Joe Ardeeser February 3rd, 2019

How to Build a Great Web Design Contract

On the surface, it seems simple enough to create a web design contract. You just find a boilerplate web design contract or a template and edit to your heart’s content, right?

Well, not exactly. You see, not all web design contracts are created equal, and using a free website design contract you pulled off the web might not give you all of the legal protections you’re rightfully entitled to. And while we’re not lawyers (we are, however, fantastic web designers), knowing what a great web design contract should contain is the first step toward making sure yours is as ironclad as possible.

With that being said, you should always consult a lawyer who is well-versed in contracts before you jump right in. Now, let’s take a closer look at the components that make up a great web design contract:

Outlining the Scope of the Project

Every professional web developer dreads those two little words that signify that a project is going to go on a lot longer than anticipated -- “scope creep”. This is when clients (sometimes intentionally, sometimes not) ask for more than what was initially agreed to. In other words, the scope of the project creeps up little by little, nibbling away at your time and profits.

A proper web design contract will outline exactly what’s expected and what will be delivered, and by when. Then, if the client starts asking for additional things, you can always fall back to the contract and demonstrate that to add these things will add to the cost and delivery time, putting the ball back in the client’s court to determine if this is something they really want to move ahead with or not.

All the Little Things

There are lots of little things that often get missed, even in the most thorough web design contracts. These include things like:

  • Who is providing the content for the website? Will the client be providing this? Will a third party copywriter or content writer be brought on board? Will the designer be responsible?
  • What about debugging the code? There can sometimes be hiccups with regard to coding and proper implementation. Who is responsible for this?
  • Who is going to test the design on various browsers and mobile devices to determine its responsiveness to various screen sizes and load times?

Making it clear who is responsible for which part of the contract (and then getting them to sign off on it) now will help save a lot of headaches later.

Testing, Tweaking and Technical Support

Even the most flawless website design contract needs to incorporate what will happen after the work is completed. Oftentimes, there will be updates with various plugins and integrations, and tests that need to be performed in order to ensure that the site is performing as well as it can be under various conditions.

Sometimes, clients opt to have their design team handle ongoing maintenance and tech support, updating the site and adding new features as time goes by. Including this in your contract, as well as specifying what will be done by the design team and what will be handled by the client) can help provide an additional and lucrative stream of income for your web development agency, month after month.

What if I Need to Make Changes?

Web design contracts are often saved in PDF format for easy portability across platforms and devices. PDF files can also be designed to be filled in with relevant information such as dates and addresses. They can also be programmed to accept electronic signatures. PDF is an older format that has stood the test of time while new features have become available to make using them even more convenient.

But one of the things that has always presented difficulty when considering web design contracts is making changes. Fortunately, there are several tools available to help edit a PDF on PC and Mac, even after you’ve saved it.

And keep in mind that a contract is only the first step. Keep the lines of communication open between you and your client while providing them with ongoing updates to show progress on their project. This allows you the freedom and flexibility to allow a designer-client business relationship to flourish while enjoying the strong foundation of a contract that’s built-in everyone’s best interest.

Photo by Signature Pro on Unsplash

Joe Ardeeser

Joe Ardeeser is the owner and operator at Jordan Crown Web Design - a design agency in the Seattle area. Joe founded his company 10 years ago and they provide premium marketing websites to small to mid-sized businesses. As a seasoned professional in the creative industry, Joe comes with over 15 years of hard-earned experience.


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