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Progressions and changes have been seen in the field of web design contract templates.

Designing websites has become one of most in-demand skills for both freelancers and full-time employees. According to Indeed, HTML5 and jQuery are two of the ten most in demand skills today. Possessing these and other in demand skills can see you excel in your web design business.

Website designers can be involved at many stages of the process, from conceptualizing the website's information architecture to designing the user interface and user experience to actually doing visual and graphic design and even coding it.

However, two things still seem obvious. One, that web design is here to stay for the foreseeable future. Secondly, that website design contract templates or website contracts are essential.              

No matter what part of the website design process you're involved in, it's critical that you have a contract between you and the client before you start work.

A freelance website design contract, like any other website contract, defines the business and legal relationship between the designer and the client. It also defines a personal relationship in terms of goodwill, business practices, and mutual respect, relating to your interaction with the client during service provision. Legally, it is an agreement between two or more parties in which each party commits to fulfilling certain responsibilities in the relationship. This document is legally binding, meaning failure to deliver on any of the agreed-upon terms can result in a breach of contract and possible lawsuits.

1. What purpose does a freelance website design contract serve?

As mentioned before, this is a legally binding document. It means that should the client violate any of the terms of the website contract; you could take the legal route to compel him/her to fulfill their part of the website design agreement. Website design clients can violate agreements in various ways. Most common is a failure to pay for services and products delivered.

Similarly, a freelancer is bound by the website design agreement to fulfill his/her responsibilities. This means that a client can also sue you should you fail to deliver what you promised by way of contract. This provides a level of protection that helps to ensure that both parties do what they’re supposed to do. A freelance website design contract protects the interests of the freelance website designer.

It is for this reason that this document, which many startup freelancers often fail to use, is crucial to the peace of mind of the freelancer and the success of their business. Let’s take a more in-depth look at these simple web design contracts.

2. Parts of a web design contract template

The structure and clauses of a sample website design contract template or any contract for that matter are not cast in stone. The exact details of the contract vary depending on the nature of the project, the nature of the parties involved, and the relationship between them.

The specific conditions and numbers in the website contract are also negotiated between individual clients or their representative and the freelancer. Its length, font, formatting, and organization of the content are also dependent on the person preparing it, the client with which the website design agreement is entered, the level of detail included and the size of the size and complexity of the website design project.

There are, however, clauses that should never miss in any good freelance website design contract template.

The three most important parts of a web design contract are: (1) what exactly will you do: clearly defining the scope of work and deliverables, (2) how much and when you will get paid: clearly defining what and when you're going to be compensated, and (3) who will own the intellectual property of the website once your work is done and paid for.

3. The what

Clearly defining what you are going to do for the client is crucial. Picture this; you are approached by a client to help design a website. You evaluate the scope of the work, agree on the charges and receive requirements for the website. After putting in your time, effort, and other resources to complete a high-quality website; the client refuses to pay up on the claim that you didn’t provide the services agreed upon. Alternatively, the client might have expected you to build a new website using a different platform or language.

It’s also possible for the client to have expected you to provide the content for the website too among other additional services. In such cases, you can defend your position and have the client compelled to pay up if you had signed a website contract clearly describing what it is you will provide.

Any Website Design Contract template worth using must have a clear description of what it is you are offering and will be paid for.

The more detailed the description is, the better. In addition, it may be necessary to explicitly declare what you will not be providing. The contract will help ensure that there’s no confusion on what you are to provide.

This part of the web design contract also gives you a basis for which to demand payment and defend yourself against scope creep and clients from hell who don’t know what they want and thus have you endlessly redesigning the website. It is only fair in such a case that the payment be reviewed since the scope has changed or the requirements and thus the amount of work has also changed. Being stuck in endless revision cycles also denies you the opportunity to work on other projects, thus making you lose out on business.

It is thus worth working with a Freelance website design contract template that defines clearly the service, its scope, and the maximum number revisions that the agreed fee covers.

