We use their private label program, and it is very good.
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Try posting your project on odesk.com. I've used it and they've got some really good people there.
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So it's difficult to wade through the crap when doing a Google search for a Web Design firm (hmmm, I wonder if people looking for hosting feel the same way).
Have you used anyone that you can recommend for Web site design?
<<snipped>> the truth is in this case you may want to find something in your city. For such a project it's not worth to find some far far away company and talk to them by phone. Been there, done that, never again.
Unless you are planning a big project it's better to search for a small local company. But the best way is to know an it/design student or someone who does it privately as they use to charge a lot less (that's what I did and the guy did a great job. However that depends on the guy naturally, ask for some references or so).
Ive found that whenever the designer is criticized, it usually comes down to the incompetence of their boss, who likes to make decisions in matters, that he ain't qualified to make decisions about. Such as which browsers to support, or in which degree the site should use client sided scripting.
I can understand if the designer is one of those who still uses tables for layout. Or WYSIWYG editors, without really knowing the standards behind, is slow to respond, or doesn't deliver.
Any designer should know their limits. And of cause don't accept more work then they can handle, i wouldn't accept that my web designer used WYSIWYG editors, because i know that hand-coding is far more efficient.
I do however believe that the web designer should be able to handle the creation of web graphics, you should only have to hire a graphics designer, if you want something done in 3d. Graphics designers usually don't know web standards, and industry best-practices, well enough to do any work beyond that done in 3d studio or photoshop. You want a real web designer for that, someone who specializes in the exact field of web-design.
I agree that it is difficult to find a decent web design firm through Google and that it does take time. From working at a design & development business I've found that majority of our clients come from referrals and word of mouth which is the best way to go - usually when we complete a project for someone, they love our work and just keep coming back. With that said, I'd have to recommend Tisme - one of the most creative and innovative web design firms in Australia