You have decided to hire a professional to do your web design. The problem is that not all of them are professional. Some are working with knowledge that is out of date, and some of them are working out of the basement that belongs to their parents!
What you need to know:
1. Qualifications are worthless. Unless the person has a proper graphical design background, almost all of the web design training is learned at a community college part time and not very credible. Unless the person you are qualifying can explain XHTML and CSS to you and why they are good for your website, stay clear.
2. A good web designer will have a diverse portfolio and lots of attractive sites they have built for their customers. They will also be able to explain to you why they designed the site the way it looks. If a person does not have a substantial portfolio, get them to do a first draft design to display their skill to you.
3. Your designer candidate needs to realize that they are building your website for users. This means all users regardless of technical ability and which web browser they are using. Amateur web designers tend to come up with what they think are impressive looking pages while ignoring the visitors who will come to your site. Ask the prospect which browsers they will test the web site on? (Answer: as many as possible) What is the purpose of the website? (Answer: explain the point of the site very simply).
4. Many web designers have no idea what to charge for their services. When you ask, you will get bids form 50 to 5,000. Both of these are ridiculous as one of them may be from a non English-speaking foreigner and the other a committee that will accomplish little. Look for an independent individual as opposed to a corporate type person. Be willing to negotiate the price but never agree to a let them do whatever it takes to make a good site and pay by the hour!
5. Be very wary of any web designer who tries to sell you a whole package such as domain name, web hosting, etc. Most of these types of operations have huge flaws in one area or the other. They will either be web hosting specialists who think designing web pages is easy or designers who are reselling some cheap hosting package for a huge profit. It's best to buy the hosting yourself.
Keep these five points in mind when looking for that perfect web designer.