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Guide to Legal Requirements for Website Designers

Guide to Legal Requirements for Website Designers

Creating a website opens up a world of possibilities, allowing you to reach new customers across the globe. However, building an online presence also comes with legal responsibilities. As a website designer, you ensure sites follow regulations and protect user rights. Neglecting these duties can result in fines, lawsuits, and damage to your clients and reputation.

This guide explores essential legal requirements and guidelines website creators must consider when developing sites, apps, and other online platforms. We'll cover privacy rules, accessibility standards, and copyright issues. With some diligence upfront, you can create legally compliant websites that meet your artistic vision.

Legal Requirements on Privacy Laws

Privacy represents one of the most important legal considerations for modern websites. Users have grown wary of how their personal information gets collected and used. Governments have responded with strengthened regulations aiming to give citizens more control.

As a website builder, you stand on the frontlines of the privacy landscape. The sites you create directly gather and employ user data. You must develop platforms allowing informed consent and thoughtful data practices.



The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is the most influential privacy law in recent years. This European Union (E.U.) regulation governs data protection and privacy for all individuals within E.U. countries. It also covers any entities processing E.U. citizens' data, including companies with no physical E.U. presence.

GDPR Article 25 introduces the concept of “data protection by design and default.” This means sites must embed privacy considerations throughout technical systems and business practices. As a website designer, you are integral to fulfilling this obligation.

Specific GDPR requirements relevant for developers include:

  • Obtaining genuine consent before gathering any user data
  • Minimising data collection to only what's necessary
  • Allowing users to access their stored personal information
  • Enabling easy deletion of user information upon request
  • Facilitating data portability so users can receive info to take elsewhere
  • Implementing appropriate security standards for user data
  • Following breach notification procedures
  • Performing Data Protection Impact Assessments (DPIAs) when appropriate

Neglecting these duties under GDPR can lead to fines of €20 million or 4% of a company's global turnover, whichever is higher.


While not as expansive as GDPR, California's Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) also imposes significant privacy obligations relevant to website creators. CCPA grants new rights to California residents, including:

  • Right to know what personal information a business collects about them
  • Right to delete personal information held by a business
  • Right to opt out of the sale of personal data

The law also bans businesses from discriminating against users who exercise these rights.

As a website designer subject to CCPA, you must enable critical user controls, such as options to delete data or opt out of sales. You also need to follow strict requirements around detecting and mitigating data breaches.

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Depending on the nature of the website, additional privacy laws may also apply based on industry, location, or types of data processed. As you undertake new client projects, conduct thorough research beforehand to identify relevant regulations.

Privacy by Design

The notion of “privacy by design” referenced under GDPR provides helpful guidance for developers even when not legally required. The concept emphasises baking privacy protections into website design rather than leaving it as an afterthought.

Specific privacy-by-design strategies include:

  • Data minimisation – Only gather the user data necessary for site functionality
  • Purpose limitation – Clearly define the purpose for all data collection upfront and stick to it
  • De-identification – Remove directly identifiable information from datasets when possible
  • Transparency – Communicate all privacy practices and data usage to users
  • User-friendliness – Design all access, deletion, and other privacy controls to be simple and intuitive

These comprehensive, proactive measures will limit compliance risk while allowing tailored digital experiences.

Digital Accessibility

Wordpress Accessability Plugins 1

Digital accessibility refers to designing websites and other technology easily usable by those with disabilities. Governments increasingly mandate basic accessibility to prevent discrimination against people with impairments. Artists have also embraced inclusive design as an opportunity for innovation and reaching more audiences.


Most countries reference the World Wide Web Consortium's (W3C) Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) as the standard for accessibility. WCAG includes detailed criteria covering issues like:

  • Text alternatives for non-text content
  • Captions for audio
  • Adaptability of presentation
  • Keyboard navigability
  • Readability
  • Predictability

The guidelines break down into three conformance levels – A, A.A., and AAA. Most legal standards require websites to meet certain levels to qualify as accessible—for example, U.S. rules direct federal sites to satisfy at least WCAG 2.0 Level A.A.

Country-Specific Laws

Many jurisdictions now impose accessibility mandates:

  • United States – Americans with Disabilities Act plus other federal and state laws require government and some private sites to be usable for those with impairments
  • United Kingdom – Equality Act 2010 compels public sector organisations to ensure accessibility.
  • European Union – 2019 E.U. Web Accessibility Directive orders government sites to meet WCAG 2.1 Level AA
  • India – Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016 mandates that all government sites satisfy WCAG 2.0 Level A.A.

Note that these regulations typically only apply to specific categories of websites. However, making sites inclusive by default represents intelligent design, avoiding the headaches of retroactive changes.

Tips for Accessible Websites

When creating sites, consider these tips for seamless accessibility:

  • Structure pages using proper HTML headings and semantic markup
  • Provide text descriptions for images, graphs, videos and other visuals
  • Caption audio content
  • Allow keyboard navigation and tab order customisation
  • Support OS-level accessibility features like screen readers
  • Accommodate users customising text size, contrast and colour
  • Write straightforward content, avoiding confusing language
  • Indicate interactive elements like links and buttons
  • Enable personalisation like saving colour or text settings

Building these capabilities upfront prevents scrambling if laws or client requests later dictate accessibility updates.

