What Clients Should Look for in Website Design Contracts

Payment Details
Normally, a veteran website designer will charge a flat rate and a percentage of the invoice due upfront with the balance paid upon completion. This is pretty standard practice however – because of the economy, we’re seeing an increasing amount of contracts that require payment at three, sometimes four different stages of the project.

As always – if you’ve chosen to work with a novice designer and/or developer and work with them on an hourly basis be prepared for countless numbers of hours devoted to exploration which will almost definitely mean missed deadlines and score creep. If you’re designer does not have project specifics in their contract – find a professional designer willing to draw up the contract on your behalf.

Finally, your payment details should include some information about the ownership or artwork and the delivery of your files. It has become a trend to provide clients with the final artwork, HTML and CSS but not the ‘work in progress’ files. If you prefer to own all the artwork – prepare to pay more.

As a client – you shouldn’t expect to see a production schedule until after the design of the website is approved however, as part of your contract you should expect to see some sort of outline for milestones. For instance, your website designer or developer should be able to say without hesitation how long a website should take – most sites can take anywhere from 30 days to 6 months but at the point of writing a contract, the scope of which should be understood.

Ideally, what you should look for is something like ‘week one’ or ‘phase one: 5 days’ when describing milestones.

Project Scope
Your website design contract should state the specifics of what tasks are being performed but as a client – you can take that a step farther and request some a list of tasks that are to be considered off limits. For example – your contract may include hosting your new website but perhaps you’d like your domain to remain with your current registrar. Always a good a idea to have a ‘if then else’ statement in your contract.

There’s always some scope creep in a project and you’ll want to be prepared to address it when it occurs – never wait until you’ve been invoiced. At the very minimum, expect to address the ramifications of scope creep after the site launch with another contract.

Client Responsibilities
As a client – you too have responsibilities during the project and you should look for these to be outlined in the contract. If you are to provide your own content, provide timely feedback, or provide log in credentials. If the client delays the project for whatever reason – expect to receive a revised schedule or addendum to the original contract.

It is your responsibility as the client to inform your website designer if you’ll be unavailable during the project. Don’t expect to receive your project by its original date if you don’t inform your designer of delays, unexpected or not. You should also expect to see some language in the contract dedicated to the client assuming responsibility for missing project deadlines if there’s no communication on your behalf.

Who Owns What?
As mentioned above – expect to see your contract include ownership of all final art. If you prefer to own all of the working files and initial designs expect to pay a lot more to have exclusive rights. You should also anticipate that your website designer will use your design to promote his or her business and again – if you’re not comfortable with this, you’ll need to bring this up prior to drawing up a contract. Don’t expect to receive these files under any circumstance – including withholding payment – if you sign the contract without any stipulation regarding exclusive rights.

This should by no means be considered legal advice and prior to signing any contract, you should consult your lawyer.