A design contract is a must for all small and large businesses. Web developers especially need this to detail the design elements you create for the client as well as a way to protect the client’s investment.  It protects both parties, the client and the web developer. included in any good contract is a price for the work, the amount of time estimated for completion and the terms and conditions spelled out accurately and clearly.
There is no one size fits all when it comes to working contracts.   Depending upon the project scope, budgets, timelines and requirements, each and every job may require some customization to cover both the client and the designer. There are things to avoid when writing a good contract.  Getting a legal opinion once your contract is written is a good idea.

What is a contract to a business?

A contract (sometimes referred to as a terms and conditions agreement) is a legal relationship affecting both the client and the web developer. When written, it is considered a social instrument defining the working environment and following both parties through the development stages. A well-written contract creates a legally enforceable obligation for both parties to show goodwill and to act responsibly based upon the language of the contract.

Handling problems and covering unforeseen issues:

There is no way for any terms and conditions agreement to touch upon every scenario which could occur.  A great personal relationship with the client is always suggested to stop any misunderstandings.  However, if a problem should arise, wherein a client is expecting you to deliver work which falls outside the scope of the original contract terms, you will have your contract to fall back on.  Just remind the client of the contract language. In some circumstances, you may need to re-negotiate the terms of your working agreement and the contract.

Re-negotiation (changing a contract agreement)

Any contract (terms and conditions agreement) can be changed. You may upon occasion, be required to re-negotiate a contract already in progress. Re-negotiation is required anytime the scope of the project changes. For an example, if a project you are working on suddenly changes direction as requested (by the client or by an authorized representative of the client) this may mean a contract re-negotiation is needed. If this happens, you should immediately terminate the contract in force, and re-negotiate a contract to cover the new requirements. This happens rarely, but it does happen.

Oral contracts versus written contracts:

There are some developers who use only oral agreements.  They are legally binding. However, we suggest that projects that affect copyright infringement issues should always be in writing. Even if you trust your client, memories can fail.  Either or both of you could forget the terms entered into. Also, enforcing an oral contract is tough.
You should get the advise of an attorney if you are entering into an oral contract. We do not recommend considering an oral contract if you are web developer. This opinion is from having years of development experience.  Too many things can go wrong and we believe contracts are best when written.
 

Clients who want to design their own site:

One contract option we provide is called our “A La Carte” Design Package.  This package is perfect for those individuals who feel they are talented enough to do their own design.  We require a retainer amount (similar to what an attorney would require) to be paid up front and the work will be completed on an hourly basis. This can be a slippery slope since some graphic artists have no clue as to how browser compatibility issues affect design features. Some art ideas require custom programming which is very expensive. This option should be clearly defined before the work begins to avoid any misunderstandings.
The best rule of thumb is to make sure your initial proposal to the client and your contract language is sufficient to cover the project work.  Our business model never allows us to take on or to begin work on any project without the client first signing our contract.  If you feel unsure about the language you are using in your current contract agreement it is wise to consult an attorney and get it right. Better safe than sorry!
Enjoy your design experiences, get contracts negotiated and signed before starting any project,.
We wish each and every one of you a safe and happy July 4th holiday.

Hurry back for more next time from the Design Wizards.
Jean Holland-Rose
Chief Creative Officer & SEO Professional