Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Does Your Web Design Contract Include These 5 Crucial Items?

by Sherice Jacob

Working with a qualified web designer can either be a fun and rewarding process - or a frustrating headache. All too often, I talk with business owners whose websites are left only "partially completed" (if they're even finished at all) - or are full of errors.

Their web designer insists they finished the job, and the client is to blame. The client is upset because the web designer didn't include or detail certain things - and they now feel like they've been ripped off. What do you do in a case like this?

A lot of these problems could have been avoided with the right kind of web design contract. This is a document that generally is written up by the web designer themselves which outlines several key items relating to the website development.

Before you sign on the dotted line, be sure your web design contract includes the following five vital areas.

1. The Work to Be Completed - What's involved in the creation of your website? For example, will the designer be furnishing graphics or will you be providing your own photos? This is the "meatiest" part of the contract and outlines, specifically, what work will be done.

2. Timeframe for Completion - How long will it take? It's a good idea to specify (or have your designer do this if you're not sure), "milestones" that will need to be completed before you'll release a portion of the payment to them.

For example, many designers request a 1/3 down-payment to gather materials (such as domain registration, hosting, stock photos and so on). Then the second 1/3 is done upon your approval of the web template they will be using throughout the site. Having milestones like this ensures steady progress on the site while giving the designer reasonable payment for their work as they complete it.

Timeframes also include a completion date. Not setting one (or asking the designer to set one that you both can agree on) means your project could go on forever!

3. Payment Details - How, When and How Much are the questions to be asked here. How will the designer be paid? (check, money order, Paypal...), when will they be paid and how much is due? Not specifying these terms could leave you with a hefty bill at the end of the job - for things that you were unaware of at the start!

4. Confidentiality and Copyright - Who owns the design once it's finished? Designers often relinquish the copyright of the design to the client - but like to reference it in their portfolio as an example of the work they can do. Oftentimes, working with a designer means you'll be giving them private or confidential company information. If necessary, ask the designer to sign an NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement) that states that they will not share the information you give to them as part of the project.

5. All The "Little" Extras - It's a good idea to cover all the "little" extras that can add up to a big design bill. Specifically, ask about things like ongoing support, software updates, and content management. Will the designer train you (or your staff) to make changes to the site yourselves, or will you be paying them a monthly (or hourly) fee to do it for you? There are pros and cons to both, so be sure you know the costs and benefits associated with each one. Discuss this with your designer if you're uncertain.

All in all, most web design contracts are simple and straightforward. And more often than not, you'll have nothing to worry about. Still, if conflicts should arise, you'll have a written document to go back to in case there are issues that can't be solved easily. Good luck!

About the Author

P.S. If you enjoyed reading this article, you can find even more web design tips at http://www.iElectrify.com/resources/

Sherice Jacob holds an M.A. in Media Studies and has played an integral role in creating several successful web businesses - for herself and others. She currently manages a full service web design and internet marketing firm at http://www.iElectrify.com