The Importance of Website Development Agreements

Mallory King - November 15, 2019 - Internet Law, Uncategorized, Website Agreement Tips


In today’s world, every company needs a website for customers to visit, interact with, and sometimes purchase products from.  Most companies will need to bring in outside help to develop the website. Website Development Agreements facilitate the relationship between company and web development team before the site-building project begins.  This will keep the development running smoothly by communicating expectations of performance and goals of the website to each party. A Website Development Agreement is essential to mitigate the risks of placing your website in the hands of someone else, which can sometimes result in domain hijacking. The following are some of the functions and benefits of having a Website Development Agreement.

Creating a Timeline

Developing a website can take as short as a few weeks or as long as several months, depending on a number of variables that you may not be able to control. A Website Development Agreement can establish a timeline for the project from the outset so you can come to an agreement with your developer about when the website will be up and running. The timeline can be broken out into deadlines for different stages of the project so you can have increased input in the project. This part of the agreement holds the developer accountable for reliable work, and allows you to plan around the launch of the website and start directing customers to it as soon as possible.

Communicating the Scope of the Project

Your website might be finished and meet all of your specifications when the developer shows you their finished work on your desktop computer. However, disaster strikes when you pull that same website up on your smartphone and your new, legally completed website is an unreadable mess. You will want to anticipate this kind of risk by pinning down your goals for the finished product in the agreement. Your developer will likely also be much happier to work with you if you set this out from the beginning. If a developer does not even know the features you need in your website, they are well within their rights to turn their finished work over to you with your key components missing. The Website Development Agreement is an opportunity to communicate your needs to the developer and hold them to those needs.

Assigning Intellectual Property Rights

As with any hire for creative work, it is important to clarify who owns what aspects of the writing, design, and arrangement. These are important components of the website to obtain ownership of so that you hold complete control of the website once the development relationship is finished. The developer may also need to make use of code and elements from other websites, and you will want to be aware of where you stand with respect to your ownership of your own website. Unless the developer regularly works for the company seeking the website, they will be an independent contractor for the company, and the copyright must be assigned to the company in writing so that the company gains ownership of the website as a work made for hire.

Establishing Continued Support from Your Developer

The work of having a website does not end once you launch the site. You may want the developer to continue generating content or work on expanding the site once it is up and running. In some cases, the developer may be responsible for arranging hosting, or you may rely on them for maintenance and debugging. Whether you use the developer for these additional services, and need to agree to the terms of this arrangement, or you use another service provider, setting this out in the agreement is an important step so that each party knows your plan going forward.

Outlining Payment

The design of a website akin to a construction project, and with that can come unforeseen hurdles, delays, and costs. It is important to incorporate an outline for when you will pay the developer, how much you are going to pay, how you will calculate costs, and how will actually give that payment to the developer. Putting these considerations in the agreement mitigates the risks of overspending on the project or being held liable for underpaying the developer. Also, negotiating this part of the agreement can give you an idea of the price that will allow you to better analyze the economic costs and benefits of the website.

Overall, utilizing a Website Development Agreement is essential to ensure that your website is created according to your specifications and within your desired timeframe.  Additionally, it can help ensure you own the intellectual property associated with your website and deter potential domain hijacking.  If you are in need of a Website Development Agreement – as a company or as a developer – Traverse Legal’s attorneys can help you draft an agreement that meets your individualized needs.

This blog post contributed, in part, by Traverse Legal Virtual Law Clerk Scott Pehoushek.

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