I must write a disclaimer that this web design contract is based on experience and knowledge of the web design and development industry. Others may write these contracts and agreements differently. This article is written to help others who wish to know how to protect themselves with a web design contract. So enough said, let’s get down to the 10 steps:
1. Scope of Services:
Start off with the most important aspect of the entire project. What exactly are you as the designer going to do for the client? Present a general 3-5 sentence summary of the scope of service. Will you be responsible for the design and programming? How will the website be updated? Who will be responsible for the marketing at the end of the project? Who will host the website when the project is done?
2. Price and Payments
This is the area where you are upfront and state the exact pricing structure of the project. You’ll mention the terms of the payment and if it is split up into installments. Is the project quoted at a fixed rate? Is it an hourly rate and how is this documented and tracked? Will the payments be made with a certain percentage up front? Will it be set up as a down payment and then a monthly billing cycle, or is it a milestone related payment system?
3. Terms and Termination
How long will this contract be enforceable? If the client does not want to pursue the project all of the way to the end, how can he get out? What are the penalties and time frame they can exit the web design contract? This is crucial, especially to web development agreements with entrepreneurs and startups who many times have a great idea, some type of outline or business plan for what they wish to do, but for some reason never finish through with the project. Then, as the designer you must have certain rights. Do you keep all of the code that has been developed? Can you finish it and retain intellectual property to it? Many factors can go in this area, but it protects both the client and the designer in the case a designer never is able to complete a project or continues to be late on deliverables and the client wishes to terminate the relationship.
4. Ownership of Intellectual Property
One aspect that needs to be addressed is who will retain the intellectual property to the project. Typically, the client retains all intellectual property. This area highlights all of the intellectual property covered, such as the source code, all digital files, documentation, etc. Intellectual property is very important to any and all web design and development projects.
5. Confidential Information
Many clients wish to keep all information that is exchanged with the designer as highly confidential and cannot be disclosed. This must be addressed in any agreement as to the extent that information can be disclosed. Can the designer mention that they are working for the client during the course of the project to other prospects or potential clients? Many designers use their portfolio of clients as sales tools for other clients. This area must represent exactly what is disclosed and for how long. What period of time is the information kept confidential?
6. Warranty and Disclaimer
Having a warranty on the work that is developed is standard in most web projects. Typically, a 30-90 day warranty is given on all work to be functional and bug free. Now, this is the area that small details, such as the client having access to the server. If by mistake they enter the files and make changes by mistake that affect the functionality within the terms. Think of the label on products that you purchase such as furniture and mattresses. It says that the warranty is void if you tear the label off. This is what you can address in this area. You will provide a warranty on certain terms and conditions with specific disclaimers as well.
7. Limitation of Liability
This is the area in which the designer discloses that they are not liable for any losses of money for the designer or other economic losses directly or indirectly associated with the development of the website. Some less experienced clients will turn around to the designer as the source of their website not succeeding online. Avoid issues in the future, like when something does not succeed when the client thought it would. This can be especially things that the designer cannot control once the website is launched. Also, during the project itself, if there is a financial loss, it protects you as a designer.
8. Relation of Parties
Make sure that the client and designer understand what their relationship is. Is the relationship a development partnership? Is it strictly a work-for-hire type relationship? Is it a client and vendor relationship. This is the area where this needs to be highlighted to make sure the business relationship is understood.
9. Employee Solicitation / Hiring
Many designers never think twice about this, but there have been cases where clients have lured employees or freelancers of the designer during or after the project was completed. Of course this has huge negative aspects associated to it if this happens. That is why this area is also extremely crucial. Lay out the fact that the client can not solicit the designer’s employees in any way. This is especially when it comes to potential hiring or additional perks. Specify a certain amount of time for this as well. Typically, this time from is between 2-5 years.
10. Entire Web Design Contract
This is the ending of the document that basically should say that the entire document and its attributes fall under the entire web design contract and that nothing will supersede it. Also, this is the area they will have the client and designers key representative who will sign it, date it, and post their roles within the company. Make sure that any and all modifications after signature are signed with initials of both parties next to the change.
These 10 steps to writing a successful web design contract will give peace of mind to both the client and designer, and will pave the way to a trusting business relationship.
Some clients may be surprised when presented with what could be a 2-4 page document to read and sign. Don’t be afraid to walk them through each point. Reaffirm the fact that such a document is needed to protect them as a client and you as a designer in any unwanted circumstances. At the same time, highlight exactly what everyone’s obligations are. With that said, there should be no issues and the client should be willing to sign the document. Of course if they are not willing to sign a web design contract, perhaps it is a financial loss to you as the designer. However, in the long run it will avoid headaches and even more substantial financial losses. For more information about web design contracts or resources related to web design contracts, check outSmashing Magazine’s Post or check out the list of web design contract templates on the Mashable.
Do you write your own web design contracts? Have you had trouble in the past getting contracts signed? Tell us about your experience with web design contracts in the comments section below.