Should your web designer give you a contract?

Posted on February 8, 2019


Let’s be honest, nobody likes contracts. The very nature of them makes them distasteful. A contract is intended to be enforceable by law which, in itself, can be quite scary. Contracts are supplied by mobile phone companies, broadband providers and cable TV companies. Contracts are there to stop you leaving and terminating the service early, lest you may face the dreaded ‘early termination charges’.

Additionally, if you intend to have a contract drafted so that it’s in any way worth the paper it’s written on, it needs to be written by a solicitor, and they can be expensive.

Therefore, it’s no surprise that many of the businesses I’ve spoken with over the last 20 odd years of my web design career have never seen a contract from their web designer. They seem surprised I’ve even asked such a question.

So why does Engage Web have contracts for our website designs?

Consider this: if you have a website designed by a web designer, and it doesn’t do what you want it to, what assurances do you have? What guarantees do you have concerning what you’re getting for your money? Without a contract, you have nothing. You have no comeback.

I have spoken to so many businesses who have expressed their disappointment with websites they have had designed by other people, it’s almost a weekly occurrence. Often, it’s for the same reason – it doesn’t do what they wanted, or doesn’t bring any business. Maybe they expected to be able to update it themselves, or for it to have a quote form, or some form of data capture. Whatever it is they ‘expected’, it doesn’t have it and they’re not happy.

My first question is always ‘what was written in your contract?’ and the reply is always ‘I didn’t have one’.

In which case, what did you expect from your website? Without a contract that stipulates what you will get for your money, what was agreed, what the website will do and what it will look like, how can you be disappointed if it doesn’t meet your criteria?

You don’t have a written agreement specifying your criteria.

A contract for a website works both ways. Yes, the web designer is protected in the sense that you have agreed the price and when it should be paid, but you the client is also protected. The contract says exactly what you will get, what has been agreed and what you can expect from the website. Therefore, if the website delivered doesn’t meet everything that was agreed in the contract, you have some legal recourse for reimbursement.

Only this week I heard about a company that paid over £15,000 for a website that wasn’t fit for purpose. It didn’t do the one fundamental thing the company needed it to do. They had no comeback, however, as what they ‘expected’ it to do wasn’t put in writing in a contract. Therefore, the money they had paid out on a website that didn’t do what they needed was lost. They had to pay more to have it changed.

The moral of this story is simple; if you hire a website designer to build your website and you have no written agreement stating what you will get for your money, you can’t complain when what you’re given isn’t good enough. You need to protect yourself and use a web designer who provides professionally drafted contracts, as it protects both them and you.

Technical Director at Engage Web
Darren is Technical Director at Engage Web, as well as being a co-founder of the company. He takes a hands-on approach to SEO and web design, helped by more than 20 years’ experience in these fields.
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