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An Introductory Guide To Business Insurance For Designers And Developers

At some point in your career, most web designers and developers can relate to issues with scope creep, unexpected project delays, client relationships breaking down, and unpaid invoices. The good news is that there’s an insurance policy to help with these scenarios. In the UK, we call it “professional indemnity insurance.” Elsewhere, it can be called “professional liability” or “errors and omissions insurance.”

Let’s explore what this insurance is and how it’s designed to keep web professionals in business. I’ll also be sharing real stories of businesses who were glad they had insurance.

What Is Professional Indemnity Insurance?

Professional indemnity insurance protects your business from screw-ups and problem clients.

Let’s say a client threatens legal action, claims loss of income or damages due to a service you provided. Even if you’re in the wrong, professional indemnity steps in to ensure the consequences to your business aren’t crippling.

A creative agency working on a project together

A creative agency working on a project together. (Large preview)

It’s also important to distinguish what professional indemnity insurance isn’t. After all, business insurance is an umbrella term for different types of cover. One of those covers is public liability insurance — or general liability insurance as it’s known in the US.

Public liability insures your business against claims of:

  • physical injury to clients and members of the public
  • accidents on your work premises
  • damage to third-party property.

This is a popular cover for those who have clients visit their office or those who work from client premises. However, in this article, we’re focusing exclusively on professional indemnity.

How Can Insurance Help Me If I’m A Designer Or Developer?

Business insurance isn’t often talked about in web circles. I think it’s because insurers have focused their products and user experience on traditional industries. A lot of the information out there isn’t relevant to those of us working in digital.

To add to that, people don’t equate working with a computer as being a danger or massive liability. Especially when you have all of your clients sign a contract. This can lull designers and developers into a false sense of security. A common objection I hear from web professionals when talking about insurance is:

I can’t cause any damage as a web designer. For anything that does go wrong, I have a clause in my contract that says I’m not liable.

Firstly, I have to debunk the myth of not needing to have insurance because you work with a contract. Contracts don’t alleviate you from liability. They’re useful for laying the foundation of what duties are expected of both parties, but insurance steps into action when those duties come into question.

With every scenario I’m sharing today, they all had the following in common:

  • A contract was signed by both parties.
  • They had years of experience in their profession.
  • They were professionally insured, but never expected to have to use their insurance.

Below are real stories of how professional indemnity insurance helped these designers and developers.

Scope Creep

A developer built a web platform to spec, but the client complained of missing functionality.

The developer agreed to build the perceived missing functionality for a further fee, but the client believed it should have been included in the initial build. Not only did the client refuse to pay the remaining invoice, but they threatened legal action if the developer didn’t cooperate.

Having professional indemnity insurance meant that the developer had a team of legal experts behind him. They helped the developer communicate with his client to avoid the problem escalating.

The developer’s professional indemnity policy also had a mitigation costs clause. This meant the insurer paid the amount owed to him by his client, which was thousands of pounds.

Project Delays

Designers and developers often work to tight deadlines. Missing deadlines can cause problems if the project has an important launch date.

A creative agency was hired to design a website, but the project started to unravel. Key members of the team left part way through the project and the pace of the work being completed slowed down.

While the website was delivered in time for launch, it was missing a lot of major features. The client said it wasn’t fit for purpose.

After wasting money on a marketing campaign for the launch, the client refused to pay the final invoice. They also incurred extra expenses from hiring new contractors to complete the website’s missing features.

The client threatened to involve solicitors if the agency pursued payment.

The unpaid invoice was settled by the insurer under the mitigation costs clause of their professional indemnity policy. The insurer also provided the agency with legal advisors to confirm with the client that the project is considered at an end.

Client Relationships Breaking Down

This is a common catalyst for professional indemnity claims. Even if we spot a few amber flags, we like to believe we can make our client relationships work and projects run smoothly. However scary it is, sometimes you have to burn bridges with a client.

A designer did this when working with a client they felt didn’t respect them. An ever-changing scope, long hours, and poor pay lead to a breakdown in the relationship. What had started off as a promising project was now a strained working relationship and source of stress. The designer decided to walk away from the project.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the end of things. The client wanted to be reimbursed for the money they had already paid to the designer. They also wanted damages for the loss of income due to a delayed launch and compensation for hiring other contractors to complete the project.

