If you were on the internet in the late 1990s and early 2000s, you probably saw what is now known as the dot-com boom. This was an explosion of ecommerce, during which online businesses were popping up left and right and during which brick-and-mortar shops started developing their own webpages, to sell their products online, in addition to in the store.

This explosion is happening again, but this time, the industry is mobile apps. We are just entering the golden age of mobile applications. If you are considering entering this industry, you are going to want to have rock solid contracts like any business that employs others to help you carry out a creative/business vision. Here’s everything you need to know about app development contracts:


The Relationship between Clients and Developers

Unless you are a developer yourself, you are probably going to have to hire a developer to bring your app idea to fruition. This can be difficult for many people, as handing your idea to someone else is akin to handing someone else your baby and letting them raise it for a couple of months.

Your contract needs to cover, in detail, what is expected of the developer and the completed app. It must always cover how the client can use, promote, distribute, and monetize the app, an addition to protections to prevent (or punish) the developer who steals the idea or parts of the code to use for another project. While the developer does have intellectual property rights over the code, the client will still have ownership of the idea. The contract should include the proper licenses to the code.

Other Important Contract Elements

One of the most important aspects of an app development contract is protection of both the developer and the client’s rights. Is the client allowed to have the app maintained and improved upon by another developer? Does the developer have the right to use the code for another projects in the future? How are rights transferred?

The contract should also include timetables, which will usually be discussed with the developer before the contract is written and definitely before the contract is signed. A payment structure should also be included, along with provisions for unexpected delays and additions that the client or developer may be responsible for. A timetable and payment structure protects both parties, since without these elements, either party could come back at the end of the project and claim that any schedule or payment was agreed upon and that the other party has violated those agreements, voiding the contract. When the terms are stated in the contract, this claim is less realistic.

The Bottom Line

Many developers will have a standard contract that they use with all of their clients. If you are a client who regularly works with different developers, you might have your own contract, too. It’s probably ideal to have a contract that meets the needs of both parties. 

Because of legal jargon commonly involved and situations you may not consider, it’s probably in your best interests to hire a lawyer who can clearly explain the intricacies of an app development contract before signing.