I recently read a survey (and I can’t remember the details) that showed a very high number of Web designers were starting and conducting work with clients without a written agreement. If you are a client or a Web person doing this… Stop it! I’m no lawyer, so I am not consulting you on how to protect yourself against a law suite or other legal issues. I’m advising you do this from a project management perspective.
If you don’t agree on terms how do you now when the project starts, ends or what it even includes?
So lets say you are doing the right thing and you as a client have insisted that a written agreement be put in place declaring exactly what will be delivered and what compensation will be made. Or you as a Web professional, provide your clients with an agreement with the same bullet points. You are off to a good start. However I have noticed that when I talk with other Web folks about the kind of agreements that that they put in place, they are often chalk full of what the Web professional will deliver but are void of what the client’s responsibilities are.
Yes, The Client Has Responsibilities Too
I have found projects tend to run much smoother if at the onset of the project that an agreement is put into place that not only describes exactly what will be delivered but what the client’s responsibilities are as well. For example, often a client will insist that a timeline be placed into an agreement. So as a Web developer you promise that will deliver a Web site in six weeks (for example). We’ll that is a great plan and you know you can design and build a Website in that amount of time IF the client provides feedback in a timely fashion, IF the client provides final content in an organized fashion by a certain date and IF the client’s IT team has hosting setup and ready for launch, etc.
The point is simply that building or conducting any project on the Web is multiparty system. The developer/designer, though hired to deliver, cannot do their job if the client does not do their part. With that said I have put together a list of client responsibilities I try and give thought to when I develop a project plan or agreement.
- In what timeframe will feedback be given in (include consequences to schedule if missed)
- In what format will feedback be given (organized documents at certain milestones vs. piece mail)
- When is final content to be delivered by
- In what format will content be delivered
- Any collateral such as software, stock art or fonts to be purchased by the client
- Hosting technical specs and requirements (if the service provider is not also providing hosting)
- What access to current systems will need to be granted by the client
- What are the testing and review responsibilities and expectations of the client
- What communication expectations are there of the client; How quickly will they provide clarification, details and other information when needed during the project
- When Payment is to be made and under what terms