A team of legal experts was arranged by the insurer to deal with the designer’s client. A settlement was agreed out of court, which was also covered by the insurer.

What Does A Professional Indemnity Policy Insure Against?

Professional indemnity insurance is a meaty policy, so it isn’t feasible to cover every scenario here. At its core, it’s designed to put your business back in the same financial position after a loss as it was in before a loss. As you can see from the stories above, a loss can be legal fees, client damages, compensation or even unpaid invoices. However, this has to stem from a client expressing dissatisfaction with your work.

While all professional indemnity policies differ, let’s look at some of the key features you can expect to see.

Defence Costs

If a client makes a claim against you, your professional indemnity policy will pay the defence costs. This isn’t just for situations that have escalated to court. Insurers want to solve problems before they get to that stage, so they’ll provide a team of legal experts to help negotiate terms with your client.

Intellectual Property Infringement

Web and graphic designers are vulnerable to arguments over copyright infringement, whereas developers could get into disputes over who owns the code. This clause covers claims against copyright infringement, trademarks, slogans, and even domain names.

Mitigation Costs

If you read the stories above, you’ll have seen mitigation costs mentioned where unpaid invoices were paid by the insurer. If a client is dissatisfied with your work, refuses to pay any or all your fees and threatens to bring a claim against you, professional indemnity may pay the amount owed to you by your client. This is only if the insurer believes it will avoid a claim for a greater amount.


Negligence covers a broad spectrum, but think of this as a warranty for any mistakes you make that lead to an unhappy client.

Unintentional Breach Of Contract

Breach of contract can take many forms. It could be something as simple as failing to deliver a project on time or not meeting the client’s expectations. Any breach of contract may entitle the client to make a claim against you.

A web developer working on his laptop

A web developer working on his laptop. (Large preview)

Some Practical Tips For Buying Insurance

The first question people ask when it comes to buying insurance is, “How much should I insure my business for?”. The level of cover will typically start at £100,000 and can go well into the millions. It can be a difficult question to answer, but there are factors that can help you arrive at a reasonable figure.

Client Contracts

If your client contract has an insurance clause, it’s usually for £1,000,000 of professional indemnity. This is the base level of cover a client would expect. It’s the most common level of cover I see businesses buy.

Types of Clients

What type of clients are you working with? Is it large corporations with in-house legal teams, or local small businesses? It’s not unwise to assume the larger companies pose a bigger threat, therefore should have a higher level of cover. You may also find that larger companies will have an insurance clause in their contract.

Type Of Work You Do

A developer building a payment platform will potentially face a bigger risk than somebody designing a website to showcase a restaurant’s menu. Does your work involve dealing with sensitive information or higher-cost products? Are businesses depending on your service to generate income for them?

If it feels like I’ve skirted around answering this, it’s because there isn’t a straightforward figure. A lot of insurers will simply tell you to buy what you’ve budgeted for. If in doubt, consider a base level of £1,000,000 and periodically evaluate your clients and type of work you do. Most insurers allow you to make a mid-term adjustment part way through your policy to increase your level of cover.

Other than the cost of insurance, there are a few other factors to be aware of when buying insurance.

Insuring More Than One Activity

The web is a multi-disciplinary industry. You should be looking for a policy that can cover your various activities. A web developer may also provide web hosting. A designer may also offer consulting services. If you fall outside of the typical box, you might find it useful talking to a broker or using a service like With Jack where your policy can be customized instead of using an online comparison site.

Insuring Your Work Worldwide

By default, professional indemnity policies in the UK exclude US jurisdiction. If you’re working with US clients under US contract law, look for an insurer that can lift the jurisdictional limit from your policy, so you’re insured worldwide. Just beware that it will increase your premium.

Your Policy Can Adapt To Your Needs

Insurance can be flexible. Don’t delay buying insurance because you’re thinking of switching from sole trader to Limited company down the line, or because you’re waiting to add a new service to your business. A good insurance company will allow you to adjust your policy, adapting it as your business changes and grows.

