Writing a Website Design Contract

Back40 Design’s website contract has gone through a lot of changes over the past 11 years (and it should be noted, I like to call them agreements rather than contracts – but for the purposes of this blog, I will call them contracts). Recently, I have revised them again. It’s no easy task. It usually involves a closed office door and a few late nights – this round of revisions was no different.

Dave Miller re-writing a website contract

Web Contract Revisions Focused on:

  • Expanded information explaining our design/production process
  • More effectively communicating the project timeline
  • Communicating how we undertake and excel in customer service & support
  • Simplifying content to increase ‘scanability’ of the document
  • Reorganizing editable areas to simplify document customization by Account Executives
  • Increasing visual appeal and professionalism through updated layout & graphics
  • Removing the description, detail and screenshots of Google analytics (I think everyone is familiar with that program by now) and replacing them with a line of text

Don’t Overlook the Obvious

The above updates improved the overall document, but I think what clients care most about is…what the website project is going to cost and how long it will take. My revised contract has a page called “Fees & Schedule” – I think that’s clear enough for those clients looking for the bottom line.

Usability Isn’t Just for Websites

As I was redesigning the document, I pictured a printed copy of my contract making its way around a board room table. I wanted it to stand apart from any other contracts or proposals that might also be floating around the room. I wanted it well organized and concise – with an ease of usability. Usability isn’t just about web pages, it’s about products, and our proposal is a product we created and in turn reflects upon our organization. Effective content, well labeled headings and the “written tone&rdqo; of the contract will speak volumes about our organization (as will misspellings and disorganized content).

Plug Thy OKC Design Firm

My website contracts include an appropriate amount of company marketing information. You may think marketing information in a website agreement might be overkill – or doesn’t figure into the equation at this point, but it does. Because back in the board room, the decision makers have several proposals to look over. Having our company information available can make or break a decision.

These decision makers may not have the time or interest to go to our website and read all about our awards, design theories and leadership bios. They need to make a decision. I know this works because I’ve signed clients that have never been to our website. They learned all they needed to know about us from our contracts. Including an effective overview is a win-win. It can either introduce our company or reinforce our brand to the familiar.

Proposal + Contract = 1

I think the biggest structural change to our web proposals and contracts happened years ago – we merged them. That’s right. We have a proposal that acts as a contract and a contract that acts as a proposal.

By doing this we took a document out of the process. One less speed bump for us to sign on another website client. We used to have to prepare the proposal, send it, wait, get a response and then if all went well – craft the contract. Waste of time for the client and us.

Now we get a signable, actionable document into the client’s hands quickly. Sure, with some projects, the document comes back for revisions – but its easier to revise a document than to create a new one.

Web Contract Legalese

What also makes our website contracts different is the ‘legalese’ I use. It’s written by me in my Dave voice. It’s easy to understand and conversational. I even label the section “Legalese.” Is it iron-clad? I hope I don’t ever have to find out. My lawyer likes it. That’s good enough for me. Yes, if you have a business, start a relationship with a lawyer, you never know when you will need them. And by all means run your website agreements by them before you use them.

New Site Contract Results?

As of today we have 4 newly revised contracts out to clients. So far no questions. Hopefully we go 4 for 4.

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