Ethics likely isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you think of web design. After all, what harm can you really do in crafting content for the web? The unfortunate truth is that an unethical or ignorant approach to web design can be harmful to both audiences and the brands for which you’re designing.
To mitigate the risks, you must understand the importance of incorporating ethics in your web design. Start by educating yourself of the potential harm, then work out ways in which you can build ethics into your design approach from the beginning.
The result can be a forward-thinking, inclusive platform that all audiences can enjoy. Here, we’ll break down the importance of ethics in web design and how you can incorporate them into your own work.
The Potential Harm of an Unethical Site
So how can a website be unethical? Well, that’s a multifaceted question and one that comes with all kinds of implications. Forming an ethical framework around design decisions helps us create the experiences we would want to have as users. To avoid the design nightmares all too common in eCommerce, it’s essential to put users first. Doing so helps to prevent a variety of disasters that could destroy the reputation and revenue stream of a website.
But what exactly do we mean by ethics? And what do ethics have to do with improving a website?
Ethics are the moral and logical considerations needed to make a functional society. If you don’t want something done to you, you shouldn’t do it to others. Otherwise, the world becomes a more dangerous and dirty place that none of us want to live in. This is true of the digital world as well.
So in terms of ethics on a website, you need to ensure that your users and customers aren’t treated in ways you wouldn’t want to be treated. The golden rule is valuable in eCommerce, and breaking it can have devastating consequences. In fact, 56% of consumers say they would stop supporting an unethical company and 70% of Millennial shoppers say they consider corporate values when making a purchase.
Unethical problems can crop up in eCommerce more easily than you might imagine. After all, you’re dealing with people’s data, financial information, and device integrity. Here are just some of the things that can go wrong:
- A data breach can lead to theft and fraud for your customers.
- Poorly optimized design can lock out individuals with disabilities.
- Unethical practices like cryptojacking can take advantage of customer devices.
- Unauthorized selling or misuse of customer data can compromise user privacy.
With all the risks shoppers face when conducting business online, it is your job to design an eCommerce environment that rightly invites trust. This requires that you build ethics in your design framework.
So how do you go about web design ethically?
How to Incorporate Ethics in Your Web Design
For any web design effort, incorporating ethics is one of the best practices you can apply. This is because by nature an ethical framework for an eCommerce store forces you to put yourself in the shoes of your audience and design a better experience for them. From the initial administrative stages of a design to the ongoing support, ethics should be baked into the process.
Here are a few strategies you can use for guaranteeing an ethical approach to web design:
1. Hire designers that make ethics a priority.
The world of web design entails many complex moving parts. From user experience to SEO, a web designer has to keep a lot of elements in mind if they hope to build a truly successful website. Ethics should be one of the skills like time management and communication that you look for in your web design team.
With a staff dedicated to an ethical design, you will better ensure ethics are considered at each stage in the process. This is essential if you are to avoid any ethical dilemmas or disasters down the road.
2. Design for accessibility.
As part of an ethical web design, accessibility should be maintained at every turn. Use the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) to best approach designing a website without locking out a massive audience.
What plenty of web designers fail to consider is that as many as one in four adults lives with some form of disability. From visual to mental impairments, these conditions require a clear and focused design, complete with well-contrasted text and background and screen reader compatibility.
3. Prioritize data security.
Next, you must ensure that your site is as safe as it can be in terms of data communication. While the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will guide you in this regard, you must continuously ask yourself if you would feel safe interacting with a website like the one you’re designing.
Secure your endeavors with Secure Socket Layers (SSL), strong password hygiene, and secure data back-ups. As a result, you’ll better prevent the financial devastation that can come from a data breach or ransomware attack.
4. Maintain a transparent, logical site.
One of the best methods you can employ in ethical web design is a clearly navigable flow of content. This will help in every element of site functionality from accessibility to SEO. Use clear heading labels, metadata, content tags, and site maps to keep the structure of your site logical.
This will also help in providing transparency into all you do and provide. Supplement your site architecture with clear terms of service that users can actually read and understand.
5. Conduct consistent user testing and invite feedback.
Finally, no approach to ethical web design is complete without testing it with an audience and gathering feedback. You want to know how your design affects users, if it makes them feel safe, and if any ethical questions arise in the use of your web pages.
Don’t stop testing after the preliminary designs either. Continue to gauge feedback to better understand the ethical impacts of your content.
With these strategies, you can incorporate ethics into the web design process from the beginning. This way, you’ll avoid the reputational and financial impacts that can come from unethical practices while maintaining your reputation.
In the digital commerce world, all any customer wants is to feel safe in conducting their business. Give them that feeling with an ethical approach to web design.