A question about site critques (in trouble)

Discussion in 'Web Design and Development' started by torndownunit, Mar 27, 2009.

  1. torndownunit macrumors regular

    Jan 4, 2009
    I posted a site on here for a critique awhile back. This was something a client I was doing some consulting was interested in. He was having a site designed by someone else and was curious about it. So to get him some feedback I posted a thread here as this forum provides the most usable and constructive site critiques I have found.

    And as usual you guys came through with very useful info that coincided with a lot of my opinions. The information was a lot to take in though, and after giving him a bit of the information it was clear he wanted no part of it. So I never gave him all of the information.

    So I never thought about it until today when the guy contacted the guy who contracts me for some of this work. The guy found the thread. It was through some forum crawler of some type I guess though because it was at some weird address. I guess he was randomly doing a search for his domain, which was in the thread, and stumbled onto the thread. Then called the guy I do the work for threatening legal action and blah blah blah.

    So, I asked the mods to remove the thread which they did. I saved a copy of it on my machine though as well. There is absolutely nothing remotely slanderous in the thread. It's strictly a design critique. It doesn't even mention the content, or the product/business in any way. It doesn't even mention the business name in fact. Only CSS, html errors, and problems with the design.

    So personally, I am not scared. But do I have any reason to be? Even if the thread did contain anything besides a design critique (which it did not) the guy requested it. What possible legal grounds could there be?
  2. angelwatt Moderator emeritus


    Aug 16, 2005
    It would really come down to any signed contracts or work statements that say what you can/cannot say about whatever. It sounds really weird for them to complain. It's not overly likely that there would be any real legal issue. I'm not even really sure what they think they have to complain about. Did they explain that at all?
  3. lucidmedia macrumors 6502a

    Oct 13, 2008
    Wellington, New Zealand
    In my opinion there are two key issues here: one legal, one ethical.

    In regards to the legality of all this: Are you talking about a design work that was "in progress" when you posted it, or a site that is launched and open to the public? You mentioned that it was being designed by someone else...

    I have many clients who would be absolutely right in suing me if I made one of their web designs available to the public before launch date -- no matter the context. It is their intellectual property and if a client is putting money behind a new product or initiative they have every right to expect that their design work be protected until they deem to make it public.

    Think about all the hubub on this site when someone makes a mistake on the apple site and publishes upcoming info. on a new product...

    Now, if the site was launched at the time, this is a non-issue.

    In terms of ethics: If one of my design contractors did what you did I would consider it a breach of ethics.

    Your client is paying you for *your* design expertise, not a anonymous group of people on a public forum -- unless you had informed them in advance before you started your audit that you would be doing so. They had every expectation that your design analysis would be discreet and private, not, as you have discovered, available to anyone who googles the site -- this reflects poorly on the company who own the site, the persons involved who did the original design, and the contractor who was hired to do the audit.

    For an (admittedly extreme) example: Imagine if I found a thread complaining about the redesign of the new pepsi logo. And, after doing an IP search on the original poster, discovered that it was posted from a rival advertising agency. Things like that happen all the time.

    In my opinion you are not in legal trouble, but I would not expect the "guy who contracts me" to call you again with more work...
  4. torndownunit thread starter macrumors regular

    Jan 4, 2009
    I will answer a few points.

    It was posted live on it's domain. And submitted to search engines, directories etc. It was being worked on, but fully posted live for the public. It's not on some test directory somewhere, hidden while it was in progress. I just posted the url. Which I can't post again.

    The thing is he DID ask about putting it on a public forum to get input from people not involved on the project. And input beyond mine because he didn't believe what I was telling him. The suggestions from the thread basically stated exactly what I told him, but with some more technical input that I could not offer him.

    The original thread which is not deleted stated this as well. Also, the original thread had only mentioned points about the design, which is what the guy requested.

    I do feel bad about what happened, but at this point I really don't care if I work for the guy or not. He asks for consulting on the design side of things, then tells me everything I tell him is not true because his friends 'like the site'. He asks specifically about getting outside input by posting the design on a forum such as this one so I do. He doesn't like the suggestions, so he's unhappy. I don't even know why he came to be multiple times when it didn't seen to actually want DESIGN input. I don't advise on programming, only design.

    The other thing is, the advice he got from the users in this forum was incredibly helpful and could have saved him a lot of money. To get that kind of input for free should be appreciated.

    So did I get anything out of this? Yes, I wouldn't do it again. But I still don't feel I was completely 'wrong'.
  5. miles01110 macrumors Core


    Jul 24, 2006
    The Ivory Tower (I'm not coming down)
    You weren't wrong, and as long as there was no contract stating you weren't allowed to ask for outside critique then he doesn't have any case against you.
  6. SrWebDeveloper macrumors 68000


    Dec 7, 2007
    Alexandria, VA, USA
    To the OP:

    I concur with miles01110 and others, 100% - all the rest you talked about is fodder, the only part the matters in the lawsuit is the contract terms regarding privacy restrictions and disclosure. Ethically I agree with LucidMedia's comments and that affects your reputation and possibly incurs losts revenue, but certainly is no justification to sue you.

    FYI, even oral contracts actually are binding in small claims court, they're just not legally enforceable. This means a judge would listen to you stating that your client asked you to seek critiques online, plus your good faith action to terminate the post once the problem evolved to a serious matter, and make a determination fair to both parties. Can't tell you if you'd win or lose or should set your goal to settle if it goes to court, but it seems to me that it would be an even fight if it got that far. Most people huff and puff and don't really intend to sue because of the time and money involved (win or lose).


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