How Insurance Can Help You Build A Bulletproof Business

Whenever I see newcomers ask for advice on starting their business in the web industry, I see a lot of suggestions that look like this:

  • “Get an accountant immediately.”
  • “Build a network!”
  • “Have your clients sign a contract.”
  • “Monitor your cashflow!”

This is all great advice, of course, but rarely do I see anybody mentioning getting insured. Insurance should be a crucial part of any professional designer or developer’s toolbox.

Offering your professional services to clients comes with a degree of risk. It’s your responsibility to mitigate that risk. You have to be confident that — if something does go wrong — you can get back to work quickly. There can be issues with mistakes in your work, a relationship going sour or a client claiming they’re unhappy with your service. It doesn’t matter how good you are, these things happen!

This is why I’m sharing these stories — to highlight the importance of being insured. I want to get web professionals not just thinking about insurance, but understanding it. Insurance is something we don’t necessarily want to budget for or consider, yet as professionals, we have to. The stories above show how critical it can be.

So yes, work with a contract. Monitor your cash flow. Have an accountant manage your bookkeeping, but also get insured. There’s little point in building your business only for one problem client or mistake to take it away from you.

Smashing Editorial
(ra, yk, il)

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An Introductory Guide To Business Insurance For Designers And Developers

3 Ways Web Design Can Drive Customer Reviews

city street typography design

Every e-commerce business should strive to collect more online reviews. After all, a recent study found that 1 in 5 online shoppers view customer reviews as the single most important factor influencing their decision to make a purchase. But how does web design influence customer reviews? In this article, we’ll look at 3 web design tips e-commerce businesses can use to deliver a better user experience for online shoppers while encouraging more customers to write reviews. Use Visuals to Summarize Important Information At a Glance Chances are, most of your customers’ reviews will center on the same key details. You…

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3 Ways Web Design Can Drive Customer Reviews

Live Stream From Awwwards Berlin 2018: Showcasing Trends In UX Design

Designing the best experience is a challenge, and every designer and developer has their own way of tackling it. But, well, no matter how different our approaches are, one thing is for sure: We can learn a lot from each other.
To give you your dose of UX inspiration, we are happy to announce that our dear friends at Adobe, are streaming live from the Awwwards Conference which will take place in Berlin on February 8th and 9th.

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Live Stream From Awwwards Berlin 2018: Showcasing Trends In UX Design

6 Really Bad Website Popup Examples

If you want to craft a delightful marketing experience and you’re using popups, you need to make sure you hold them to the same high standards as the content they are covering up. You can learn a lot by looking at bad website popup examples.

Once you understand what not to do, you’ll default to starting your own popup designs from a better baseline.

What does a bad popup design actually look like?

Well, it depends on your judging criteria, and for the popup examples below, I was considering these seven things, among others:

  1. Clarity: Is it easy to figure out the offer really quickly?
  2. Relevance: Is it related to the content of the current page?
  3. Manipulation: Does it use psychological trickery in the copy?
  4. Design: Is it butt ugly?
  5. Control: Is it clear what all options will do?
  6. Escape: Can you get rid of it easily?
  7. Value: Is the reward worth more than the perceived (or actual) effort?

The following popup examples, each make a number of critical errors in their design decisions. Take a look, and share your own worst popup design examples in the comments!

#1 – Weather Channel Rudeness

What’s so bad about it?

Okay, I get it Weather.com, ads are one of, or your only, revenue stream. There are plenty of sites who ask you to turn off an ad blocker to read the full article. I don’t have a problem with it, and the main paragraph of text here is okay.

What I *do* have a problem with is the copy on the CTA. “Turn off your ad blocker”.

Really? You can’t even say please? That’s just obnoxious.

Fun fact, the Canadian version of the site doesn’t have this popup. Go figure. ;)
(I had to VPN to get the U.S. version.)

Submitted by Ramona from Impact)

#2 – Mashable Shmashable

What’s so bad about it?

If you peer into the background behind the popup, you’ll see a news story headline that begins with “Nightmare Alert”. I think that’s a pretty accurate description of what’s happening here.

