Ethics

  Taran 11:01 24 Apr 04
Locked

Recent events have brought home to me that there are still some very unscrupulous operators out there and I think it's something that could do with airing, and not just because I feel like a rant.

There are no names mentioned in the following text.

A large manufacturing company I know of dropped their web desig house a couple of weeks ago.

They had paid a considerable sum for the initial design and implementation of their site, which was very nice, and they were also paying a monthly "maintenance" fee which was supposed to keep their product range up to date on an as required basis, on the condition that they supplied the text copy and original artwork.

Keep in mind that money had been paid and was still being paid, and their range of products starts at a value of around £10,000 and goes up to a shade over £30,000 and there are regular "facelift" models and new model releases, so the site needs to keep pace.

It turned out that for quite some time the site ws not updated at all, and after many exasperated telephone calls the company severed contact with the web designer.

The web designer then pulled a trick I used to see an awful lot some years ago but I thought that this practice had more or less died out.

They removed all traces of the web site from its home online without informing the manufacturing company, then allowed the manufacturing company's domain name to expire.

Then, and this is the real killer, they called up the manufacturer and offered to re-register their .com domain for them and release it to them for, wait for it, £1500.

I'm sure you can imagine the outcry that resulted.

I only stumbled on this situation accidentally a week ago when I called the manufacturer to enquire about their products and enjoyed a lengthy telephone call with the irate proprietor. Obviously, I've since stepped in in the short term and I've registered the domain for them myself in their name. So for £35 instead of £1500 they now have their old .com domain name back, registered to the proprietor and not some third party individual. We are also in discussion about a new site and a new contract and things seem to be moving nicely in that direction.

I'm mentioning this since we're seeing more and more forum members building sites on a professional level, or on a business level, where money changes hands. I'm all for this and the more of you that I see step up from beginner through to building sites for clients, the better I am pleased.

It takes a long time to build up a good reputation and seconds to ruin it. If you tarnish your reputation, you will never get it back.

I hate to hear about this sort of practice and I don't expect that I'll ever hear of it about one of our forum members. Just remember that once you step up to the line to play the game, you have to play it fair.

Treat your clients how you would like to be treated if you were contracting a site.

When registering domains, register to the individual or business that requested it, not to yourself.

If someone wants to move to another designer, make the process easy and civil; don't let people leave with a foul taste in their mouth.

If you host sites yourself, perhaps on a managed server, and someone wants to transfer a domain name out to another host, make it quick and painless and stay polite at all times. If you want to charge for domain detagging or other minor services, make absolutely clear in your documentation to your client from the outset that a charge is applied for X, Y and Z services and don't spring a bill on them without informing people first.

Maker sure your clients know that original documents, artwork and so on will not be returned if that is your policy, so that they know to send you copies and not the originals.

As I say, I doubt that I will ever hear of any of our members being involved in the wheeler-dealer approach. Just use a bit of common sense and try to be fair and up front.

I get very cross when I come around a blind corner into this sort of situation. I'm sure you would too if you were trying to clean up someone else's mess (like me in this case) or if you were being looked on as another potential dodgy dealer after someone got stung.

Those people who do get stung will always be very wary of new designers coming along, and I know I have my work cut out for me to not only do a good job for this client but, more importantly, to reinstate his confidence in paying for this sort of service after he has been badly treated before.

Good luck to those who are branching out into building sites for clients, but always, and I mean always, play by a fair set of rules.

Best regards everyone, and sorry for the length of this rant.

Taran

  Sir Radfordin 15:11 24 Apr 04

Interesting stuff. I was very keen when I first started doing work for businesses to make it very clear from the start that they would own all the work I did and would be responsible for the site. The reason was I didn't want any lawyer chasing me for something the site said/did/infringed. Having learnt a bit since then I'm a bit keener to keep hold of some things I do.

I was surprised this week to discover that GCHQ do not have the domains used in their marketing campaign to students registered to them but to their marketting agency. To me this seems a big mistake - and that was before reading Taran's story!

I've spent the last 12 weeks looking at computer ethics and the like which raises some interesting thoughts and concepts.

I wonder how long it will be before there is a regulated body of some description beyond the professional groups like the BCS and ACM.

  Taran 15:29 24 Apr 04

There are some moves towards self-regulation, for want of a better description.

A lot of web designers have joined the UKWDA click here and most of them are trying to promote good practice, among other things.

A brief search for designers in my area on the UKWDA a couple of weeks ago threw up some interesting results. Some of the links took me off to various amateur forums or blog pages and one or two of them had some extremely strong language content and very questionable links. Most of the links were to web designers though, althuogh a few were very obviously more skilled than others.

Trying to regulate the web in any area more or less flies in the face of its initial concept and design, so I'm not holding my breath for any significant inroads in the near future.

It's just a shame that there are still some very, very unscrupulous individuals at work, but I suppose we get that in all trades.

  Forum Editor 17:53 24 Apr 04

and it's an excellent idea to have recognised bodies who can, to some extent regulate any trade or profession. The problem is that the web design business is still a relatively new one, and composed largely of small, or very small operations - a regulator's nightmare.

Codes of practice are only any good if practioners stick to them and customers look for compliance - and too many web designers play up the 'mystique' of the internet when talking to clients. Ethical discussions are all fine and dandy, but what's needed in this industry is plain old-fashioned business integrity of the kind that is practiced in hundreds of commercial organisations on a daily basis. If a web designer wants to pull the wool over a client's eyes he can - few clients (in my experience) have much understanding of how the internet works. There's a price to pay eventually, and the rest of us may pay it too, because of the danger of being tarred with the same brush. It happens in other businesses, and is the stuff of many an investigative TV programme.

It's not difficult to behave with integrity in your business dealings, and once the habit's formed it's there for a lifetime. Sadly the internet has provided a golden opportunity for many a member of the fast buck club to have fun at other people's expense. Holding a client to ransom over a domain name isn't uncommon, but I'm enraged anew each time I hear of it.

  Taran 22:06 25 Apr 04

"Hi A Quick question I have a friend who is looking for someone to Design a php site for him. Its not yet in my arsnal. I was wondering if you know someone who does this that I can put him in contact with."

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A couple of things for you to consider:

1. Is PHP the ideal solution to your friends requirements ?

2. The UKWDA click here is searchable by your locality or the Yellow Pages for your region will have a wide selection of web designers to choose from.

With regard to point 1, evaluating your friends requirements and suggesting appropriate solutions is all part of any good designers service so expect a lot of questions and answers, from which a working and appropriate solution should be reached. This dialog is very important since PHP may not actually be the best solution in your friends case.

Having said that, some designers will only work in PHP or ASP, so you may never even get the opportunity to consider an alternative. There's not much you can do with one that you can't do with the other, but I have to say that my overall preference is PHP for most projects.

As for point 2, if you let me know which area you are in I may know of someone I could point you towards. Otherwise I'm afraid it's all down to searching through the UKWDA directory, the Yellow Pages or asking around any local businesses you know who have used a local designer to seek recommendations.

I won't ever quote myself for projects that crop up through the PC Advisor forums. I am quite happy to help and advise as and when I can, but I shan't ever agree to look at a job through the forums, not that I'm suggesting you were asking me to. I just want to be clear on that point.

I'm posting a copy of this response in the PCA forum.

Hope this helps.

Best regards

Taran

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