How to prepare a contract with your website designer


Contracts are often long and full of scary jargon. We are about to dispel some of the mist that surrounds contracts for website design.

Contracts don’t need jargon

A contract is just a legal word for an agreement between two parties that both parties intend to be legally binding. It doesn’t have to be signed. It doesn’t even have to be written.

The secret to success when you engage a website design agency is good communication. Contrary to some people’s perception, the primary role of a contract is to prevent disputes.

Assumption is your worst enemy. There are always things not covered in initial conversations and without a clear contract it is easy for these to rear their head as a source of misunderstanding or even conflict later in the project.

So contracts are really just about clarity.

Divide your contract into two sections

We recommend dividing your contract into two sections – key terms and minor terms. This ensures that the crucial issues are actually reviewed by both parties not lost amid a sea of less important clauses.

Key terms are the things that really matter, like cost and timescale. Minor terms are less important things like insurance requirements and liability clauses.

1. Key terms

Scope – what is included and what is not included?

There is no replacement for thoroughly discussing and documenting requirements and the corresponding solutions. This is normally about functionality, but sometimes other things are also important, like accessibility and compatibility with older internet browsers.

Deliverables – what distinct things will be handed over?

Website design projects are usually a mixture of services and products. Make sure you define the tangible products you expect to receive. These may include graphic source files, documentation and website files.

Price – not many people forget this one!

But remember the details, like instalments and payment terms. Money is a great motivator and a sensible instalment plan, linked to deliverables, can act as a powerful contributing factor to a smooth project process.

Warranty – if errors appear after delivery what will happen?

Intellectual property & licences – who will own the technology that drives the site? Is it open-source or owned by a company to whom you will have to pay an annual licence fee?

Hosting – who will host the site? What will it cost? How can you upgrade or move to a different hosting arrangement?

Support – you will want to tweak, improve and adapt your website over time. The contract should lay a clear framework explaining how this can happen.

Timescale – how long will the whole process take? What happens if it takes longer?

2. Minor terms

Early termination – if for some reason someone wants to pull out, how does this work?

Change control – if the requirements agreed upon in the contract change, how will this change be managed?

Liability – if something goes wrong and one party suffers damage are there any caps or limits to this liability.

Insurance – linked to liability, it is sometimes a requirement of a contract that one or both parties carry insurance.

Other checks

Check that the other party is a legal entity such as registered company. You can check this here:

If you have any concerns about the creditworthiness, ask for recent accounts or even consider a credit check.

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