Ethical Web Designers

“It’s hard to find ethical people,” a psychologist recently told me. She had shared that her professional organization had told its members that they needed websites, but was also concerned that that was easier said than done. Psychologists may not have lots of funds available for the project, she said, and it was hard to find someone to build a website — and especially to find someone ethical.

She wasn’t thinking about black hat tactics, also that’s what we often think of when people discuss the ethics of web firms. She was talking about people who take the money for a website and then leave the client with an unfinished website, who don’t provide the site owner with the passwords to log in and update their sites, or who don’t communicate with the clients.

I have some immediate thoughts on this:

  • If you’re looking for the lowest possible price, you should expect some problems. When a $5.00 scarf disintegrates in the washing machine, you aren’t amazed, right? At the very least, find out why your web designer is bargain priced.
  • Make sure you have a contract, and make sure that everything the designer or design firm is supposed to do is spelled out in that contract. In our experience, people often forget what they agreed to initially, and a contract clarifies that.
  • Pay half up front and half on completion of the work. That protects both sides.

But let’s go beyond the basics.

First, we know from our work with Vericle that many mental health care professionals go into the business for love of their work and don’t have much background in business. Courses on the importance of a website and best practices for online marketing are not part of their training. It’s only when their professional organization points out that having unbalanced rants by disgruntled former patients as the #1 Google result under your name is a bad thing that they realize they need a website.

This leads to unrealistic expectations going into the website build process. With a website as an afterthought and no idea what it’s likely to cost, the mental health professional isn’t prepared to make the best decision. Even if she’s not looking for the lowest possible price, she may just not know what questions to ask.

Second, while there are unethical practitioners in our field as in any other, poor ethics may not really be the problem. While psychologists require certification and licensing, anyone can claim to be a web designer. Find out about your designer’s training. Is this something he or she does full time, or will you be sandwiched in around classes or a day job? Look at the designer’s work — if he or she has no examples online to show you, there’s probably a reason for that. Choosing someone with limited skills and resources can lead to disappointment, even if there is no lack of integrity involved.

Finally, it’s important to communicate clearly about expectations from the outset. Do you want a website you can easily update yourself? It has to be built that way to begin with. Do you want a company that can take care of your complete web presence? Then don’t hire someone to install a theme.

Most web designers will not write your content, and many don’t consider usability or SEO. That’s not their job. It’s also not a psychologist’s job. There may be no breach of ethics there, but there probably also will be no functional website.

We’re not trying to pick on psychologists here. We recognize that there are some fields for which having a website built can be more challenging. We also have to admit that web firms aren’t always great at communication. We think this is something that sets Haden Interactive apart — we can and will answer your questions clearly, in plain English. So when you want to talk about your website needs, whether you’re a psychologist or not, don’t hesitate to give us a call at 479.966.9761. We enjoy working with people who are tech savvy and know just what they want — and with people who only know that they need a website.


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