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Website Design Errors, Omissions and Unstated Expectations

As a web designer or developer, you might have come across a client feedback along the lines of “I thought that was included in my quotation?” it’s a dreaded comment we all take for granted – both as designers and as customers looking for a website.

As a web design professional, we take for granted the time involved in creating a website or even accomplishing a task. For example, we always hear about creating a “simple” contact form or an image gallery but can we assume the client understands what’s involved?

Here’s an example that recently happened in our company – famous for website design in Barrie. We had a long-standing client who built a website with us over 10 years ago – back when design and mobile/responsive expectations were low. Over

the last 10 years, their website slowly began to fall in the ranks and even became delisted due to display and compatibility errors. The client emailed us with a simple “my website doesn’t work on mobile, can you fix it?” As you can imagine, the client assumed this was a simple web design fix and we failed to communicate with the client that over time your website might not work due to unknown or unforeseen issues.

In the professional world where individuals and companies offer services, this is often referred to as Errors & Omissions (E&O) and there have been many scenarios that have caused legal action between a service provider and a client over missed expectations or lack of service clarification.

Over the years we’ve come to learn from web-savvy and “green” customers what is usually included when we draft a contract. The terms and conditions page of our contract has grown to a great extent and the reason for this is not to indemnify us as much as possible but to try and offer as much information to educate our clients.

Here are some simple tips to consider when delivering your web design or development services:

  1. Get clarity as much as possible on the scope of the project prior to offering a quotation. For example, if a client wants an online shopping website do they want to manage the products? Track inventory? Orders? Will the website calculate shipping or will it be manually entered?
  2. For standard projects like an HTML, the website includes in your terms and conditions what is offered and what is not offered. Will you make the website “SEO ready” such as managing alt tags, meta tags, headings or is that extra? Will you host the website or will you deliver the website to an external host? Will it cost extra to install it on another host?
  3. Identify clear timelines for the project and who is responsible for bugs, updates and content changes after the delivery of the website. Will you support content/bug fixes for 1 month, 2 months after the live launch?
  4. Identify any additional costs that a project can incur such as the use/purchase of stock photography, SSL certificates, subscription services for SEO, Analytics, newsletters and third-party plugins.
  5. Finally, include a broad clause in your contract that any item or task not discussed prior to the project contract will be considered out of scope and could incur additional costs.

Just like visiting the mechanic for your car or your dentist, we need to rely on their professionalism and trust their advice and suggestions are legitimate. When I go to my trusted mechanic because I hear a squeak in my brakes and he tells me that I need to change the rotor, pads, and caliper, I trust his opinion and get the job done.

As a final line of defense, and to prevent an absolute worse case scenario such as a legal suit for damages or loss of business because of an error or omission, you can consider getting E&O insurance. This type of insurance is common for professionals such as lawyers and financial advisors but there are many providers who focus on providing insurance for website designers, app developing companies and other web-based service companies.

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