  • Design: Bad. The first thing I saw looks like a big mistake. The Green line with the button hanging off the bottom looks like the designer fell asleep with their head on the mouse.
  • Clarity: Bad. And what on earth does the headline mean? click.click.click. Upon deeper exploration, it’s the name of the newsletter, but that’s not apparent at all on first load.
  • Clarity: worse. Then we get the classic “Clear vs. Clever” headline treatment. Why are you talking about the pronunciation of the word “Gif”? Tell me what this is, and why I should care to give you my email.
  • Design: Bad. Also, that background is gnarly.

#3 – KAM Motorsports Revolution!

What’s so bad about it?

It’s motorsports. It’s not a revolution. Unless they’re talking about wheels going round in circles.

  • Clarity: Bad. The headline doesn’t say what it is, or what I’ll get by subscribing. I have to read the fine print to figure that out.
  • Copy: Bad. Just reading the phrase “abuse your email” is a big turn off. Just like the word spam, I wasn’t thinking that you were going to abuse me, but now it’s on my mind.
  • Relevance: Bad. Newsletter subscription popups are great, they have a strong sense of utility and can give people exactly what they want. But I don’t like them as entry popups. They’re much better when they use an exit trigger, or a scroll trigger. Using a “Scroll Up” trigger is smart because it means they’ve read some of your content, and they are scrolling back up vs. leaving directly, which is another micro-signal that they are interested.

#4 – Utterly Confused

(Source unknown – I found it on confirmshaming.tumblr.com)

What’s so bad about it?

I have no earthly clue what’s going on here.

  • Clarity: Bad. I had to re-read it five times before I figured out what was going on.
  • Control: Bad. After reading it, I didn’t know whether I would be agreeing with what they’re going to give me, or with the statement. It’s like an affirmation or something. But I have no way of knowing what will happen if I click either button. My best guess after spending this much time writing about it is that it’s a poll. But a really meaningless one if it is. Click here to find out how many people agreed with “doing better”…
  • It ends with “Do Better”. I agree. They need to do a lot better.

#5 – Purple Nurple

What’s so bad about it?

  • Manipulation: Bad. Our first “Confirm Shaming” example. Otherwise known as “Good Cop / Bad Cop”. Forcing people to click a button that says “Detest” on it is so incongruent with the concept of a mattress company that I think they’re just being cheap. There’s no need to speak to people that way.
  • I found a second popup example by Purple (below), and have to give them credit. The copy on this one is significantly more persuasive. Get this. If you look at the section I circled (in purple), it says that if you subscribe, they’ll keep you up to date with SHIPPING TIMES!!! Seriously? If you’re going to email me and say “Hey Oli, great news! We can ship you a mattress in 2 weeks!”, I’ll go to Leesa, or Endy, or one of a million other Casper copycats.

#6 – Hello BC

What’s so bad about it?

Context: This is an entry popup, and I have never been to this site before.

  • Relevance: Bad. The site is Hellobc.com, the title says “Supernatural British Columbia”, and the content on the page is about skydiving. So what list is this for? And nobody wants to be on a “list”, stop saying “list”. It’s like saying email blast. Blast your list. If you read the first sentence it gets even more confusing, as you’ll be receiving updates from Destination BC. That’s 4 different concepts at play here.
  • Design: Bad. It’s legitimately butt ugly. I mean, come on. This is for Beautiful Supernatural British Columbia ffs. It’s stunning here. Show some scenery to entice me in.
  • Value: Bad. Seeing that form when I arrive on the page is like a giant eff you. Why do they think it’s okay to ask for that much info, with that much text, before I’ve even seen any content?
  • Control: Bad. And there’s not any error handling. However, the submit button remains inactive until you magically click the right amount of options to trigger it’s hungry hungry hippo mouth to open.

Train. Wreck.

Well, that’s all for today, folks. You might be wondering why there were so few popup examples in this post. Honestly, when the team was rallying to find me a bunch of examples, we all struggled to find many truly awful ones. We also struggled to find many really awesome ones.

This is where YOU come in!

Send me your terrible and awesome popup examples!

If you have any wonderfully brutal, or brutally wonderful examples of website popup design, I’d really appreciate a URL in the comments. If you could share the trigger details too that would be rad (e.g. exit, entrance, scroll, delay etc.).

Tomorrow’s Post is about Awesome Popup Examples! YAY.