4. The how, when, and how much of payment

Your freelance business is your source of livelihood. Therefore, it’s only fair that you are duly compensated for your effort, time, talents, skills, and resources. Therefore, every website design contract must have a payment clause defining exactly how much you will be paid. It should also define when and how you will be paid.

Is it with a certain percentage of deposits upfront, small percentages as you deliver certain parts of the project or complete certain design stages, or will you be paid the entire amount once you complete and deliver the website? Is the fee based on a fixed or hourly rate? Further, through what means will you be paid? Will it be by credit card, check, bank transfers, or cash?

These are all questions that any good freelance website design contract should address. Having these clauses in your website design agreement also improves chances of being paid and on time.

5. The intellectual rights

A website design has many components to it. It also uses a number of tools. Therefore, the issue of who own the rights to the intellectual property arises. You as the designer or developer of the website may want to reuse certain aspects of the design. For instance, you may have developed a new font that you want to use in another client’s website. The structure of the website and layout of the pages, as well as the original graphic used, may also be things that you want to retain rights to.

The client, on the other hand, might not want certain aspects and features of their website to find a place in another company’s or individual’s website. Additionally, what type of right will the client have and at what point will these rights be transferred to the client if s/he is to have them?

One of the mistakes a website designer or any other design professional for that matter can make is signing away their intellectual property rights to clients who have not paid them. This is a pitfall that you as a freelance designer must avoid at all costs. This is because you can easily find yourself suffering after dealing with an unscrupulous client who not only fails to pay you fairly for the work that you’ve done but also runs with your intellectual property rights. Get all things in order before you sign away your rights.

Note also that accepting payment for the work done doesn’t automatically give away your intellectual property rights. Nevertheless, issues might arise if the owner of these rights to the website is not explicitly specified.

Other protections are afforded to website designers by including certain clauses in the website design contract template. For instance, specifying the kill fee amount and when it is to be paid will help ensure that should a project be terminated, you’ll be compensated for what you’ve already done. Further, termination terms must always be made crystal clear in the simple web design contract.

6. Preparing the website design contract template

The most important thing about preparing this type of website contract is ensuring that the crucial clauses are included in it. However, you also need to make sure that the contract is actually legible. Small measures can ensure that the contract looks good, but also that anyone, especially the client can easily read it

You should also make it easy for one to find a particular clause of interest without having to look too long and hard for it in the contract’s content. Strategies such as keeping the fonts simple, avoiding underlining, italicizing or writing too much of the text in caps can be adopted. You should nonetheless ensure that the fonts are large enough to make reading easy. You should also leave enough white space, use the correct line spacing, and include page numbers if it’s a large document.

There are other important parts that should feature in the website design agreement. Confidentiality, client approval, and liabilities of both parties, are also important clauses that can make the project proceed to completion smoothly. They also help ensure that each party gets what is due to them.

There are also certain things aside from the clauses in the contract that can render it completely useless when conflicts arise. One is that the names of both you as the freelance designer and the client must be indicated on the contract. These often, for a good reason, appear at the beginning of the contract. The contact details of both parties should also be included. The project name and type should also never be omitted. Simple things like including the date of the contract; of both preparation and signing can easily render a contract useless when it comes to taking action or resolving disputes.

Finally, but not any less important than the features already mentioned; both you and the client must append your signatures to each copy of the document.

This simple act makes a document that otherwise carries no legal weight, into one that is legally binding.

Sadly, many freelance website designers, especially the first-time ones make a number of freelance design mistakes; some small but very costly. One is not having a contract. It’s also unfortunate that the small details mentioned above can easily be forgotten when preparing the contract. Failure to have a contract signed for instance is a leading mistake most designers make; effectively taking away the protection that could have been had.

There are however simple things that a freelancer can do to guard against most of these errors.

