5 Essential Elements of Every Web Design Contract

When designing a website, the tendency of designers and clients alike is to focus on features, color selection, photos, font choices, etc. However, the first step in any web design project is a web design contract. Working without a contract that includes several key clauses, you’re asking for trouble.

If you’re a web designer, a well-written contract allows you to avoid any possible lawsuits and the possibility of being stiffed by your client. As a client, a web design contract protects your interests and helps you and your designer manage expectations.

Here are 5 essential elements that need to be in every web design contract:

NOTE: This article should not be constituted as legal advice as the author is not an attorney. Got it? OK. Back to the good stuff.

1. Non-partnership clause – A clause that ensures everyone knows that you’re not going into business together. This is legally very important, as it can help shelter your design business from any legal troubles your client may have (and vice versa). As a designer, it’s especially important because it diffuses any possibility that your client will refuse to pay you on the basis that you agreed to work on contingency.

If you find clients are not paying you on time, you might try invoice factoring. This service allows you to get paid and not wait for the client to pay the invoice before you receive the money.

2. Standard indemnification clause – A tried and true indemnification clause is crucial to any website design agreement. Clients should agree not to hold a designer responsible for any information they publish on the client’s behalf that turns out to be false or misleading. Designers should acknowledge their responsibility to deliver the site as promised, and understand they may face legal consequences if they don’t.

3. An exclusivity clause – If you’re a designer and your client wants you to exclude yourself from designing a website for a competitor, you may have to include this clause. Just be sure it spells out how long the exclusivity arrangement will last. If you’re a client, understand that exclusivity goes both ways – if you’re asking your designer not to work with your competition, you should be willing to make the same promise.

4. A force majeure clause – In that impossible to imagine scenario, neither you nor your client wants to be on the hook if someone dies (God forbid), if a fire destroys someone’s business, etc. It’s a fairly standard clause, but that doesn’t mean it’s not important…every contract MUST have one.

5. A governing law clause – This clause states which laws are going to govern the agreement. If you can, do yourself a favor and use the laws in your state or province to govern the contract. That way, you don’t have to travel anywhere to deal with a lawsuit (which hopefully never happens).

Including these clauses into your web design contracts will help both parties be better protected, manage expectation, and avoid costly lawsuits. In the end, all both parties want is a great site. With a smartly written contract, the project is off to a great start.

Author Jason Lancaster writes for Trackcompare.co.uk, a price comparison website. Please note that Jason is NOT an attorney, and that before acting on the advice above you should consult a legal professional.

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