So get your butt back here same time tomorrow, where I’ll be sharing my brand new Popup Delight Equation that you can use to grade your own popup designs.


p.s. Don’t forget to subscribe to the weekly updates.

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6 Really Bad Website Popup Examples

Right-To-Left Development In Mobile Design

The Middle Eastern market is growing at a rapid pace, and, as a result, demand for IT products is also booming in the region. What is peculiar, though, is that Middle Eastern countries require design that is not only compatible with their needs and comfortable for their users, but that is also suitable to their language standards, making a serious adaptation process very important. Given that most languages spoken in the Middle East are written and read from right to left (such as Arabic, Hebrew, and Urdu), developers often face a range of problems when creating products in those languages.

The Arabic version of Facebook.com, with a reversed order of the site’s elements

Although this might seem like not that big of a deal, IT development for right-to-left (RTL) languages entails paying attention to a number of peculiarities. This is only further complicated by the fact that the RTL market is relatively new, and not many resources are available to help developers.

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Right-To-Left Development In Mobile Design

Quick Wins For Improving Performance And Security Of Your Website

When it comes to building and maintaining a website, one has to take a ton of things into consideration. However, in an era when people want to see results fast, while at the same time knowing that their information online is secure, all webmasters should strive for a) improving the performance of their website, and b) increasing their website’s security.

Quick Wins For Improving Performance And Security Of Your Website

Both of these goals are vital in order to run a successful website. So, we’ve put together a list of five technologies you should consider implementing to improve both the performance and security of your website.

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Quick Wins For Improving Performance And Security Of Your Website

Implementing A Service Worker For Single-Page App WordPress Sites

With so many JavaScript frameworks around, single-page application (SPA) websites seem to be all the rage nowadays. However, an SPA architecture has the drawback of having a slower first-page load than a server-based application, because all of the JavaScript templates used to render the HTML view must be downloaded before the required view can be generated.

Implementing A Service Worker For Single-Page App WordPress Sites
Enter service workers. Through service workers, all framework and application code to output the HTML view can be precached in the browser, thus speeding up both the first meaningful paint and the time to interact. In this article, I will share my experience with implementing service workers for PoP, an SPA website that runs on WordPress, with the goal of speeding up the loading time and providing offline-first capabilities.

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Implementing A Service Worker For Single-Page App WordPress Sites

Playing With Color: Vibrant Options For Apps And Websites

(This is a sponsored post). Color is one of the most powerful tools in a designer’s toolkit. Color can draw attention, set a mood, and influence the user’s emotion, perception and actions. When it comes to the web and mobile app design, this is definitely a time of vibrant colors. Designers use vibrant colors to focus people’s attention on important elements and to make their designs memorable.
In this article, I’ll summarize a few popular techniques of using vibrant colors in web and mobile design.

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Playing With Color: Vibrant Options For Apps And Websites

User Authentication For Web And iOS Apps With AWS Cognito (Part 1)

Developers and organizations alike are looking for a way to have more agility with mobile solutions. There is a desire to decrease the time from idea to test. As a developer, I often run up against one hurdle that can slow down the initial build of a mobile hypothesis: user management.

User Authentication For Web And iOS Apps With AWS Cognito (Part 1)

Over the years, I have built at least three user management systems from scratch. Much of the approach can be based on a boilerplate, but there are always a few key items that need to be customized for a particular client. This is enough of a concern that an entire category of user management, authentication and authorization services have sprung up to meet this need. Services like Auth0 have entire solutions based on user and identity management that developers can integrate with.

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User Authentication For Web And iOS Apps With AWS Cognito (Part 1)

Building A Simple AI Chatbot With Web Speech API And Node.js

Using voice commands has become pretty ubiquitous nowadays, as more mobile phone users use voice assistants such as Siri and Cortana, and as devices such as Amazon Echo and Google Home have been invading our living rooms.

Building A Simple AI Chatbot With Web Speech API And Node.js

These systems are built with speech recognition software that allows their users to issue voice commands. Now, our web browsers will become familiar with to Web Speech API, which allows users to integrate voice data in web apps.

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Building A Simple AI Chatbot With Web Speech API And Node.js