Intellectual Property Laws

Copyright Logo Text

Websites frequently utilise content subject to intellectual property (I.P.) protections like copyright and trademarks. Examples include stock photos, branded names or logos, and articles or code snippets from other sites. I.P. laws govern the legal use of these protected materials.

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Copyright covers original creative works like photos, videos, songs, articles, and computer code. The default in most countries is that creators automatically receive copyright protection when fixing their work in a tangible medium like a website. Specific uses of copyright-protected material constitute infringement, including:

  • Directly copying writing, code, designs, and other original content
  • Digitising prints of copyrighted images and artwork
  • Publicly displaying or distributing creative works without permission

However, some incorporation of copyrighted material falls under fair use exemptions, such as for commentary, criticism, news reporting or education. Fair use involves a subjective balancing test weighing four factors:

  1. Purpose and character of the use
  2. Nature of the copied work
  3. Amount copied relative to the whole work
  4. Effect of the copying on the original's market

While sites like YouTube rely heavily on fair use in avoiding copyright liability, most commercial sites should secure licenses before usage. Reputable stock image or font websites offer paid licenses, clearing copyrights for website integration.


Trademarks constitute words, logos, slogans, colours, shapes or other identifiers associated with a particular brand or product. Trademark holders can sue if unpermitted usage causes customer confusion or dilutes their brand reputation.

Incautious website designers sometimes infringe through:

  • Domain names are confusingly similar to famous marks
  • Displaying protected logos without permission
  • Utilising branded terminology and imagery excessively throughout the site content

However, references qualifying as descriptive fair use typically comply with trademark laws, as do good faith nominative uses directly referencing the markholder or product.

For example, a site selling used cars could note makes and models without permission. However, prominently featuring those logos could cross the line. Seek counsel if unsure whether your site's usage might infringe.

Additional Website Legal Considerations

While privacy, accessibility and I.P. stand out as primary legal concerns, other regulations relate to websites as well, including:

  • Consumer protection laws – Govern rules on marketing claims, disclosures, children's privacy, automated renewals, and other advertising and e-commerce practices
  • Sector-specific regulations – Industry-oriented statutes like healthcare privacy and financial rules apply special website requirements
  • Internet regulations – Laws on issues like harmful content, data retention, intermediary liability, and national security increasingly impact web platforms
  • Accessibility outside disabilities – Emerging legal protections aim to make websites usable by broader populations like different languages and literacy levels.
  • Web scraping laws – Attempts to circumvent site technical barriers to gather data may breach anti-hacking regulations in some countries
  • Data localisation mandates – Some governments limit allowing sensitive data to exit domestic borders, restricting cloud storage options

The legal implications stretch even deeper, encompassing cybersecurity, contracts, tax, and jurisdiction. The intricacies of internet law continue expanding in lockstep with technology transformation.

While you need not master every nuance, recognising significant gaps ensures your websites proactively address core compliance issues. Lean on legal partners to help plug holes in speciality domains beyond your expertise.

Conclusion: Creating Legally Defensible Websites

Modern website creators wear many hats. Beyond writing code and designing interfaces, you must act as a privacy guardian, accessibility champion, and legal advisor.

Thankfully, established legal requirements and best practices provide guidance. Adopting privacy and inclusive design principles from the start minimises compliance headaches. Seeking licenses for third-party material offers peace of mind.

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No site can eliminate legal risk. However, conscientious developers can craft secure, ethical platforms serving a broad range of users. Building on this solid foundation, websites become springboards for innovation rather than liability landmines.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the most critical website laws I should know?

Privacy regulations like GDPR and CCPA carry significant penalties, as do accessibility mandates for specific sites. Also, research rules on intellectual property, cybersecurity, advertising disclosures, sector-specific statutes, and other domains covered above based on your site and location.

How do I avoid copyright infringement on my website?

Either create all content yourself, secure licenses to use third-party material like stock photos, or carefully apply fair use exceptions like commentary and parody. Overly copying or displaying full prints or videos without permission remains risky.

What makes a website ADA-compliant?

The Americans with Disabilities Act references WCAG standards covering alt text, captions, adaptable presentation, keyboard support, readable text, and other inclusive design principles. Most ADA cases allege failures to accommodate those with vision, hearing, or mobility limitations.

Can I get sued for using a trademarked word or logo on my site?

It depends. Nominative use directly referencing a brand or commenting on their products is typically acceptable. However, confusing consumers, falsely suggesting endorsement, or heavily leveraging marks without permission may prompt legal action. Seek counsel if unsure.

Who enforces website regulations?

Governments directly oversee rules applying to public sector sites. Elsewhere, regulators like the UK ICO or U.S. FTC often initiate enforcement actions around privacy, consumer protection and accessibility violations, typically spurred by user complaints. Rightsholders also directly file lawsuits against infringing sites.

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Stuart Crawford

Stuart Crawford is an award-winning creative director and brand strategist with over 15 years of experience building memorable and influential brands. As Creative Director at Inkbot Design, a leading branding agency, Stuart oversees all creative projects and ensures each client receives a customised brand strategy and visual identity.

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2 thoughts on “Guide to Legal Requirements for Website Designers”

  1. Great insights on Intellectual Property Laws! Protecting creative works is crucial. Fair use exemptions and licensing play key roles. A must-read for website creators! 👩‍💻📚 #IP #Copyright #Trademarks


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