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Could your website end up costing you money?

01 Dec 2010

There is certainly money to be made on the internet and every business with a website hopes that their website will increase sales. However, the last thing anyone thinks is that their website could cost them money. It is easy to put a lot of time into web design and functionality, but sometimes the detail can get overlooked. Here is a checklist which you should consider before embarking upon a website build.1. Check your development agreementThe biggest complaint I hear about web developers is that they allow the project to go over budget and do not finish the job on time. That’s why you should always insist upon seeing your web developer’s terms of trade, or preferably you should negotiate a specific website development agreement which gives you certainty over cost and time for delivery. You should reserve a timefor you to test the website post-delivery, reject it if it is not satisfactory, and hold back final payment until any issues are fixed. 2. Is your site original?Be careful that you are not breaching someone else’s copyright; otherwise you could find yourself in hot water. You need to make sure you hold the copyright in any imagery you use, or that you have permission to use it. That also includes the text – changing one or two words from an otherwise identical paragraph may not absolve you from a claim. Be particularly careful if you are feeding information from other websites to post as your own – you will need permission. Also consider the look and feel of the website. It’s true many websites follow a similar format these days; don’t allow yours to look so similar to someone else’s that the public could get confused.3. Can you update your website easily?Having an easy-to-use content management system is essential to any website. There are a few reasons for this. First, you don’t want to be paying someone else to be updating your website for you when you can do it yourself. Second, it is important that your website is up to date; it is very easy to leave discount offers on your website which are no longer valid. Then when someone tries to buy it at the discount price but can’t, you either have to honour the deal or you find they make a complaint under the Fair Trading Act. Also, people may rely on your website for information. If it is inaccurate, you may end up being accountable for giving bad advice. To avoid this, terms of use and disclaimers are essential on any website, but it is much better to have your information accurate from the word go, to maintain your credibility.4. Are you collecting information?If you are collecting personal information on your website (eg: through web forms), then you must comply with the Privacy Act, and the best way of doing this is by having a privacy policy which complies with the law. Such policies are expected by everyone these days, and most people will expect you to have one (even if they don’t read it). Assuming that you do have one, then make sure you do comply with it and the Act. Don’t go sharing your database if you have said you won’t. Dealing with privacy complaints can be very time-consuming.5. Are you selling?Finally, if you are selling product from your website you will need specific e-commerce terms of trade. These will be separate to (but could be incorporated into) your usual terms of trade. Your e-commerce terms should clearly set out your refunds policy to avoid disputes and exclude liability for the various things that can go wrong for e-commerce transactions (such as a person using somebody else’s credit card, someone hacking the system, or purchases by people under the age of 18).Don’t let your website cost you moneySo whilst design and functionality will be the things which make your website generate the cash for your business, don’t ignore the detail, because that is what could end up costing you money instead.