“Don’t be afraid of your vendors: Ask questions!”

Aug 02 2022

In today’s digital world, an organization’s website is just as important as their physical front door. For many, it is the first and last point of interaction with your organization/company. As such the design of your website is critical to your organization’s brand and its ability to survive.

Not only does your website need to stand out amongst the crowd of your competitors, but it needs to conform to a series of accepted norms and guidelines that exist to ensure accessibility to your “virtual space” as you would in your brick-and-mortar store. While you may not have the time, expertise, and/or capabilities to design and maintain your own website, there are countless web design vendors that exist to “help” you. As of August 2021, 1.88 billion websites existed on the internet.1 Currently, there are approximately 26,905 web design services in the United States that have companies (such as your own) contract them to design your website.2 Think of this vendor (web designer) in a similar manner as you would a contractor in a physical environment. When contracting you must both establish a vision for your website, while also ensuring an effective mechanism for communication that will further your organization’s endeavors. Such a relationship is defined by expectations and dialogue, and absent either, it will surely develop into something that is counterproductive to both parties.

The Importance of Understanding Expectations

As with any endeavor, expectations are key in establishing a working relationship. For a website, not only do these expectations manifest in the visual presentation a website should have, but they should extend to an understanding of the relationship that exists with regards to the working responsibilities of the website. Once a website is developed, who is responsible for maintaining it? Will the vendor provide the organization with training to maintain the website on a day-to-day basis? What services and opportunities are available to the client and who is responsible for the day? Answers to such questions are essential in avoiding potential litigious actions against your entity.

While it is incredibly important to understand the expectations to prevent litigious action, it is also of equal importance to have expectations as to what should happen and what support is available to your organization should it be sued. For most vendor contracts, you want to make sure that there is some sort of indemnification clause. Indemnification “is to compensate that party for losses that that party has incurred or will incur as related to a specified incident.”3 Indemnification is a precautionary tool that ensures your organization is not liable for specific accidents/failures that it did not control. If your organization is not managing/posting the content on your website on a day-to-day basis and is instead outsourcing this to a separate agency, it is of the utmost importance that you have an indemnity from them that protects you to ensure that you are not responsible for lawsuits sent to you which are related to their work.

What Questions and Answers Your Organization Needs To Ask

Asking questions of your vendor isn’t something to avoid but is something your organization should strive to do, it’s good practice. Often, to select a vendor, your organization needs to ask to questions, such as;

  • How will you support me if litigious action was brought against me?
  • How do you assess your services/products you provide me with, external using automation/manual?
  • How often do you update your services/products you provide me with?

Answering these questions is a critical component of finding the right vendor for your website. Not only will you be concerning yourself with enacting the vision of your organization online, but you’ll be protecting yourself against potential litigious action that could negatively impact your organization’s finances and its public image. Asking questions is the only way to get answers, so do it! Don’t be afraid! If a vendor doesn’t want to provide you with answers, then it’s probably not the company you should be involving your business with.

  1. Martin Armstrong and Felix Richter, “Infographic: How Many Websites Are There? (opens in a new window)” Statista Infographics (Statista, August 6, 2021). 

  2. Industry Market Research, Reports, and Statistics (opens in a new window)” IBISWorld, February 24, 2022. 

  3. Indemnify (opens in a new window)” Legal Information Institute of (Legal Information Institute), accessed April 27, 2022. 

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