Perils of the web world

Marcus Handley from the Rights Lawyers explains in the first of a two-part series what issues arise from running your own website.

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By  Marcus Handley Published  September 21, 2008

Marcus Handley from the Rights Lawyers explains in the first of a two-part series what issues arise from running your own website.

There are many issues to consider before you should attempt to trade online, some practical, others purely technical, and those that stem from specific legal concerns. This article attempts at the very least to draw your attention to those questions you should be asking before you open your online ‘shop window'.

To start with, let's take a look at the more practical considerations.

The who

This should be your first consideration. No, not Daltry, Townsend et al. Rather, who is assisting you with each step on the way to running your new website; its development, maintenance, and of course day-to-day hosting on the www? Will you be using separate service providers at each step or, as is common, a one stop shop that will first develop your bespoke site, and then provide hosting services, taking care of all required updating and maintenance along the way?

Depending on your answer to the above, you will know whether one contract will be sufficient to cover the website. In short, is your website agreement specifically geared only to the development process itself or is it also a fully functioning service agreement to cover provision of the ‘after sales' maintenance and hosting?

The what

Website development specification - get it agreed.

It is imperative you control the work being done by a website developer to make sure you get what you want, that you're up and running on time, and then to ensure you effectively manage it to stay that way. Before the developer gets started, you must have an idea of how you see the website developing, and communicate this to him in clearly set out deliverables and design specifications.

Accepted?

The development contract should then provide for adequate acceptance testing to ensure the website delivered to you is what you asked and paid for. A simple mechanism in the contract can set out testing and acceptance procedures including time scales to remedy any deviation from your original specification. Insist that you have ample opportunity (and the time) to make sure you get what you want. Once you accept the product from the developer, or the acceptance period has passed without rejection, you have to pay up regardless.

Protect yourself

There are many safeguards that will effectively protect your position and should be negotiated with any developer. Insist on warranties with regard to quality and assurances that the finished product will be free from material defects and of course conform to the agreed specifications.

Developers will generally look to limit or restrict their liability to as little as possible, often simply the value of the contract, but as they are the party who will be delivering the service (with your sole contribution often being only the content for the site), this should be avoided if at all possible.

Any agreement dealing with the provision of a maintenance and/or hosting service must set out the maintenance period and cover all associated costs. Be extremely clear who is responsible for modifying, developing and maintaining the website.

Likewise with a hosting service; there are many hosting options available depending on the size and scale of your requirements but whichever direction you take, the capability, usability and speed of your site must be agreed and dealt with in the agreement.

Marcus Handley is a solicitor with the Rights Lawyers.

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