Developing and maintaining a website can be relatively simple and cheap or complex and expensive, mostly depending on what the website is supposed to do.
Getting the right website may mean hiring your own employees to create the site, hiring an outside developer or learning to do it yourself with programs like Microsoft Frontpage or Macromedia Dreamweaver.
If anyone other than you is designing, maintaining or hosting the site, chances are there is (or should be) a Website Development Agreement in place.
The formats of these agreements can vary greatly. Sometimes they are lengthy, detailed and specific to the project at hand.
Other times they are short, general and applicable to several different projects, with “attachments” laying out the project specifics.
Often the agreement will lay the project out in two or more phases, with the pricing structure changing in each phase.
For instance, Phase 1 may have the Company meeting with the Developer to discuss and outline the Company’s general needs and ideas for the website. This is often a free or discounted consultation.
Phase 2 may have the Developer creating detailed specifications and possibly “mock-ups” based on the initial consultation. This is usually based on a “time and materials” rate. There is a large ballpark for hourly rates, but they tend to be between $100 and $150 per hour.
In Phase 3, the Developer might quote the Company a fixed rate or an estimate to complete the project. If the Company approves, the Developer could complete the website or create additional mock-ups for Company approval.
Because the internet and its applications are changing daily, there is no tried and true Web Dev Agreement that worked five years ago and that will still work in five years.
Nevertheless, the fundamentals of website development are somewhat constant, and provisions in Web Dev Agreements dealing with those fundamentals are extremely important to get right.
For example – Developer is an independent web developer who has been asked by Client to create a website.
Fundamental issues that must be laid out in their agreement are:
1. Exactly what services will Developer be providing to Client?
2. What will the finished product be?
3. How will the finished product be delivered to Business, and how will Client acknowledge acceptance of it?
4. How will Client pay Developer for her services?
5. When will the agreement for services end & how does either party terminate the agreement?
6. Should Client or Developer guarantee anything going into the agreement?
7. Who owns any intellectual property associated with the website?
8. Are there issues of confidentiality (either for Developer or Client) that need to be addressed?
Over the next 3 articles I will address each of these questions in turn.
1. Developer’s Services
Any Web Dev Agreement should expressly describe what services the Developer will be providing. This may include:
- initial consultation,
- project planning and specification, including the creation of mock-ups
- website development
- website testing and quality assurance
- website refinement
- training of client or its employees in the use of the website
- post-deployment maintenance and monitoring of the website
- website hosting
- website marketing
- customer support
Additionally, the Client should be clear on who will be working on the project. Is the Developer working alone, or does the Developer have a team helping out?
If the Developer will have help, the Client should ensure in the Web Dev Agreement that the skill level and experience of the individual team members are at least on par with that of the Developer.
If there are several people involved on both sides, “project managers” should be designated on the Developer side and the Client side as primary contact points, to prevent confusion.
2. Website Development
The Web Dev Agreement should also state what components or features will be included in the website. The Developer and her Client should work together to assess what exactly the Client is looking for in its web presence.
This will include considering factors such as:
- design aesthetics,
- navigational structure,
- database design,
- an e-commerce system,
- advertising integration,
- a content management system,
- the generation of website statistics reports, and
- the duplication of the website in foreign languages,
Additionally, the Client will want to ensure that the final product will be viewable on certain internet browsers, such as Explorer and Firefox.
Something to consider in this regard is the fact that internet browsers are constantly being upgraded. Many internet users take the 10 seconds necessary to install the upgraded browsers, but many do not.
If the designed website is compatible only with earlier versions of these browsers, potentially more people will be able to view the client’s website, but the website will not contain any upgraded functionalities of later versions of the browsers.
On the other hand, if the website is only compatible with later versions of the browsers, fewer people will be able to view the website but it will contain the upgraded functionalities.
Check back with MELON for the continuation of this article, in which I cover:
- delivery & acceptance
- term & termination
- ownership of intellectual property
- confidential information