When hiring a web or app developer, the chances are you are about to do something which is quite important to you. You are finally going to bring your idea to life. So you need to take extra care to ensure the people you entrust with bringing it to life for/with you are properly contracted to deliver what you want them to.

We hear many stories of developers charging large fees up front and then never fully delivering the product, or never delivering a product that works.

You DO NOT want to find yourself in that situation – and a proper web developer agreement can help ensure you successfully avoid it.

Here are the top 5 points to cover and GET RIGHT in a web or app development agreement:

1 – Agree a comprehensive scope of work

Plan out what you need in advance. We recommend getting wireframes/designs done first and then passing them to a developer so it is less ambiguous what you need.

Try not to find yourself in a situation where the developer’s scope of work is complete, but you only have half the product because you didn’t think of half the necessary things when hiring the developer.

2 – Ensure it covers quality assurance (QA) and bug fixing

Any developer agreement should cover:

    1. QA testing – which effectively ensuring that whatever is built actually works before it is delivered, and
    2. Bug fixing – which is an agreement that the developer will fix bugs for an agreed period after delivery within the agreed price (e.g. 2 or 3 months).

3 – Fixed project fees, rather than just hourly rates

Keeping fees under control for web development is important – otherwise you can end up continuing to add things, and fix things, and change things, and before you know it, you are at double your budget.

On the one hand, developers tend to charge by the hour or day.

On the other hand, it is perfectly feasible to agree a fixed or maximum price for your project (as long as you are clear on what they are) based on a time estimate.

e.g. hourly rate is £Y. Project estimate is 100 hours. Fixed fee is £Y x 100. Or Maximum fee is £Y x however many hours it takes up to a maximum of 100 hours (even if it actually takes a bit longer).

That way, the developer is not incentivised to go over time (and charge more) – rather, they want to complete it sooner rather than later because unless agreed otherwise, they won’t get paid for the time over and above the original estimate.

If you want something to be built and you are clear on what that something is – aim to link your payment to that, rather than the estimated building time.

Equally, you want to keep your developers happy and incentivised, so it is important that if you are adding elements to your scope, then they should cost extra – you shouldn’t try and be sneaky and add parts in and assume they will fit within the fixed fee.

Ultimately, be fair and reasonable, but keep control.

4 – Payment conditional on delivery – not up front

You should have sufficient protection that if what you ask for is not delivered, you should not need to pay for it. Therefore you should agree to pay once the product has been delivered.

You can pay in instalments – e.g. by splitting the scope of work up into different milestones – but other than a small deposit, you should not be paying for development work up front. It sets the wrong tone and from the outset, you are totally out of control.

5 – Ensure you own all the intellectual property rights

Most importantly, you need to ensure that once the product is built, you absolutely own it and all intellectual property rights in it without any ambiguity or uncertainty.

You need to ensure you have a strong intellectual property clause in your developer agreement.

Make sure that if third party plugins are being used, that the developer is completely clear with you on what they are – because the third party (and not you) owns the plugin and you are effectively just borrowing it. Third party plugins are ready made, so they are cheaper usually, but if the whole product is made from them, then your product is less valuable because you hold less intellectual property in it.


This Basic Training article was written by Legal Sidekick. Legal Sidekick is the legal platform for startups. We offer automated contracts and loads of startup legal resources and guides. For queries on company shares or generally, contact us directly.


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