Legal page

Shownotes:

There are many things your website needs to do for your business but that doesn’t mean you can do what you like. There are rules. The internet has rules. A website must adhere to these regulations and rules in order to be legally compliant. It will depend which country you are in and where your website visitors are but you will need to take a number of things into consideration when building your business website.

This episode takes you through the main policies and documents that you need and looks at what you should include in them. Please note I do not work in the legal profession and therefore all advice given in this episode is based on my own experiences as a web designer. If you are unsure as to whether your website is legally compliant, please speak to someone within the legal profession.

Transcript:

INTRO: This is the Help! My Website Sucks podcast – your bitesize guide to web design. I’m Amy Gumbrell, a freelance WordPress web designer and when I’m not building udderly functional and beautiful websites, I love talking about them. In fact I’m on a mission to make websites next level easy and to make sure that your website doesn’t suck.

We’re putting our serious hats on for this episode as believe it or not creating a website and bringing it to the world wide web does have legal implications…well, you didn’t think that web design was all colour palettes and animated buttons and carousels did you? I will say right away I’m not a lawyer nor do I have any legal background or certifications. I always advise my clients to enlist the help of a legal professional as they can provide you with legal advice specifically tailored to your situation. Also I’m based in the UK and although I do work internationally darlings, many of my clients work within the UK and EU so my experience and understanding of legal requirements outside these areas is limited. That’s my disclaimer out the way – shall we rock on and talk about the beautiful legal pages your website legally needs? 

Let me paint a picture. Whenever I start a new website project, I like to ensure my clients understand everything I’m going to need from them such as images, decisions about layout and so on. They reassure me that the assets are on their way and everything gets off to a great start. That is until I ask them if they have thought about their legal policies. The vibe quickly changes from ‘website fun to website scary.’ As a web designer, it is my duty to advise clients that like everything in life there are laws and regulations relating to websites. Pleading ignorance is no excuse for ensuring your business complies with these laws. They govern the content and functionality of your website and provide users with the right to know and control what personal data is being collected, sold, and shared. The ones I’m interested in are:

1) Terms and Conditions

2) Privacy policy

3) Cookie policy and pop-up banner  

4) Ecommerce policies

*As this is quite a weighty episode, I’ll be adding links to other websites within the show notes for further help and support with this topic.

1) Kicking off this smorgasbord of legal yum yums we have the good old ts and cs – terms and conditions. Quite simply they are all the details that tell your website visitors who you are, how people can contact you, VAT number and so on. It’s an opportunity to reassure them that the content you’ve got on your website is owned by you and remind them what they can and cannot do with that content. Usually you’ll see this as a separate document linked to in the footer along with the other legal pages. You’ll also probably give a copy of these tcs and cs to all clients when they sign on the dotted line.

Privacy and cookie policy– I’m sure everyone is familiar with arriving at a website and a pop-up appears informing you about privacy and cookies and for the most part, people click somewhere on the screen to make it disappear and then not think about it ever again. You may even get annoyed with this. Tough because if your website is offering goods or services to those located in the European Union, Ireland, Norway, Liechtenstein, Switzerland or the UK you must comply with general data protection regulation or GDPR which came into play in 2018. Sitting alongside GDPR you have the EU Cookie Directive or to give it its formal name, the ePrivacy Regulation. This pair are heavyweights and are considered to provide the strictest privacy regime in the world. 

So…your privacy policy. As you may or may not know I work almost exclusively with WordPress websites and by default they all come with a template with suggestions for what you could include. Whilst this is a great starting point, it doesn’t necessarily provide you with the detail needed to be fully compliant. Your privacy policy should cover the following:

  1. The type of personal information you collect.
  2. How you use and share data.
  3. The use of third-party services.
  4. How users can control their data.
  5. Inform users of whether and how they are being tracked. 

Lots to digest. Rest assured a legal professional will explain each point in more detail and I can tell you from my own experience working with a fabulous freelance solicitor, they know their stuff and are worth every penny of the investment to get legally compliant. 

That’s your privacy policy sorted now let’s talk cookies…so what on earth actually is a cookie? A cookie is a text file with a small piece of data such as your username and/or password or the items you’ve place in your shopping cart on an ecommerce website. This is used to identify your computer for future times you use that website. This cookie is stored on your browser (such as Chrome or Safari or Edge) for a predetermined period of time and is there to personalise your experience of that website i.e. when you go back to that website, it logs you in automatically and already knows who you are. In fact just like the tasty alternative to a website cookie (I’m talking biscuits of course!) there are different types of cookies. I’ve not got the time to go over each one in great detail but the main ones to be aware of are strictly necessary cookies, functional cookies, analytical cookies and tracking cookies. All very self-explanatory. There are also 3rd party cookies to think about too so just like the privacy policy, if you’re not sure, get a professional to help you.

Your cookie policy needs to include the following:

  • The fact that your site collects and stores cookies.
  • Explanation about what cookies are and why your site uses them.
  • The types of cookies that you or third parties use. 
  • Explain how you collect information (e.g., forms, sign-ups, subscriptions).
  • State why you or a third party is collecting the information.(For example Google analytics help to track behaviour on your website but that’s not you doing the tracking)
  • Inform users of how they can opt in, opt out, or customise their cookie experience.

I mentioned that you need a cookie pop-up banner. When you have a first-time visitor to your website, under UK laws, you MUST get their consent to the use of cookies on your website. It took me ages to get to grips with why websites have cookie banners and now it is something I include in all my proposals before I’ve even been selected to go ahead with the website and often bring it up in my intro chats with potential clients. 

So we’ve got your privacy and cookie policy sorted but where on earth do we put this on our websites if they are so important and so necessary for keeping above board and legal? The good news is that there is no legalities about where the policies have to go. They just need to be accessible and the usual place for this is in the footer. This means they are visible on every page of your website and the link can be discrete. 

The final set of legal pages is only needed if you want to build an e-commerce website. When thinking about selling online, it is very easy to get caught up in the nitty gritty of beautiful product images, categorising the stock and creating descriptions that show off your products. However, you still need to provide a clear process for customers so they understand what they are signing up to when they want to make a purchase. You’ll need to have a set of terms of sale in place to outline all rules, restrictions, and disclaimers they must follow when using your service. For the customer this establishes trust and transparency as they will know what is going to happen at every stage of the purchase process such as purchase confirmation emails, information about returns and refunds, delivery times etc. For you as the business it limits what your business can be held liable for and helps to minimise any potential disputes. Once again please do speak to a legal professional to ensure you have checked that your terms of sales meet all legal e-commerce requirements. 

Building a website is a huge project to undertake and often the visuals get the most attention just like the child that always gets the teacher’s attention be it for good or bad behaviour. However, let’s not put our legal pages in the corner and leave them without a voice. Let’s give them a chance to shine and make sure they get an appearance on your websites too. Being legally compliant doesn’t have to be a chore so in the repeated words of myself a few minutes ago, bring in a legal expert and they’ll help you and your business stay above board. 

OUTRO: If you’re hearing this message, you’ve reached the end of another Help! My Website Sucks podcast episode. Thank you so much for listening – I really appreciate it. If you need help with your website, get in touch at twocowsweb.co.uk and until next time bye bye for now!

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