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I'd recommend that you read the article "Your Web Presence" located in the Expert tab. It's a great article that talks about key considerations for selecting an appropriate web company and minimum things you should have/require on your website.
I have a lot of experience in this field as the owner of a creative design firm who has worked with clients building websites ranging from local small businesses to Disney and Fox.
- Find a recommended and reputable designer that you can trust. Be willing to spend a little more money for the experience. Your neighbor's college son may be able to help you okay, but would you really stake your business on it to save a few dollars?
- Your designer should lead you through the process so that they can best research and fulfill your needs. Some designers like starting points (good and bad examples of your likes/dislikes). Some need only a brief description or outline. All designers will need some or all of the following: copy (text), contact information, product/service info, photos, logos, colors, typography, legal information, and lastly, a thorough outline of the site including needed pages, goals, descriptions, etc.
- Also, have a clear gameplan in order and a list of goals you want to accomplish with your website. The aesthetic design, functionality, interface, user interaction, ease of use, ease of communicating your key points, etc should be all part of the plan. As you are working on the site, take progress ive steps to ensure that you are getting what you need.
Happy designer hunting!
Do you have a Small Business Development Center near you? This is a program of the Small Business Administration. I am a counselor at one in Northern California. We have business counselors to help small biz owners on many topics, including web development. The counselor will not create the web site for you, but can help you define your requirements, help you understand what to look for in a web developer and help you feel more comfortable talking to your developer. It is a great service--and it is free!