Ethics in Design / Development

Striking a balance between Ethics and Profits.

I’m a freelancer.  I’m a consultant.  I guess sometimes I’m a specialist.  Often, I’m just the guy that you call when you don’t know what exactly needs to be done and you want to apply a creative approach to any deficiencies or gaps you’re seeing in what you do.  I use a MacBook, an iPhone and occasionally some paper, but change the set of tools, some of the skills and essentially, I’m a mercenary.  If that sounds like a negative statement, I apologize, it’s not meant to be derisory. It’s really just all about ‘ethics’.

I only evoke the ‘mercenary’ tag since it’s a career title so often associated with a lack of, or perhaps just ‘looser than average’, ethics.  My past experiences as an employee were occasionally spotted with ethical dilemmas that I had to navigate my way through.  Those concerns were, however, few and far between and often with much less reach in the outside world.  Not at all like the sort that I, as a freelancer, find myself fumbling with.

To be clear and to put at ease any concerns about my character as an individual, let me first explain that I’m specifically referring to the ‘grey areas’.  Ethical issues that are ‘black and white’ in their composition, that’s not up for discussion.

Is it ok to over-charge a client?  Bleed them dry and maximize profit as much as one can by fudging hours, lying, providing them with services they don’t need, phantom charges, exorbitant rates, add-on service fees, etc?  Well obviously the answer there is NO.  Not only is that ‘wrong’ but anyone with any common sense will tell you that, as a business model, that doesn’t make any sense at all.  But this isn’t the sort of ethical dilemma I’m trying to broach either.

What about accepting a job with a client whose intent it is to defraud people?  Phishing scams, selling bootleg knock-off goods, scraping email addresses to sell on to spammers and marketing companies?  Credit card fraud?  Well, NO, that’s not acceptable either.  Helping your client steal, commit a crime or defraud anyone, like stealing from the client yourself, is a no-brainer.  You don’t do it.  As a general rule of thumb, just don’t be an asshole and you’re in the clear.

For most of us though, thankfully, the above examples have obvious answers.  This isn’t the case with some of the more personal dilemmas.

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Dr. Goel Wellness MD – Relaunched

The new website, powered by WooCommerce

We recently re-developed, re-designed and subsequently re-launched the Dr. Goel Wellness MD site.  (  The original iteration was a blog-ish CMS that ended up having a couple of PayPal functions added into it as well as a really nifty shopping cart plugin.  This very quickly however, became a short-coming.  With the volume of sales the site was doing monthly, two things became exceedingly apparent:

  1. The ecommerce aspect of wasn’t good enough to allow staff to manage orders and establish customer relationships
  2. A lot of potential sales were being missed out on because the site didn’t look right for the sort of business it was doing; it looked like a blog that sold a couple of things, whereas it needed to look like an online shop, promoting preventative health care and wellness

Turns out we were right on both counts.  Once we’d installed the open-source and free, Woo-Commerce (by the wonderful folks at Woo Themes) and built up a custom child theme from one of their ecommerce ready commercial themes, we noticed immediate spikes in site traffic, sales and in the number of one-to-one relationships that were established with customers all over the world.

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Synergie 2012

Facebook Tab promoting the synergy 2012 Facebook Album by Wella Canada

More work recently done for Wella Canada (of Proctor-Gamble) – pretty straight-forward; there was a simple requirement for a Facebook Tab that advocated and promoted an album on the Wella Canada Facebook page for the Synergie 2012 event they participated in. The album included photos of the event itself as well as the people attending.

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GoDaddy Password Feature

5 Failed Attempts

I’ve got to admit that a recent occurrence involving GoDaddy left me a bit impressed.

About a week ago I was asked by a client to temporarily grant access to a group of Sharepoint developers to the client’s account.  So I logged in, created a temporary, yet complex and secure password, and fired off an email letting the developers know.  Within 5 or 6 hours, they’d notified me that the work was done and I changed the password settings back to what my client had initially wanted them to be.

Over the weekend my client and his Sharepoint developers decided to make some changes to the MX Records.  Logically, the developers tried to access the account using the temporary password I had created for them and when it didn’t work, they asked me to once again grant them access.  No problem.

I figured the easiest thing to do would be to use the password I created for them the first time they were granted access, however, since they had attempted to gain access with it earlier, informed me that 5 failed attempts had been blocked, with THAT password, and that I had to choose another.

I think this is brilliant and good on for instituting this sort of policy and keeping track of these things for me.

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Health Quality Innovation Collaborative
For well over a year now, Health Quality Innovation Collaborative has been in development.  It’s an online health portal for physicians, managers and patients running on Microsoft’s Sharepoint.  While the majority of the work has been done in Sharepoint and the lion’s share of the functionality is directly sourced there, we did recently have an opportunity to put up a ‘publicly accessible’ entry page.  Click here to see it live.

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