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Design Contract Failure

In this week's episode of Resourceful Designer, I share a case study where a poorly written design contract cost a web designer her fee for the client site she built.

Be sure to listen to the podcast for the full story as I go into much more detail in the episode than I will here.

Earlier this week a long-standing client of mine called about a bind she was in. Convinced by a friend that she could save money by using Wix for her new website, she hired someone inexpensive in the Wix Arena to build it for her. Not liking the completed site and confused about the terms and jargon the Wix designer was using my client swallowed her pride decided to call me, her old web designer for help.

What I discovered was a very poorly designed website and a bunch of inaccuracies in the correspondence between the “designer” and the client. Such as the “designer” offering SEO Search Engineering Optimization and a free CSS Security Certificate for the website. Or the “designer” saying the client would have to pay extra if she wanted the website to be mobile friendly. (who doesn't design websites to be mobile friendly in 2018?)

The “designer” also offered to set up a Wix account for my client FREE OF CHARGE. All my client had to pay was the annual hosting fee of $299US. The strange thing is the account she was going to set up for my client is priced at $120US per year on Wix's website.

After a quick perusal, I determined that the person my client hired may have been a Wix site builder, but they were definitely not a designer, and there were too many red flags in their correspondence for my liking.

My client asked me if there was any way she could get out of the deal she made, so I took a look at the contract she had signed. That's when I spotted a big failure in the design contract. Here's how it was written.

Investment for the website design: $800.00*

*(300.00 ahead + 200.00 on publishing and 300.00 30 days after publishing).If our company does not make your website, we will refund it completely.If you do not pay for the total amount the website will be out of work. In case of cancellation after starting service, there is no refund for the ahead payment of 300.00)

As per the contract, my client had given the “designer” a $300 deposit before the start of the website. But from what I was reading, that was the only amount my client had to pay if she decided not to continue with this “designer”.

The contract clearly states the next payment of $200 is due upon publishing of the website, which never happened. The last line of the contract's payment clause indicates that “In case of cancellation after starting service, there is no refund for the ahead payment of 300.00″. Technically, regardless of what stage the website was currently at fell within the parameters of “cancellation after starting service”. Meaning my client could cancel their agreement at any time and all she would lose is her initial $300 deposit.

My client informed the “designer” that she would not be continuing with her services and thanked her for the work she had done. Crisis averted (minus a $300 learning lesson).

So why am I telling you this story?

A contract is meant to protect all signing parties. In this case, it didn't protect the “designer”. All she would have needed is to include something to the effect of “…and payment will be due for any work completed up to the time of cancellation.” added to the end of the paragraph. With that simple sentence, she could have demanded full payment for the website she had completed for the client.

Take the time to read over your contract and make sure it's written in a way that it protects you as much as it protects your client.

I feel bad for the “designer” because she did complete the work. But in this case, I was looking out for my client and took advantage of this design contract failure.

I have a new website project.

In case you are wondering, yes, I’m now designing the website for my client. She tells me she shouldn't have listened to her friend and she should have just hired me in the first place. She tried to save a bit of money, and it ended up costing her $300.

I feel bad for what she went through, so I'm designing her site for the same $800 the Wix “designer” quoted her. It's much lower than my standard minimum website fee, but sometimes you do what you can to help people out. However, I will not be using Wix. I'll be building her website on WordPress using the Divi Theme and hosting it on my servers.

When was the last time you verified your contract?

Don't let design contract failure affect you. Let me know your contract stories by leaving a comment for this episode.

Questions of the Week

Submit your question to be featured in a future episode of the podcast by visiting the feedback page.

This week’s question comes from Jordan

Do you charge for the time it takes a file to load/save/render/process?

I’m curious how others handle this. I’m currently working on a massive project that takes about an hour to load/save/render between edits. Edits only take a few minutes. But I’m not able to work on anything else while it’s processing. My specs are maxed out. So it’s not a “need more RAM” issue either.

To find out what I told Jordan you’ll have to listen to the podcast.

Resource of the week Werner's Nomenclature of Colours by P. Syme

Designer Nicholas Rougeux put together a beautiful web page showcasing Werner's Nomenclature of Colours By P. Syme. A recreation of the original 1821 colour guidebook with new cross-references, photographic examples, as well as some beautiful posters designed by Rougeux himself.

Here's the write-up on the original guide.

Before photography became commonplace, colorful details were often captured by the written word and Werner’s guidebook served as one of the best guides for classification. Charles Darwin even consulted it for reference during his voyages on the HMS Beagle while researching natural history.

In the late 18th century, German mineralogist Abraham Werner devised a standardized scheme for classifying colors which was later adapted and revised in the 19th century by Scottish painter Patrick Syme.

Syme enhanced Werner’s original guide by including painted swatches for each color based on Werner’s precise descriptions and examples of where to find the colors in the natural world.

The first edition was published in 1814 later in 1821 with minor revisions and some additional observations in the preface for how color classification systems are used in various areas of scientific study.

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I want to help you.

Running a graphic design or web design business all by yourself isn't easy. If there are any struggles you face running your design business, please reach out to me. I'll do my best to help you by addressing your issues in a future blog post or podcast episode here at Resourceful Designer. You can reach me at feedback@resourcefuldesigner.com