Contract requirements that ensure usability issues are addressed

28 Aug 2009 - 9:34am
6 years ago
1 reply
546 reads
Adrian Howard

On 28 Aug 2009, at 07:21, Karen Dee Davis wrote:

> I am hoping one of you has some legal speak you'd be willing to share
> on contract requirements for usability standards. We have a vendor
> whose product has serious experience issues and want to make sure
> they get addressed throughout the product lifecycle.

To be honest - I don't think I'd try that technique. Never seen
attempts to specify usability standards via contract to be effective
in any way. I've love to hear any counter examples :-)

Instead can you start to look at (or even contractually require :-)
how you work with your vendor? Getting involved with their requirement
and development process so you can help make sure that the client
meets your actual requirements rather than some arbitrary feature list?


-- - -


28 Aug 2009 - 11:08am

Karen, as with any contract question, the two key issues are 1) can
you accurately describe the obligation? and 2) can you get the other
party to agree to it?

In your case, it will be very difficult, in the absence of concrete
metrics (such as SLA-type performance standards, or customer
satisfaction ratings) to describe a "standard of usability" that
the product must meet.

Of course, contracts are full of vague "best efforts" or "highest
industry standard" provisions that compel one party to behave in a
certain way, without necessarily describing the details of this
behavior. In the end, if the other party feels that this standard has
not been met and a lawsuit is the result, it will end up being a judge
or jury that decides the matter (not a good outcome in your case - as
judges and juries know very little about usability).

An alternative - which is often pursued by the party with superior
bargaining strength (i.e. you, the buyer, in this case), is to simply
reserve a right to terminate the contract or otherwise adjust the
terms if you, in your sole discretion, deem that the product has not
met an appropriate standard of usability. This is a tough measure,
but if you are really concerned, and the other party is really
desperate, you might get it through.

Otherwise, I would agree with Adrian, that imposing a vague standard
that can only ever really be enforced in court is not a good idea.

Hope this is helpful - caveat: I'm a recovered attorney.

Nick Gould

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