Recipe 6.1. Explaining Who s Responsible for Your Site

Recipe 6.1. Explaining Who's Responsible for Your Site


You need to make sure that your site visitors understand who you are, how to contact you, and how the information that is exchanged over your site is created and managed.


Be ready with answers to visitors' questions about your web site by creating the following components:

  • A page listing the name, mailing address, phone number, and legal name of the entity responsible for the site

  • An email address for

  • Auto-responders for emails sent to and other generic addresses set up for fielding specific questions or complaints

  • Names of third-party content sources and destinations of offsite links

  • A privacy policy

  • A copyright or terms of use statement


Web surfers will visit your site seeking specific information. Sometimes their questions pertain to the area of expertise espoused on your site. At other times they want to know more about the site itself and the enterprise or individual who runs it. Making this type of information clear and easy to find will greatly improve how visitors perceive your site.

First, list your complete contact information on a "Contact Us" or "About Us" page. A contact form works great for quickly delivering messages from web site viewers to the appropriate staff person, but some visitors will want to know how to contact you by mail, phone, and fax. Don't hold this information back just because you think the email form serves as an adequate substituteit doesn't.

Also, double-check that your site provides a way for visitors who eschew email forms to contact you by email. Even if you don't list it anywhere on your site, some people will try sending email to Your webhosting account may be set up to forward every email sent to your domain to a default address if the actual address does not exist. If that's the case, make sure that emails sent to get through to someone who will read them regularly. Or, just go ahead and set up a mailbox or forwarding alias for webmaster and designate someone to read and respond to them. You may, however, find it impossible to respond personally to every email sent to the webmaster. In that case, set up an auto-responder that confirms the receipt of the email, lists your full contact information, and answers other common questions about your site.

In addition to divulging all your information, you also need to explain to visitors how you plan to use the information they might be asked to provide while using your site. To explain how a site interacts with its visitors and their personal information, a good privacy policy should:

  • Acknowledge that the server collects traffic statistics about their visit

  • Identify site features that use cookies and how those cookies are used

  • List the types of personal information that the site collects and stores, as well as how (or if) it will be used, sold, traded, or disclosed

  • Provide instructions to visitors for opting-out of mailing lists and for changing the personal information the site has collected from them

  • Explain any security measures the site uses to protect personal information, such as digital certificates and secure sockets layer (SSL) connections between browser and server

  • Contain a disclaimer that the terms of your site's privacy policy do not extend to other sites that visitors may access through offsite links they follow from your site

  • Notify visitors about how other laws or policies may affect the terms of the privacy policy

Your site also should clearly state how (and if) visitors can reuse site content. You (or your lawyers) may wish to go a step further with a "terms of use" statement that covers, among other things, the legal disclaimers and visitor obligations for the site, as well as copyright information. At the very least, a simple copyright page should grant visitors the right to link to the site, explain the terms of republishing content from the site (and how to request permission to do so, if necessary), and list the required credit line to use. Also, be sure to make it clear where your copyright or usage terms do not apply because the content was provided by another site (for example, via an RSS feed; see Recipe 6.7 for more on RSS).

Links to your privacy policy and usage terms pages should be listed on every page on your site, preferably out of the way in the footer near the bottom of the page.

See Also

Many visitors will attempt to contact you after encountering a problem with your site (see Recipe 9.1). For more information about SSL protocol and digital certificates, see Recipe 8.5.

The Platform for Privacy Preferences Project ( is an effort by the W3C to standardize, simplify, and automate the way web sites notify their visitors about what they do with their personal information.

Web Site Cookbook.
Web Site Cookbook: Solutions & Examples for Building and Administering Your Web Site (Cookbooks (OReilly))
ISBN: 0596101090
EAN: 2147483647
Year: N/A
Pages: 144
Authors: Doug Addison

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