When it comes to the skill that is required in order to make any effective business website I'm often shocked by what I see getting published. As a website designer it is your job to do the right thing for your customer. And that is not asking them "what do you want?" I suppose that the problem is actually greater in the definition of what a website designer is. You see, I am of the opinion that a website designer should understand exactly what the website is for. For most small businesses it is to create a level of trust instantaneously with people viewing the website and secondly to create some sort of conversion. This is achieved through competent and modern design with a strong emphasis on usability and current website marketing principles. Sadly what I usually see is "look how good I am with Photoshop!"
When I deal with small businesses and their website needs I don't ask them what they want. It's my job to know what they want. Or should I say what they need. Every business is different. Every business has its own needs in conversion goals. It's my job to be able to see them and implement them. On occasion I will have a client try and build the website by giving us design direction. Unless they are skilled in this, I don't allow it to happen. A few color choices...a few images...that's all you usually. I usually find that small business owners are skilled in their business but not this. If I have someone coming to my house to do some service I treat them as the expert rather than stand over their shoulder telling them how to do the job.
So if you are a small business owner and are looking to fix your website there is but one criteria you should use for picking a company to work with. What have the results been for other clients? Your website is a 24/7 billboard that showcases your business to potential clients. What is it really saying? Is it saying that I have been made by an amateur or perhaps it is saying maybe you should go look at my competitor. Your website should say that we are serious, we are good and you won't regret doing business with us. Take two steps back and look at your website from fresh eyes or even better, ask a stranger or several strangers to give you an honest opinion. Most of all remember that although bad design may be inexpensive up front, in the long run you are just giving the money you saved to your competitors along with all the customers you have the given the wrong impression to by looking at a horrible respresentation of your business.
To all the Photoshop cowboys that think they are website designers, keep up the "good" work. We appreciate the business.