I want to make a clear distinction between two things here: Creating a website is a very different process than using graphic design to beautify a website. Designing a website is not necessarily creating a website. When you're making a business website, you want to make a good website first, and then look at design elements.
There are multiple approaches to both creating and designing, but for most business owners I want you to meet somewhere in the middle. I lie; I want you to err toward making simpler websites, with great structure, effective content (notice I didn't say great, even though great is good), and dressed with well done graphics. You don't have to be a graphic designer to make a great website though.
The analogy I use most is that of building a house, and then decorating that house. Let's consider this house our storefront. Let's also allow that a finished house includes routine dressings like floor moldings, quality door knobs, well crafted siding, ect. It's a sound, livable home, and we want to put a business there. There are two errors that are made most frequently. Follow me in the analogy to illustrate each one.
Trying to fix a crummy site with graphic design. You can't walk up to a wobbly home where the windows have a weird slant to them, the roof pitch isn't even, and the door is hanging on one hinge, and proceed to hang garland around, paint the door neon green, have beautiful calligraphy artwork commissioned on the front to say, "open," and put a new cash register in there with a cute sticker on it, and consider yourself in a good "home."
Having all design, and no organic content. Likewise, you can't have the most beautiful TV home, made with beautiful matching colors, perfectly laid shingles painted around the edges, a gigantic running fountain in the AstroTurf green front yard, and then walk in to find no toilet or sink, no fourth wall on rooms, and no space between decorations to hang stuff like Tax Authority certificates, or industry certifications, then call this a livable "home." What's the fountain for? [Edit: for all you designers our there, the fountain is Flash, in case you didn't guess ;)]
The Smarter Way: The Key to Great Websites
I suggest a more holistic approach to creating business websites. Websites have functions. People expect websites to answer certain questions, especially if it's a business. They expect content that will set the website apart. They expect actionable content that guides them toward a solution or addresses some need, or enriches their time spent with you.
In the Corporate World this concept is gaining popularity in the buzz words, "results driven problem solving." Small business owners know that there really is no other way of solving problems. That buzz phrase is stupid, but we want to approach our websites from the same mentality.
I encourage you to build your website with the notion that you are publishing interactive, valuable content about what problems you solve, who you are, why customers should trust you, and how they can get to, or invoke the solutions you offer. Consider it a live presentation filled with rich material that you deliver to an audience who can interact. Present that material in an organized way, and THEN dress it up with well crafted, well placed, elegant design elements.
You can stop reading now, and have the entire gist of making great websites.
If you want to continue reading though, I'll give you examples of this done well, and resources that will help shore up this belief.