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Drafting Web Design Contracts
Michalis 'BIG Mike' Kotzakolios

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The proliferation of small and mid-sized businesses websites has been the driving force behind the Internet's explosive growth rate over the past years. Taking advantage of the Internet's platform neutrality and global availability, businesses already utilize the Internet as a marketing, customer support, and advertising tool. As electronic commerce drives the growth of the Web, both web designers and employers, increasing need web design contracts that form the legal infrastructure of online commerce. The web design contracts needed lie somewhere between the method-level assertions of design by contract and the high-level contracts that businesses enter into to do business with each other.

In its most basic form, web design contracts are an agreement that formalizes a business relationship or part of the relationship, between two parties. Most often it takes the form of a negotiated contract between a service provider and a customer and defines a price paid in exchange for an entitlement to a product or service to be delivered under certain terms, conditions, and with certain financial guarantees. Such contracts first emerged in the mid 1990s as a way for publishers and business owners to measure and manage the "Quality of Service" delivered. While there are many different website development models, it is better to focus on the issues that typical small and medium businesses face when they hire a web publisher to design and host their website.

There are quite a few designers that have web design contracts that can be defined as ambiguous to say the least. This problem is more common among small publishers, though some of them do go through the expense of having a good contract drafted. This kind of problem should be seen as far more troubling when dealing with major companies, as with a small publisher an attempt to do without web design contracts may be seen as an unfortunate, but understandable situation due to the expense involved in taking such a step. With major web design companies this situation becomes, at best, a very serious oversight that shouldn't have happened because of the resources that such companies have at their disposal, and so one would consider it a little more likely that such a problem could be a sign of deliberate misdirection.


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