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8 Critical Factors for Successful Web Design Contracts
OK, so you have requested quotes and decided on a web design provider. They have given you a web design contract to sign and it all seems pretty straight forward.
Unfortunately it’s not.
A bad web design contract will frustrate you and the web designer.
Think lots of stamping of feet and angry demands from both parties. At worst, it will cost you a lot more money than you bargained for.
All of this can be avoided by simply understanding the qualities of a good contract and being able to spot a bad one.
But before the specifics of contracts are explained, first you should understand why bad contracts exist.
When it comes to contract signing, the web design provider has already invested a lot of time trying to win you over and they don’t want to scare you away with too many terms and conditions.
This has two effects:
- The terms in the contact are not properly explained to you.
- The contract does not include enough conditions about what is to be delivered and when.
A good contract will ensure that both parties completely understand what is expected of each other and ensures a successful and smooth operation.
By the end of this lesson you will learn to spot a good web design contract and even make suggestions for improvement that will benefit both parties.
This lesson is a pretty long one, but it’s an important one.
Qualities of Solid Web Design Contracts
1. Well Defined Specific Deliverables
Deliverables are the final piece of work that is delivered to you. But here’s the catch, how specific is the definition for each deliverable? A website is a deliverable, but the problem with simply specifying ‘website’ is that your assumptions about what a website is are going to be different to the web designer’s assumptions.
Deliverables need to be very specific.
Here is a great example of a specific website deliverable:
“A contact page with a form that forwards form data to an email address.”
Here’s the second catch.
It is your responsibility to decide if the definition for each deliverable is detailed enough.
If during production you decide that the contact form should save enquiry information to a spreadsheet, CRM or any other 3rd party tools, it is going to cost more money.
Whether your change is accepted without charge is entirely up to the web design provider. They will be flexible with small changes, but push too far and you will be charged. This is known as feature creep. Eventually so many small changes add up and web designer is forced to charge you.
Make sure the web design contract includes detailed and specific deliverables.
2. Number of Design Revisions Specified
Websites are interactive. That makes it difficult to imagine exactly how it should look and where everything should be until you see a mockup of the interface. This is where you give your input. Typical suggestions are about colours, size of text, order of information, width of pages etc. When any suggestions you have made are discussed and implemented this is known as a design revision.
If the number of revisions is not specified, expectations about what is reasonable can quickly cause conflict.
Your web design contract must specify number of design revisions so that both parties have the same expectations.
3. Delays Caused by the Client (that’s you!)
Yes, it does happen. We all live busy lives and sometimes we delay other people. At some point the web designer will ask you for information or content. If it takes you two weeks to send that information or content it can delay the whole project. Here how this can cause a problem.
The delivery date for the website is eight weeks. Waiting for content has delayed the project by two weeks. However you still expect the website to be finished on the agreed date.
Your web design contract must specify what happens if delays caused by you delay the final website.
4. Copyright Over the Website, Assets and Software: Who Owns It?
You might not know this, but in most countries copyright belongs to the contractor (the web design provider) unless the contractor explicitly transfers ownership.
If you contract a web design company to make a website your you, they own the copyright.
In most cases the web design provider will will happily transfer copyright to you. If it’s a run of the mill small business website without any unique software programming then there is no need for the web designer to require copyright ownership.
If your website has lots of unique features that have been custom developed by the web design provider then you will need to negotiate ownership right from the start. Don’t avoid this conversation because it will be far more problematic in a few years when the original developers re-purpose the software for your competitors.
Some clients don’t understand why they don’t just own the copyright. Think of Microsoft Word. Just because you buy it, doesn’t mean you own the software. What you bought is the right to use the software. Same goes for when you buy a website unless you negotiate for copyright ownership.
Your web design contract must specify copyright ownership over assets and software.
5. Access to Source Files and Assets
At some point you will use another service provider, perhaps a graphic designer to help with some print marketing. The graphic designer will look at the website and will likely ask you to provide the ‘source’ files for certain graphics.
Source files are the Photoshop file or Illustrator file the original graphic was made from.
The reason the graphic designer needs to source files and not just the graphics in the website is because website graphics are optimised for web and look terrible in print.
The graphic designer will need the original source files to create print ready images.
Your web design contract should specify access to the source files.
6. Client and 3rd Party Changes to the Website
Adding and editing content for a website is a daily task for businesses. Occasionally when adding something new to the website, such as a banner ad promoting your latest offer, the layout of the website can break. The first thing you will think is:
“Ahh, the website isn’t working, I’ll call the web designer to fix it.”
Here’s yet another catch.
If you or someone else makes a change to the website that breaks the design or function, it’s your responsibility.
Depending on your arrangement with the web design provider, you will have to either pay a one off fee to fix it, or it will be included as part of your maintenance and support deal.
Your web design contract must specify responsibility over 3rd party changes to the website.
7. Ongoing Maintenance and Technical Support
Simple business websites usually don’t require any maintenance or technical support. Websites with technical features absolutely will.
Some web design providers will charge a monthly fee, others will provide free support for a specified period.
All good web design providers should offer free support for the original features they created.
If you discover a critical bug that stops certain features from working, then the web design provider should provide support.
But be careful, because they will not provide free support for bugs that were caused by you, only bugs they didn’t find during production.
Your web design contract must define the conditions of maintenance and support.
8. Payment Terms
There are all kinds of payment plans for web design. Most will charge a percentage upfront (this is industry standard) and specify progress payments. For example:
30% of the total fee is to be paid before production, 30% is to be paid when deliverable X is complete and the remainder is to be paid upon completion of all deliverables.
Other web design providers might specify time periods rather than deliverables.
Your web design contract must clearly state the payment terms and conditions.
Web Design Contract Checklist
Once you have sent a web design brief and started receiving quotes you will soon be given a contract to look at. Use our web design contract checklist to make sure the contract covers everything it should.
- Quickly check your contract against the checklist
- Make sure you are getting a secure deal
- Avoid headaches in the future
If you are not ready to subscribe to us, that’s OK. You can also get the checklist by simply sharing this post!
If you are starting a web design project then you’re in luck.
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