Whether you’re designing a new web site or refreshing your existing one, you should be giving the website designers specific instructions as to what you want. Too often, they just get a vague request to “come up with something modern”, or “make my site look a bit like this other one”. You might think that designers wouldn’t be too unhappy to receive such limited guidance, because this allows them to add their own creativity. Most know, however, that without a precise brief, their ideas are going to be rejected an unhealthy number of times and the job will take much longer than expected. That’s why most designers normally just reach for an off-the-shelf template, because who wants to put in loads of original effort only to have it rejected by customers who can’t be bothered to explain lucidly what they really want?
As part of your discussions, if you know what you want, you should say so. Explaining by example is by far the best approach, and that’s where a resource like Good Web Design comes in. This is a nice collection of different ways to do different parts of a web site, presented in a minimalist fashion. Use the links at the top to see examples from around the web of how you could do things like navigation, calls to action and FAQ pages. It’s also a good way to avoid ending up on Clients From Hell.