Regardless of line of business, a strong web presence is paramount today. Whether the site serves as the solo sales platform, a showcase for marketing material and company background, or a more complex, multi-layered function, failing to sufficiently invest in and maintain a state of the art website is a huge mistake.
Most business owners engage a specialist agency or consultant to develop their website, but it is vital they understand their own crucial role in ensuring the site design build meets all relevant requirements.
The development of a website will most likely form a lengthy, multi-stage project requiring ongoing communication and negotiation. Rather than being a process set in stone which sticks rigidly to stages and parameters within it, there will be numerous changes to your requirements and the developer brief as the project progresses.
Several things can be done to strike the perfect balance between flexibility and certainty. These include; a precise website work specification detailing all the definitions used, project specification, proposal and quotation. Details of a timeline, deliverables and terms of the project, as well as creative and technical considerations should be included as part of a checklist. It is also paramount that hosting details are clarified.
To help keep a project moving efficiently, setting milestones and agreeing the acceptance of these in writing can assist both parties, by providing clear definition of when each stage is complete, and is of a satisfactory standard for you as the client, so the next phase can begin.
Agree to change
Individual agreements may be drawn up along the way documenting changes to the site and minor work projects, including the acceptance and understanding of these changes by both parties. Again, these agreements help the process to run smoothly, removing ambiguity and the possible of contractual disagreements further down the line.
If the developer will be providing software or creating a website toolkit for you, you must ensure that they assign all rights, title and interest in the design, tool kit, web pages and other relevant content across to you in writing.
Any logos, devices and related trademarked brand material incorporated in the site design must be covered by the appropriate intellectual property protection.
What’s in a name?
A website domain name may be one of the most valuable business assets you own, and it’s a well-known area for competition. As such, serious negotiation may take place over these domains, and ensuring the domain is purchased and secured is vital to the success or failure of the business. Adequate agreements for sale, rental, lease or licensing of the domain name in question are essential, as is ensuring they are legally watertight, signed and up to date. Imagine any successful business finding a well-publicised and traded upon domain being taken away and the impact that would have; it’s unthinkable, but legal disputes can and do occur.
Terms and conditions
Highlighting the appropriate terms and conditions for the line of business and purpose of the website is crucial. Based on conventional terms of engagement and commerce, the presumption is that one a visitor enters your site, they automatically accept these terms and conditions by using it.
The guidelines for simple brochure sites feature clauses on intellectual property protection, safeguarding the content on the site from reproduction or fraud, whereas ecommerce sites will feature policies on return and sale of goods, pricing, availability and delivery for example.
B2B and B2C ecommerce businesses alike should feature terms of sale and/or services within their website terms and conditions, including important information on formation of contracts, legal rights, cancellation, and use of intellectual property.
Sites offering directory, review and classified services will have different terms and conditions again, featuring guidance on the use of the site and service, rules governing content and placement of ads, content ownership and rights, liability and disclaimers.
The internet may be expected to provide the answer to practically everything, but in reality there are limitations to online content. As a result, it’s important to include disclaimers to websites, serving a range of purposes including defining relevant intellectual property, highlighting limitations of the website information including those of completeness, accuracy, reliability, suitability and availability, and disclaimers around loss or damage (data or profits) from use of the site.
For websites through which users expect to make a profit, and earnings disclaimer can also be helpful, highlighting the importance of the users’ own input, knowledge and experience in achieving success.
Ultimately, it is vital prior to embarking upon any web project that all the checks and balances are in place to safeguard both owner and user. The importance of these checks outshines any creative or promotional input to the site, as whilst they might seem like a more mundane element of the build, they ensure the longevity and commercial viability of the site and issues around its build for years to come.
By Iain Mackintosh, owner, Simply Docs