I was recently asked at a networking event, how to find a good web designer. "Should I just Google Web designers in my area, or should I ask for a personal recommendation?" I'd say always go by recommendation like you would any tradesman, but there are a few other ways to find a good web designer that you can work with.
It's important to remember that the relationship you have with your web designer will be a long term relationship which doesn't always end when the website goes live. You may want to make amends to the site or change some functionality somewhere down the line, so having an open line of communication with your web designer is important.
Talk to other local businesses, ask about the company they use for their website; how was their experience of working with them?
Use LinkedIn to find company profiles and read any recommendations they have received. Identify key people in the company and read their recommendations too. It's worth noting here that we all have control over which recommendations appear on our profile, so it's unlikely you'll see any negative ones.
Look at the company's website and see if they display a portfolio of other websites they've done for other clients. This will give you an idea of the kind of work they do, but also means you have the option of contacting previous clients for a reference.
I think there's a lot to be said for face to face meetings and choosing a web designer you get on with and can work with.
If you're looking for someone to build a website for you, don't rush into choosing someone local or the cheapest option - it could end more expensive in the long run.