. Ask Around - Nothing beats a personal reference. Ask friends, family members or even small or local businesses you frequent. See if they have a website. Ask who created it and were they happy with the results? Some people choose a do-it-yourself route, but for professional results, it's best to stick to using professionals. Remember, just because you can brush your teeth by yourself doesn't make you a dentist!
2. Check Out Their Portfolio - The best web designers have a portfolio of websites they've designed. This portfolio should give you a good indication of the quality of their work. Ask the site owner about their experiences with the web designer or web design company. Looking at the portfolio can also give you a good indication of this designer's "style" -- is it more corporate? More creative? Or somewhere in between?
3. Get a Free Quote - Good web designers also understand that you want to know how much a project costs. That's why they offer free, no obligation quotes to give you an estimate of how much your website might cost. Take advantage of this and compare different quotes from different designers. Don't just go for the cheapest though - find out what's included, when they could have the website finished, and what type of follow-up support is available (if there is any at all).
4. Check Out their Proposal - Oftentimes, web designers will offer to create a proposal to take the place of a simple price quote. This is a more thorough report (usually 3 pages or less) that details exactly what you would get and what the cost would be as well as a timeframe for completion. Proposals are much more complete than just a dollar amount. Pay special attention to the designers who take the time to craft a proposal - they are more serious about earning your business than just plunking down a price.
Keeping these four tips in mind when searching for your web designer will pay off in the amount of time, money and frustration you save over someone who didn't "do their homework". In the end, you'll likely find a quality designer who will work hard to ensure your complete satisfaction and provide the kind of follow up support you expect. Good luck!