Mobile App or Website Development Process – a legal perspective A legal perspective of the app development process

The writer is a digital media and IP lawyer, owner and principal solicitor at PAIL® Solicitors. Peter Adediran’s specialist niche area of practice is IP and website/mobile app compliance and contract law for SMEs, artists and management.

This is not an article solely about the app or website development process about which there are many articles online. This article is about the legal professionals effective involvement in the app or website development process.

The Website/App Development Process

So you want to design, build and launch an app or a new website. You’ve heard the term IP or intellectual property.

You know that IP identification and protection is critical.

Mobile App Lawyer

Mobile App Lawyer

There are also the terms and conditions that will govern legal and commercial relations with users. You know contracts of use are essential.

However, what is specifically vital in the policies and agreements of the app?

To answer these questions, you need to understand the basics of what is required to launch a successful web or app project.

Put together a commercial team

It will help if you put together a commercial team tasked with setting out the framework of the functionalities, features and services that the app will provide.

What are general legal compliance statements that you can cut and reuse in any context?

There are several online dating apps, but each one has services and features that are unique to that app. Take Tinder and Happn for example, they are both dating apps, but on Happn the user can see in real-time with whom they match.

Lawyers do not write terms and conditions in a vacuum. The app/website commercial steering group must set out, in summary, all the major business features, functionality and services of the app or website.

Happn is primarily a location-based social search app which means different privacy implications. You may not, therefore, copy standard clauses from Tinder’s terms and conditions to use with the Happn App.

Facing an investigation of your app or website terms, you will need the legal and commercial certainty provided by tailored contracts.

The example of online dating apps is used, but the principle outlined above is the same for every type of app or website.

Website Lawyers

Website Lawyers

A commercial team with the appropriate savvy in your app’s category is vital.

Lawyers do not write terms and conditions in a vacuum. The app/website commercial steering group must set out, in summary, all the major business features, functionality and services of the app or website.

If there is no commercial team, the founder should provide a synopsis of the terms.

Our article on how to write terms and conditions is comprehensive and easy to follow.

What IP do you protect, and how to secure it?

Commercial steering organisations will also do some research related to intellectual property. The three areas are patents, copyright and trademarks. There are issues with existing patents or copyright of technologies underlying the app. Oracle is currently seeking $9bn in damages from Google on alleged unauthorised copyright infringement of API code.

Patents also exist around several underlying digital technologies.

Rushing into an app or website category, whether it be utilities, entertainment, games, social media – whatever it is, without the proper research could prove very expensive.

The steering team might consider protecting the app brand name by trademark registration. Having a good understanding of the operational and marketing plan for the app as well as competitors is a priority when registering a trademark and writing a shrewd and practical description of goods and services.

Hire an App/Website Design Development Team

You need a good app or website development steering group. The right design and development team will have a tried and tested development process. Initially, they will research the category carrying out a technical feasibility assessment to see if your idea is valid or even viable in the sector. Following research, they will build a prototype. After the prototype is approved, the design team will devise a design and development strategy, which will include a design and development plan with a time table for delivery and change requests.

Statement of works will be attached to the plan further to the development phases. The strategy will also include a user experience design and information architecture.

What is information architecture?

Information architecture is the process by which data and app functionality is displayed and data organised.

The information architecture will contain a list of features the app/website will perform and interface text and graphics, including menus. The information architecture is the foundation for the wireframes.

Mobile Apps Lawyers

Mobile Apps Lawyers

Once wireframes, workflows and the graphical user interface is designed and developed, the app will be built.

The finished version of the app is alpha and beta tested before launch.

When should your lawyer be involved in writing terms and conditions?

Ideally, your lawyer should be involved at the information architecture stage to give any legal input as to how the data and functionality should work to be GDPR compliant.

When should the app be deployed?

The app should be deployed after an active testing phase, including monitoring, analytics, and crashing. Apps are a work in progress, and there will always be iterations and improvements. If there are changes to how the data, functionality or feature is organised or used, a lawyer should review this.

Conclusion

Getting professional terms and conditions and compliant GDPR policies might seem costly, especially as the development process is overwhelming by itself. But, it is a gratifying feeling and can be quite cost-effective for you when you avoid user complaints or third party investigations or lawsuits.

You might want to skips steps in the above process, but this guide is written upon nearly twenty years of experience working with app and website owners that chose to skip specific steps.

If you are looking to build your next (or first) mobile app or website and need help with your terms and conditions or other related policies, we can help! PAIL® Solicitors welcomes all app and website owners at any stage in the development process. Whether you are an individual startup or medium-sized company, we have the team and knowledge needed to deliver the advice you need. Please don’t hesitate to send us an email to support@pailsolicitors.co.uk today.

By Peter Adediran

09/12/2019

Disclaimer Notice

This article deals with the mobile app development process from a legal perspective. If you are seeking advice on how to protect your business from potential lawsuits over website or mobile app regulatory compliance, you must take the opportunity to go and seek professional legal help from a solicitor or barrister. The information and any commentary on the law contained on this web site are provided free of charge for information purposes only. Every reasonable effort is made to make the information and analysis accurate and up to date, but no responsibility for its accuracy and correctness, or for any consequences of relying on it, is assumed by PAIL®Solicitors. The information and commentary do not and are not intended to amount to legal advice to any person on a specific case or matter. Obtain an accurate, personal opinion from a lawyer about your case or matter. Do not to rely on the information or comments on this site. We bear no responsibility for the content or accuracy of linked sites. Please see our most related article on website accessibility.

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