Contracts 101 - Protection for Both Sides


- Maureen Dillon 02.09.2015

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Web development is a big investment of time and money. If you are a web development company, a contract can cover your back by defining terms of your engagement and the work that needs to be done.

The contract should clarify your duties and that of the client and it will act as a bulwark in case you start facing problems. There are benefits to both sides. The client is obliged to pay the development costs and provide technical inputs and you are obliged to complete the job according to the terms requested by the client. But writing a iron clad contract is not easy. You are not a legal professional, you are a web developer. So you should know what details should be included in the contract, to protect your interests and that of your client. Here are the main points of a typical contract.

  • An overview of who is engaging whom, what is the job and what is the cost.
  • What are the responsibilities of each party and what have they agreed to do.
  • The details of the job and what will be included in the job and what will not be.
  • What will happen if any of the parties change their mind.
  • An overview of liabilities.

Writing a contract which will cover your back fully is not easy. You cannot afford to do a mistake here. If something goes wrong, it is possible that you might into trouble which you could avoided by working it in, into the contract. Here are some issues to note when you are drafting a contract.

Keep the Language Simple

In their eagerness to create a competent contract, many people end up using complicated legal language which is actually not necessary. Jargon will not help your case in any way, unless your intention is to confuse your clients. Try to keep the wording simple, so that the ideas are easy to understand.

Only Negotiate with Authorized Decision Makers

Before you do any work for the client, make sure that the person you are corresponding with is authorized by his company to work with you. It should not happen that you have some work for a junior member of your client's team, only to find out that the junior member's spending was not authorized. Ask your contact to confirm that he or she is authorized to sign the contract and fulfill their obligations like payments. You can even word this language in, into the contract.

Create some flexibility for the client in the contract

Very few clients will know from the beginning what they want. They might change their mind in the middle of a segment or even ask you to do a new assignment. So it is better that the customer knows from the beginning what your responsibilities are on the project. You should tell them that a substantial rework will involve a separate estimate. Tell the customer that the estimate you gave in the beginning was for the time you thought the project will take. To put it simply, you are telling the customer needs more of your time, he would have to pay.

Browser testing

You should tell the client clearly what browsers you are willing to test the project on. Normally, web development companies will test websites on Safari, Chrome, Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox and Opera. You can also test for Internet Explorer 8 and undertake single window testing on Internet Explorer 7 and older versions. They do not test for older versions of other browsers, unless they specify it. The contract should say that if the client wants the service tested on other older browsers, you can give them a separate estimate for that.

In mobile browsers, you might test for iOS (Opera Mini and Chrome), android (Firefox, Opera Mini and Chrome), Android 3.2 (Opera Mini and Firefox). Web development companies do not test for Blackberry OS and ONX, Symbian, Opera Mobile and other browsers. The contract should mention that if the client was you to test on other mobile browsers, you can give them a separate estimate.

Be clear on who owns the final work

Clients think that just because they are paying you for your time, everything that you produce in that time belongs to them. So first, mention that all text, artwork and other images provided by you were owned by you or that you have taken permission to use them. You will assign their full ownership to the client only after the client has paid you in full. Specifically mention that you are not required to keep copies of their work. Do not forget to say that the copyright applies to the particular project only and if the client wants to use it for another project, you will give them a separate estimate. Mention that you reserve the right to display or link to the project on your website or write about it elsewhere, for marketing purposes.

Clause for timely payments

Unless you are doing work for charity, you should let the customer know that they have to pay you on time if they want to stay on good terms with you. Write down a payment schedule and include it in the contract. Another important point is, no one can guarantee that a work will be 100% error free. This should be mentioned in the contract. Do not forget to write that the client cannot hold you responsible for third party damages such as lost savings, lost profits or other kinds of damages, even if the client had made you aware of them. Finally, if any part of the contract becomes unlawful, unreasonable or void, that section can be severed from the contract and the rest of the contract will still be valid or enforceable.

As your business grows and web development projects become pricier and bigger, contracts will become more important to your business. Note that terms may change for different clients.

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