Protect Yourself and Your Website with a Website Development Agreement

Protect Yourself and Your Website with a Website Development Agreement

by Ronna L. DeLoe, Esq., February 2019

Web developers or designers create classy, informative, and professional-looking websites for all types of businesses, such as law firms, musicians, bakeries, photographers, and banks.

Three people gathering in office around two desktop computers displaying code

Whether you, as the client, want a simple website, or a more complex website with sophisticated graphic design, videos, and slideshows, there are many website developers who can provide what you're looking for. To help ensure you get what you want—and also to protect yourself—consider having a website development agreement with your web developer.

Website Development Agreements

Some website development contracts are simple documents, but most are not. Website development agreements are legal documents that contain many items, including what services the developer will provide. These services are often attached to the contract as a separate piece of paper or schedule, yet it's part of the agreement, and it's referred to in the agreement itself.

Most of the standard clauses you'd expect to see in a contract appear in a simple website development agreement, and your agreement also will contain clauses tailored to your specific needs. For example, if you want your website developer to arrange hosting for you, the developer will specify this in the contract.

Many website development agreements don't include website maintenance, although some do. By negotiating with a web developer who also does maintenance, you can add this service to your website development agreement. On the other hand, it's usually prudent to get a separate maintenance agreement, even if you're working with the same company, because the website maintenance agreement is also a detailed document.

Website Development Agreement Checklist

Basic clauses in website development agreements include the following:

  1. Name, business name, and address of the developer and client (you), and the effective date of the agreement
  2. That you agree to hire the developer as an independent contractor and not as an employee
  3. That the developer agrees to perform the work, also referred to as deliverables, listed in the separate schedule attached to the agreement; including the approximate number of web pages, images, and videos you want
  4. That you agree to provide the developer with text and other materials you want to appear on the website
  5. How much the website development costs, and, if the developer designs the site in several stages, specifying how and when payments are split
  6. The cost of late fees, and when they're due
  7. How and when the web developer will present the website for viewing during the course of development, after which you will accept the design or request revisions
  8. A specific number of revisions allowed (determined by both you and the developer beforehand) that are included in the agreement; plus the costs for extra or additional revisions
  9. What type of notice to give to the developer about your desire to change what you want on your website
  10. How both of you can terminate the contract and what is proper notice
  11. That both of you agree to keep information about each other's work, performance, and business confidential
  12. A statement regarding ownership of the deliverables, and that you can claim ownership of the intellectual property produced by the developer
  13. That the developer can list their business name on the website at the bottom, and you can list your company's copyright near the developer's name
  14. Approximately how long the project will take, with milestone dates for each stage
  15. Whether the developer will provide hosting, security services, or website maintenance, along with a fee schedule for these services
  16. Whether the developer will perform search engine optimization (SEO) so that search engines will rank your website higher, preferably near the top of the first page of results
  17. That no other designer may work on your website while it's under construction, after which a different company can perform maintenance if you desire
  18. Limitation of liability clauses
  19. Which state's law governs in case of a dispute
  20. Signatures, date, and notarization, if required or desired

While the checklist above appears to contain more than a basic agreement, having fewer clauses is perfectly acceptable, but then you could have disputes with your developer about important clauses that are left out. In the same way that developing your website requires attention to all the details, the agreement that supports the work has to be detailed, as well.