You know that your website is one of the most important pieces of your business. But are you doing everything you should be doing to protect it?
These nine steps will help you make sure your website and your business are protected legally.
2. Create Website Terms and Conditions
Your Website Terms and Conditions create an agreement between you and your website visitors that makes your obligations to your visitors clear and clarifies acceptable uses of your website. This makes it easier for you to ban users for misusing your website.
Terms and Conditions also limit your liability and allow you to choose the law that governs the use of your website. A solid Terms and Conditions is one of the core elements of protecting your website legally.
3. Protect Your Intellectual Property
Use the symbols for copyright and trademark appropriately on your website to make sure your copyrighted and trademarked property is properly protected.
This is easier than it sounds! At the bottom of your website, include the current year, the copyright symbol © and your business name. This means you are staking your ownership claim on everything on your website.
If you have a slogan, logo, or other branding words or symbols that you want to protect, use the trademark symbol next to it. If you registered a trademark with the US Patent and Trademark Protection office, you can use the ® symbol. If not, use the TM symbol. They both mean you have a trademark; the different symbol merely indicates Federal registration status.
4. Only Use Content You Own or Have a License to Use
If you use content, images, or graphics created by someone else on your website, make sure you’re allowed to use it. If you hired someone to create the content or purchased it, you likely have a license to use it – just make sure you know the limitations of that license and if you need to provide attribution to the creator.
If you need photos for your website, get them from a resource like Unsplash or Pexels instead of just copying images off Google. Creative commons images can have differing requirements for attribution, so make sure you know the rules of any creative commons images or platforms you use.
If you use images of your employees, customers, or clients, make sure you have them sign the appropriate release form before using the images on your site, and keep the signed release forms on file for future reference.
5. Create Policies About Visitor Submissions
If you allow visitor submissions, have policies in place about acceptable submissions, and have a procedure for reviewing and removing content that violates those policies. You could be liable for visitor submissions that violate copyright laws or that are defamatory.
Make sure you’re ready to respond by removing that visitor’s ability to submit new information and taking down any content that violates your policies. Having submission policies in place before you need them makes it less likely that you’ll be liable for a visitor’s illegal or harmful actions on your site. You can put these policies in your Website Terms and Conditions.
6. Take Steps to Protect Your Website from Hackers
Protect your website from hackers by using strong passwords and storing them securely. Wherever it’s available, take advantage of two-factor authentication to make your site even more secure.
You should also prepare for hackers ahead of time by researching your potential liability and action you are required to take if hackers access or restrict your access to your customers’ or clients’ data stored on your website. You may be required to notify your customers or clients of a breach of their personal data. This preparation might include backing up your customer data on a separate platform or hard drive to make sure you are able to contact your customers even after you are locked out of your site if necessary.
7. Follow Consumer Protection Laws
If you sell anything on your website, you need to make sure you follow consumer protection laws. This can be as basic as registering your business name with your state or as complicated as ensuring your purchasers’ data is protected via HTTPS. If you’re using an e-commerce platform like Shopify or WooCommerce, a lot of these issues are taken care of for you, but the ultimate responsibility for following consumer protection laws falls on you.
8. Follow Email Marketing Best-Practices
Your email service provider (MailChimp, ActiveCampaign, or ConvertKit, for example) automatically puts in place systems for following the FTC’s rules and regulations regarding spam, but you do have the ability to turn some features off. Before you mess with your ESP’s default settings, make sure you know which features are designed to keep the FTC off your back.
9. Make Sure Your Website Is Accessible
There is no clear guidance from the US government on what exactly it means for a website to be accessible, or whether and to what extent website accessibility is legally required. Even so, you can still get sued if your website is not accessible.
The best guidance on the topic currently comes from the Web Accessibility Initiative (w3.org) and its Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.
Before you choose a Wordpress or Shopify theme or even the website builder you want to use for your website, do some research on the platform’s reputation for accessibility.
Even if you don’t necessarily have control over some aspects of accessibility due to your website builder, there are still some elements of your website that you can make more accessible. This includes choosing high-contrast colors, easy-to-read fonts, using proper headings, and inputting alt text.