The ethical considerations of a web design business
Web designers are fortunate. There aren’t as many ethical dilemmas for us to wrangle with, compared to other professions. But what are the main ethical considerations? How can we uphold a high moral standard?
Before changing professions to Web design / development, I was a chef. I owned a restaurant, and later a street food business. In those industries, ethical purchasing and sustainability are a big deal. Customers, critics, bloggers, reviewers, press, guides all give preference to businesses who buy local, seasonal produce, who cook honestly and well, and who operate their businesses in an open and sustainable manner. Everything from the way tips are handled to the choices of wines on your list, the pricing policy on drinks, staff uniforms, everything is scrutinised.
Not so in web design. I mean, sure, websites are scrutinised by visitors and owners and search engines etc. and need to be spot on to be successful. But what about the other aspects of the business?
Buying local isn’t really possible in web design. The things we buy, like computers and software are globally manufactured. Some items such as printer paper can be bought sustainably – we use recycled. We rarely print anything though. My main computer which I use for designing and building websites is a self-build. This means that if a part malfunctions, or becomes obsolete, I can just replace the part, and not the entire computer. It is running OSX El Capitan at the moment, as we find the Apple Mac environment better for developing. This makes it a ‘Hackintosh’ although it’s a legally purchased copy of OSX. It is also very energy efficient.
Our business is powered by sustainable electricity – solar power. The office is entirely solar powered during daylight. We heat and cool the office with a heat pump – an energy efficient heating system which uses around 800W of power but kicks out 3200W of heat or cooling! We use an eco friendly car (low emissions, high economy) to travel to meetings.
We believe that all businesses have a responsibility to the society in which they operate, and the wider global community. Paying tax, and donating time or money to worthy causes are the least that we can all do. We do pro-bono work for local charities such as Honeylands Childrens Charity, and donate to refugee charities.
This is a big deal in web design. It is especially important with imagery and media that we use on websites, that we have the appropriate licenses to use that content. We take particular care that all our work has the right permissions. Nobody needs a IP lawsuit on their hands. We also carry insurance to protect us in the unlikely event of such litigation.
Plagiarism is another pitfall to avoid. It is very difficult, mind you, in modern web design to come up with a truly original design. Most web page layouts these days have been done before, and many web professionals lament the fact that all websites are beginning to look the same. Trouble is, the design patterns that we see most often are used because they work. Extensive research and A-B testing have proven their effectiveness. So a truly original designer is also a very brave one! We like to be as original and quirky as we can, while avoiding being too ‘courageous’!
It is massively important to us that our clients are able to trust us. We are in the privileged position of having access to their website logins and passwords as well as intimate knowledge of their business and goals. We want new clients to allow us to build their site for them and trust us to look after it, as well as their business reputation. No small ask.
We build this trust by being honest and frank at all times, and by acting in an exemplary manner. We don’t mess our clients around, or do shoddy work. We listen to our clients, and never ever rip them off. We can only survive by recommendation, so happy customers is the only kind we want. We store all our client’s data carefully, backed up and encrypted.
Privacy and Data Protection
We respect the privacy of our clients and the visitors to their sites (and ours). We don’t sell or share data with anyone. We do collect analytic data from Google to see how well our web campaigns are doing, but that is all anonymous.
We store all client data in an encrypted and backed up system, and we won’t willingly share it with anybody. Ever.
Complying with legislation and guidelines
There are only a few occasions where a web designer can fall foul of the law, there are a few rules about information that should be present on your website, and so on. There are rules about unsolicited email marketing (Spam). We always comply with all of these laws, of course. There are also many guidelines about how web designers should build a site, such as the inclusion of alt text and other aids to accessibility. While advice and guidelines in these areas is constantly changing, we always use the best practice advice when building your site. SEO is another constantly moving goalpost – search engines are evolving their algorithms to give a better search experience to the end user. There are some major ‘dos and don’ts’ that can seriously affect your page ranking. It’s wise to update/redesign your website every once in a while, to be sure it still works as it should. We can help with that. Get in touch.Share