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I'm a freelance programmer and recently I finished a website, it all works fine but there was one user that complained to my client that he couldn't log in. This problem was clearly a cookie-restriction/old browser one (I couldn't create the problem myself and hunderds of users are working with the website just fine)

Now my client said: I've paid you to make something and somebody complains; so you didn't do your work correctly.

What can I do in this situation and how do you guys handle this?

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2 Answers 2

up vote 24 down vote accepted

If you haven't already done so, define the minimum system requirements of your website, e.g.

  • supported browsers¹,
  • minimum display size,
  • required cookie permissions,
  • etc.

If the user did not satisfy the minimum system requirements, it's not your fault that it didn't work for him. Investigate the issue, prove that the minimum system requirements were not satisfied and send the client an invoice for the time you spent doing this.²


Of course, in some cases it's not so easy: You might be convinced that the problem lies "on the user's side", but you might not be able to prove it without putting a lot of effort into it. In that case, you should talk to your customer:

I have performed some tests, and I'm pretty sure that the problem is a weird firewall configuration/a buggy IE plugin/etc. However, to prove this, I'll have to put a lot of effort into it. If I do that and it turns out that the fault was not on my side, I will have to send you a bill for the work done by me. Are you sure that you want me to continue investigating this issue?


¹ This doesn't mean it won't work with other browsers, it only limits your warranty to these browsers. Usually, the customer will understand that you cannot test your web site extensively with every browser out there. Ideally this should be cleared up-front:

Support for IE8-10, FF12-19 and Safari 5 is included in the offer. IE7 can be included for an additional $xxx, IE6 for an additional $xxxx.

² Sending an invoice is a very powerful sign: Even if the customer complains and you end up canceling the invoice as a goodwill gesture, the client learns that unjustified complaints can cost money.

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4  
You should definitely have defined these requirements ahead of time. The customer would be well within their rights to refuse to pay any invoice you issue for work done to resolve this situation; effectively, you would now be changing the terms of the contract under which you provided your services. That said, I've been there, and it sucks. Rather than being confrontational, I'd try to resolve this amicably by explaining that you've investigated as best you can (prove this!) and you have been unable to reproduce the scenario. –  Stephen Orr Apr 2 '13 at 14:59
    
Thanks for this answer, I think I have to be more clear about the supported browsers and other things, so that this will not happen in the future. –  bvl Apr 2 '13 at 15:07
1  
@StephenOrr: Very good point. Ideally, one should not change the terms of the contract but clarify what was implicitly agreed upon when the contract was made. It will be neither "every browser ever made" nor "only brand-new browsers" -- this will need to be negotiated. In the end, the OP will probably have to support every browser with a significant market share. –  Heinzi Apr 2 '13 at 15:16

Resolve the complaint irrespective of how many users were successful. Also ensure that, through each user complaint, you record what went wrong for the future.

As a programmer, you have to consider cookie-restriction/old browser and properly account for it. There is no acceptable solution in which a 'too bad; upgrade!' is acceptable unless specified by your client.

This may be a learning opportunity in which you hash such details out with your clients to ensure, if there is the possibility, it is covered and there are no surprise 'gotcha' situations.

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And that's why 'too bad; upgrade!' must always be spelled out in the contract for any web development work, and the client must always be made to agree to a set of supported browsers. Or do you think it's unacceptable if his website fails to run on my Amiga 500 and AWeb browser? –  Carson63000 Apr 2 '13 at 20:29

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