I'm in Austin. What exactly do you need? I'm more of a web programmer, but I have a lot of free time lately and the motivation to practice the latest W3C standards for design.
You might want to consider Craigslist for initial contact. The good thing about hiring web developers is that their work is very accessible. You can pick the one that has done something similar to what you desire now.
These sites are simple, cheap and effective. They are viewable in all major browsers, including speaking browsers for the blind. They also do well in search engine results for "Austin Bed and Breakfast".
1) Purchase a website-in-a-box package from a big, reputable domain company (godaddy or netsol)
These are well designed, and look extremely professional (think big company web design look-and-feel). They are usually very affordable and come with support. They are usually wizard-format, so you fill in the information on a webform and you see the pages show up in a real time editing environment (called WYSISYG). The downside of this option is that you're picking from a preset list of design templates, so flexibility in the design is minimal (of course your logo and brand is dropped in, but the site wasn't designed from the ground up for you). This is usually not a big deal, as the list of templates has grown very large and diverse and you can usually find one that suits you well.
2) Hire a 1 man shop (found on craigslist or the web in general)
These are people who can design and code for the web. With the current job market, I'm sure you could find one for around the same price as the web-in-a-box option. Here's the snag though - Quality - A great designer probably isn't going to be a fabulous coder or content developer or Information Architect (all important aspects of a good website). The same goes in reverse as well...so usually what you're getting is a jack-of-all-trades, who is ok at everything but excellent at nothing...and it will probably show.
3) Use a professional web design agency
This is a great option...you get experts in all the major areas of web development. The downside is cost.
IMHO (having worked in E-Comm for many years) the 1st option is, many times, the best one for smaller business owners. It provides them a good, solid design, which has been well tested with users, while being very cost efficient - giving the business what they need; a good looking, usable site at a decent price.
A few words of advice...Budget and goals are everything as you need to assess what is important for your project — brand. Of course everyone wants the best bang for the buck and should get that. But you need to be very clear with what you or your business can do to contribute to the success your .com. If you don't have the skill or experience, work with someone that does as it will save you money and frustration in the long run.
So with that being said, if you think you need a professional agency to help you. Search for interactive agencies, advertising or marketing agencies, etc. When looking, view the sites they have done, clientele, services, look at creative/technical and if you are interested...call them and discuss any questions you may have.
One word of advice though, is that not everyone posts the latest work to there sites. I know we are a huge offender of that as we are like that phrase "the cobbler's children have no shoes" as you can see from our site.
Anyway, if you have questions or anything feel free to pm me.
I love Lotus Talk as I have found far more useful info than simply which brake pads to buy or whether my Elise is a chick magnet. . .
Wish I had this thread earlier. The wife's been hammering away at her own new business (see ::Launching Lives, referrals appreciated!) for almost a year and the biggest, the biggest drain has been establishing a web site that is both attractive, reliable and a real contribution to income production.
I've told the current agency who is profiting big time by charging to fix the former agency's incompetencies that if they want to charge like a doctor's office than they should be licensed and regulated like a health care outfit as well. Unfortunately, there is no way to judge value and quality except by examining the earlier work and word of mouth.
Michael in Hoboken certainly helped nail down three options. You should know in advance a vague idea of what you want on the site and what you expect it to accomplish. At least with the technology you are not necessarily limited to the local area for a supplier.
Veruca I will bookmark your web site as we do get some peaky times
That sucks and is a challenge...all companies are not equal, nor are licensed doctors for that matter. Design you can see, level of creativity you can see, how it's programmed can be scene if you know what your looking for but most don't, customer service is never experienced until engagement but you should talk to the team to make sure you feel comfortable with them.
Finding a good agency is really like finding that good auto service department which as you know can be a challenge. For us, word of mouth makes up 90% of new clients if that tells you anything, the rest is impressed with clientele, work, awards or just the personal approach to our agency. But I think the most important question is how many clients continue to work with that agency after the initial engagement. What is that number? Not everyone will like to work with you or that company but if the majority stay with you than that is a big indicator.
kmhelper good luck and hope the new agency makes it right for you.