7. Guarding against some common website design contract errors

7.1. Avoid errors in contract signing

Some of the common mistakes people make in contact signatures are getting the wrong signatory to sign, signing in the wrong capacity, and missing key signatures. A wrong signatory signing the contract might not be a substantial danger if your client is an individual.

However, if you are undertaking a website design project for a larger company, a wrong person in the wrong capacity can end up signing the contract on the company’s behalf. In such a case, it also means that the right person’s signature is missing. Make sure you ascertain the authority of the person signing the contract on the company’s behalf. If providing services to an individual, just remember to give the contract to the client to sign.

Send the copies to the client for them to sign, get them back, and sign them and finally send a fully signed copy to the client and retain one.

7.2. Get help

You can write up a website contract template on your own and present it to the client for approval and signing. However, you also need to tell when getting legal help is better or necessary. If for one reason or the other you find that you can’t write a good web design contract, you can employ the services of a lawyer to help you prepare one.

It will cost you, but it might be exactly what you need to protect yourself from the consequences of making costly website design agreement mistakes.

7.3. Use a template

There are many freelance web designer contract templates that you can find online. Of course, there are certain things you should consider when selecting a template, among them picking the right one for the type of freelance job. However, once you’ve found a good template you can rely on it to avoid omitting some of the crucial details for any simple web design contract.

The template, which can also be a form contract, acts as a guide, telling you what you need to include in your freelance website design contract. You’ll also need to modify some things depending on the clauses you think are necessary for the type, size, and complexity of the project. However, they can make your work easier, especially if it’s the first time you are preparing a website design contract.

Web Design Agreement Template

A web design agreement sets the pace for a successful design project. It enlightens everyone involved in the project and ensures the parties are on the same page regarding the work. The agreement defines the project's goal, the roles of individuals, and other vital items like schedule and compensation. One mistake that freelancers and designers make is to commence a project without a signed web design agreement in place.

Usually, the excuse involves the fear of scaring a client away, trusting the client, estimating a project as small, or seeing the document as formal for the work.

Image Credits: approveme.com

However, it is highly recommended to have the document for different reasons:

  1. A web design agreement will protect both client and the web designer
  2. The document defines the goal and expectation of the project
  3. It defines roles and ensures the project runs seamlessly
  4. You are assured of compensation after completion
  5. Help track missing deliverables
  6. A web design agreement describes the method of conflict resolution
  7. Legal and enforceable if thing go ugly

While some reasons for ignoring an agreement might be tenable, it is only reasonable to prepare against an ugly situation. The unexpected may happen- it is why part of why business is unpredictable and exciting. Websites come in different shapes and sizes.

Some require a simple HTML/CSS brochure that can be launched a few minutes while others may take years to plan, develop, and launch. Irrespective of the nature of a web design project, a web design agreement should be written to reflect the project's complexity and the risk involved

Essential details of a web design agreement template

Web development projects may vary from simple to vast and complex. Details of the agreement should cover the nature, budget, business model, roles, the developer, and, consequently, the customer. A typical web design agreement template should cover some or all of the following details:

1. Goal/benefits

The agreement must define the project's specific goals, and you may paint a picture that lets the client see the benefits of the project. It is essential that the details here align with the objectives of the client. 

2. Design & development process

What is the scope of the web design project? What is the flexibility of the project, and what methodologies will you employ to achieve the goal project? Will the web designer have a specific schedule, and is subcontracting allowed in any part of the development process? These are common questions to address in this section of your web design agreement. 

Image Credits: londonmedarb.com

3. Customer’s obligation

Define the resources your client must provide to help you achieve the goal of the project. Will the client provide some pieces of code and other content to incorporate into the site? If yes, when and would performance be dependent on cooperation and timely provision of the resources? 

4. Fees & compensation

Make a list of your services and include your fees for each. Ensure you briefly describe them in a simple language for ease of understanding. Include other fees that may affect the total due. 

