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A Go-To Reference for Drafting a Website Development Contracts

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Harry Trott
January 24, 2017


Harry Trott
Harry Trott has written 6 articles for WebKnowHow.
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The most often repeated bit of advice when developing websites is to have watertight contracts in place for all collaborations. This bit of advice is also, unfortunately, the most often ignored. Either contracts are not drawn up before starting projects or some weak, vague content is passed off as a contract. Consequently when a dispute arises, the lack of a good contract lands everyone involved in hot water.

What goes into the making of a good website development contract? For starters, a contract needs to be comprehensive, taking into account all the little details of a typical agreement. This, however, is easier said than done. One must be meticulous about including all the possibilities that could arise during the term of the contract and include clauses that protect both parties.

If you’re drafting a contract for website development, here are the essentials you need to work into it.

Scope of work:

This section will essentially dictate how the project progresses. It should lay out clearly what the project entails and what the responsibilities of the contractor are right down to the smallest detail. Normally, this is elaborated upon in an appendix to the contract which is then referenced in the main document. The clearer the information included in this section, chances of ambiguity and dispute are greatly reduced. It also protects contractors from possibilities of scope creep.

Revisions:

In case the client requires changes or revisions to the work delivered, the contractor may choose to charge for the same. Some developers agree to make certain changes for no charge while other charge the client for all changes. The finer details of such possibilities need to be specified clearly.

Timelines:

Timelines or delivery schedules are essential details to agree upon. In a web development project, tasks are completed in stages. Each stage should ideally have a deadline, each deadline leading up to the final date of completion. It should factor in feedback or revision time as far as possible. This holds both client and contractor accountable, thereby focusing on timely execution of the project. Here again, the full schedule can be added as an appendix and referenced in the main document. One should also specify the agreed-upon course of action in case of delay in meeting deadlines.

Payment terms:

All aspects pertaining to remuneration are covered in this section. This includes the fee payable to the contractor, method of payment, advance payment details, timeline of payment and so on. In case the developer needs to purchase licenses in the course of work, he can bill the client for the same and this must be clearly stated in the contract. As always, the contract should also lay out what happens in case of late payment or non-payment. Typically, the former is addressed with the addition of late payment charges and the latter results in non-transference of ownership or license to use to the client.

Ownership/Rights to Content:

One section in the web development contract needs to clearly state what the client and contractor have rights to in different stages of the project. For instance, any material provided by the client can be used by the contractor only for the duration of the contract. Similarly, until the client pays the developer in full, the developer retains the license to use the product. Again, clarity here goes a long way in avoiding future disputes.

Non-disclosure:

Most clients require contractors to agree to a confidentiality clause in the duration of the project. While this is normal, the clause itself should not have any ambiguity or include hidden aspects such as non-compete clauses which may go against the nature of work for the contractor. Non-disclosure in its truest sense protects clients from sensitive information being leaked.

Independent contractor clause:

For the sake of both clients and contractors, web development agreements should specify the contractual nature of the project. This means that the developer is not considered as an employee of the client’s organization and regulations for employees do not apply to him/her.

The clauses mentioned above are broadly applicable to all web development contracts. However, don’t be shy about including aspects that are relevant to your specific project. Clear vision and drawing up of responsibilities can do wonders for smooth functioning and achievement of goals.


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