Why ethical web development is good for business
Websites aren’t built solely to satisfy algorithms and sales funnels; our Technology Strategist, Bradley Stacey, explains why – when it comes to web design – human need comes first.
The web can be a frustrating place. Slow sites, cookie popups, clickbait, fake news, intrusive ads, dark UX patterns, and paywalls often stand between you and what you need. Some sites are indifferent, some are hostile, and some are even malicious. But the web can – and should – be better. And any developer who knows what’s what builds around the principles of Ethical Web Development; it’s not just a 'nice to have', there is a strong business case too. At Bray Leino, the websites we build, design and deploy around an ethical framework have more satisfied users, perform better commercially and even burn less carbon.
The web should work for everyone
We have recently seen increasing numbers of successful lawsuits being filed against brands that prevent people with accessibility needs using online services.
Focusing on accessibility means taking care to establish access-friendly UX, design, copy and code – and you don’t have to sacrifice good design to do so. It’s also important to test for accessibility thoroughly. For us, that involves inviting real users to give feedback early in the design process and using automated tools throughout the build.
Not all browsers were built equal. For people using browsers with limited capabilities, ‘progressive enhancement’ allows developers to take advantage of new browser capabilities to deliver cutting edge experiences while still delivering a functional, usable, and well-designed experience for others.
Sites should be available anywhere and on any device
The web is now unquestionably mobile. Since 2017, more than half of all site visits have been from mobile devices, with many users’ only experience of the web being mobile. That’s why every website should be responsive to the device the user visits on, with pages that rearrange themselves to be usable on phones, tablets, desktop and when windows are resized and moved. It’s also important to offer a full experience for both mobile and desktop visitors.
We all know the frustration of waiting for a page to load. Websites should be built to load quickly, regardless of device or connection. Building quick pages involves a host of ever evolving code optimisation techniques (minification, image optimisation, dependency minimisation… the list goes on) but it’s absolutely worth it. Pages that load quickly make for more satisfied users which in turn makes for more profitable sites. A study by Microsoft found that a page that loads 1 second slower will reduce user satisfaction by 1.6% and revenue by 2.8%.
What’s more, pages that load quickly are also better for the environment and we are proud to regularly build sites in the *top 5% of performance globally. By re-designing our own Agency homepage to be less carbon intensive we will use 3.6KG less carbon this year, the same as making almost **5,000 cups of tea.
Websites should provide security and respect privacy
Bray Leino has been trusted to deliver digital work for amazing Clients like VISA, NHS, and BA for more than 20 years. This is only possible with the very best awareness and capability around cyber security. Whatever the brand and however big or small, secure design, code, and hosting are imperative.
In the world of GDPR, big data and Cambridge Analytica, as well as recent rulings against Google Analytics and Google Fonts, it’s critical that developers don’t just secure users’ data but respect it. Our approach centres around a simple idea: data minimisation. We only collect the data we need to deliver a good experience. After all, why should we ask for your shoe size if we’re not selling you shoes?
We’ve built a stack of privacy preserving technologies which allow us to build functional and commercially successful sites while minimising the kind of invasive tracking that’s too common on the web. This isn’t just good for privacy but reduces development time. We spend less time coding cookie popups and elaborate opt-in scripts for third party tracking. It also makes for a better user experience.
Building great websites shouldn’t be painful
Bray Leino and MISSION have a vibrant community of amazing developers across the UK, North America, and Asia. To collaborate across teams and borders we have to think ethically about how we work together. This means taking more time to comment, document and test code. It’s also important to have systems in place to ensure developers, project managers, testers and Clients are all on the same page.
Ethical web development also means giving back to open-source projects like .NET, Umbraco and TensorFlow, without which we simply couldn’t operate. We spend time, money, and effort supporting open source however we can – attending conferences, buying books, attaining certification, and paying for commercial support. We also try to be active members on key projects, contributing to forums and project issues.
Developers have a unique responsibility to make the web a better place on behalf of Clients. We should all be building websites that work well for all kinds of users, that perform well and are secure. These sites should welcome users from any device, on any connection and from anywhere in the world. Respect for users, their security, and their privacy is paramount. As is taking an ethical view on collaboration - and this extends to the open source community. Our team enjoys building websites this way. We take pride in building websites we’d enjoy using.
Bradley Stacey is Bray Leino’s Technology Strategist, leading on our application of emerging and existing technology to make the best digital experiences for our Clients. In his time at Bray Leino he has led the development of innovative and award winning digital experiences for national and international Clients, featuring cutting-edge web, mobile, mixed reality and AI technology. To find out more about how Bray Leino’s digital team can support your brand, contact Rhys Gwynne, Digital Lead.