5. Delivery and acceptance

Define the method of delivery of the website to the customer. Will you provide the customer with the source code for website elements? What about testing? Let your agreement state if the client must test the site before acceptance and the consequences for failure or success. 

6. Intellectual property & rights

Clients shall be the owner of all the rights and intellectual properties on the website following the Copyright Act. Include the last sentence in your web design agreement if you've agreed to your web design service as a Work Made For Hire in accordance with your industry copyright law. 

7. Warranties

Include details of warranties - website warranties, website, and documentation IPR infringement warranty, exclusion of implied warranties, and representations. 

8. Condition for termination

It is wise to prepare for the unexpected in case the agreement goes ugly. Add clauses that deal with premature withdrawal and consequences plus the conditions for termination of the contract.  

9. Change in specification

Guard against the required unlimited revision and modification in specifications of the project with a clause to cap the number of reviews.

Website Design Agreement Template

With the internet boom, businesses are scrambling to establish an online presence. Creating a brand in the digital realm starts with building a business website that stands out. Companies often outsource this task to freelancers or IT service providers. 

Designing a website takes time, patience, and a massive amount of skill. As a website designer, you wouldn't want your talent to go to waste! A website design agreement ensures that you are duly compensated for your time and efforts for every project that you undertake.

Image credits: slideshare.com

With the help of a professional website design agreement, you can:

  • Get paid as per the agreed rates and within a timeframe
  • Clearly outline the nature of the work expected from you and the scope of the project
  • Prevent instances of scope creep, as they are highly prevalent in the industry
  • Define the duration for which you are associated with the customer
  • Maintain healthy and professional relationships with your clients
  • Gain permission to display the website in your portfolio

Parts of a website design agreement template

A website design agreement must contain the following key elements:

1. Introduction

The introduction contains the names of the parties involved in the website design agreement. It also mentions the date from which the agreement comes into effect. In case the employer and the developer are organizations, the company details must be clearly mentioned in the website design agreement.

2. Roles and responsibilities

As the name suggests, this section of the website design agreement outlines the scope of work, the schedule, and changes, if any. The Scope of Work forms the crux of the website design agreement as it elucidates the expectations from the website designer. So, make it a point to ensure that there is absolutely no ambiguity here with regards to the deliverables, or else you may be stuck in a reversion loop.

On the other hand, this portion of the agreement also defines the liabilities of the company hiring the website designer. These liabilities are stated in terms of the infrastructure, data, or materials that they need to provide.

3. Compensation

The monetary compensation offered to the website designer in lieu of the services offered, features in this section of the website design agreement. In addition to designing and website building, other expenses like costs for hosting, paid plugins or extensions, etc. are included here.

If your scope of work is clearly defined, you can include an 'Additional Services' sub-head here to mention your charges for the work carried out beyond the intended scope of the project. As a result, you will be protected from scope creep.

Image credits: slideshare.com

4. Confidentiality

In a world where websites and branding have now emerged as intellectual property, it is essential to maintain it as classified information. Hence, companies insist on having a confidentiality clause that dictates that website designers shall not disclose any information related to the project.

5. Ownership and rights

As with most intellectual property available online, delibrations regarding the ownership and rights must also be exclusively discussed in the website design agreement. Typically, the designer forfeits the rights to the website design, and the agreement transfers the ownership to the company.

6. Term and severance

This portion deals with the duration of the project. Further, either party must be obligated to serve a notice period of X number of days (usually 30) to initiate the termination of the agreement. It may also include any fine or severance that the party may have to deposit to exit from the agreement to immediate effect.

As one can see, a website design agreement ensures that both parties have a pleasant experience while developing the project. Bonsai offers an array of website design agreements for you to choose from. You can get a professionally drafted website design agreement in just a couple of clicks!

Finally, always read through the contract and if possible, have someone read it so that errors can be eliminated before it is sent to the client for signing. Remember, it's best for your agreement to be specific to the type of work you're doing.

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