Local or long distance? You can locate a lot of designers by going on line and checking out web pages. Theoretically, you could choose someone in California to design your web site and communicate with him or her by telephone, fax, email, and snail mail. However, if you’re new to this, being able to see someone face to face could be important. Maintenance and upgrading are issues to consider, too.
Experience counts. Look at the work a designer has already done. Ask for references and follow up on them. Ask about the working relationship, turn around time, pricing, follow up, and responsiveness. If you need an online store, find someone who is capable in all the technology involved. Avoid having your site be someone’s learning experience. If you do want to give a brand-new company a chance, ask them to donate some or all of their time. They get experience and a demo site; you get a low cost web site. Timeliness issues can crop up with part-time web designers. Build reasonable but firm timelines into your contract.
Ownership issues. Be sure that you own the copyright to everything on the web site. Some businesses have had problems when they wanted to give a site to another developer for changes. Have your site set up so you can easily make changes yourself, through FTP software or a Telnet shell account. Having to go through your designer every time you want to put an item on sale or change your graphics will quickly become cumbersome. Designers are very busy people. Ownership should be addressed in your contract.