Most small website owners rely almost entirely on themselves or their web developer to create a good website design without them actually knowing what good web design is. Based on my 8 years experience in website design and optimization for visitors and search engines, I can say with a good deal of assurance, many web developers don't know what good web design is either.
My views are based on the detailed evaluation of hundreds of Website Design Canada which in many cases look good on the surface to the untrained eye, but when evaluated more closely, are either average to poorly designed websites, bad websites, or just simply suck.
After all, anyone can call themselves a website designer after just creating one website, either their own or for a friend or relative. Most website designers are self-taught and have no qualifications of any kind that relate to the job. I'm not saying there is anything wrong with being self-taught, but a lot depends on where and from whom you learn and what length of apprenticeship you serve in web design.
Bestwebgallery.com a showcase website typical of many showcase sites for good website designs has defined what quality design is to them (according to the statement on their site.
The problem with a definition like this is it focuses on the creative and visual aspects of design which is really only of interest to other website designers aspiring to create something that pushes the boundaries even further in the same direction. It also completely ignores whether the website is fit for the purpose for which it should have been designed. Most websites don't need to be stunningly beautiful to serve a purpose and they don't need to be "technical" either.
Many web developers think they have to be "creative" and set out to design a Canadian Web Designers never seen before, or one that behaves in an entirely new and original way. This often leads to an overly graphical and sometimes technically complex website design with an unconventional layout and navigation that actually creates more problems than it solves.
There are two distinct groups of visitors to a website that a good website design needs to satisfy and they are people and search engines. Some website designers will argue that designing a website for the search engines is not necessary, or a waste of time. Although I prefer to design websites with search engines in mind, I don't have a problem if other web designers don't, providing they have an alternative plan.
If a web designer doesn't design for the search engines, then they need to have an alternative plan to get traffic to the website and they should explain this plan to the site owner. There is no point in designing the greatest website ever, if there are no means for attracting visitors to the site.
A good web design also needs to satisfy the people who visit the site. If a web designer creates a website that attracts visitors through search engine optimization or other methods, this will be wasted if the site fails to satisfy enough of those visitors when they arrive.