Spell Out a Detailed Contract

contract.jpgIn the world of web design you often come across people who don’t exactly know what they want. And that is usually a good thing for you because you can then charge them for the minimum and increase based on “added features”, which they should have seen up front, but they don’t always. This has the slight problem of having a contract with an indefinite time period.

A time period is usually scheduled for delivery of the product in the contract. This ensures the buyer that the product will be delivered in a reasonable time frame so that you don't keep extending the job for not real reason. One thing I've learnt, however, is that you need to also specify a time frame that the user has to review the work and ensure that everything is to his liking. You absolutely need this if you're not charging by the hour.

This is the problem I ran into a couple weeks ago and I’m still trying to get out of. I did a website for this guy a couple months ago. We agreed on a fixed price because it was supposed to be an easy enough job: a nice static layout, not much PHP, a Gallery, etc. A prototype was done in about three days. He was amazed by the quality of the website and had nothing but praise. Everything is good right? Wrong. He now had to burden of supplying content for the website. To make a long story slightly less long, this took a couple of months, and he only supplied pictures for the gallery and content for one of the six pages (not the home page). Now you may be thinking what does that have to do with me if the guy’s website

is empty, he paid for a design and that’s what he got right? Well I would agree with you there, but the problem was he had not yet paid the balance on his bill.

To make matters even more screwy, he passed on the website work to a colleague of his. Any my instructions were “do what ever Jim wants”. I’m like, “fine”. The problem is that Jim wants a whole lot of stuff that wasn’t in the original contract. And Jim knows absolutely nothing about web design or HTML or FTP for that matter. Let’s just say Jim is a classic Front Page guy. So now a web design job has turned into an HTML, FTP server, course because Jim can’t edit the website as he used to. Jim wants to hear nothing about the limitations of Front Page, Jim just knows that “that’s how I edit my other pages”. Fine Jim. At first the site was designed with the structure in PHP and the content to be added as static HTML include files. The only thing Jim would have to do is edit these files to his heart’s content.

Oh no, Jim doesn’t like that, because Jim can’t “see the entire page” when he’s editing. I ensured Jim that whatever changes he made to those files would show up in the big picture. We actually did a short demo. Jim’s response: “Well, I would really prefer it if I could see all he pictures”. *Sigh*, Jim gets what Jim wants right? I redid all the code to static HTML files so that Jim could “see all the pictures”. And of course, since Jim is a Front Page guy, Jim decides to open up one of these files in Front Page, change various styles, move around a couple divs and then saves. Jim then calls me up and asks me why does the site look funny? I said “Jim you screwed it up”. He replies that he only opened it and did nothing and closed it right back again.

So right now I’m wondering whether I should keep trying to work things out with Jim or just take my 50% down payment and cut my losses.