At Itomic we believe that it’s time (long overdue, actually) for a recognised code of conduct for businesses offering website design and development (and related) services.
We believe the code needs teeth. Perhaps not as a phase 1. Rather a phase 2 or phase 3.
We want such a code to mean something. We want the code to mean something to existing or would be clients of, suppliers to, or workers in, the web industry. If a web company signs up to the code, then this should be a real, tangible, recognisable badge a company can wear that gives more confidence to the client, supplier, or worker, that the company is a professional, ethical organisation.
Should the code be public and usable by non-members? Of course. It should be about publicly stating a set of minimum standards that all professional web companies could aspire to, if they optionally choose to. If they want to formally validate that they measure up, then they can optionally choose to apply for membership of the entity that administers and upholds the code.
In the absence of teeth, the code will mean almost zero. It will be widely abused. Some unethical, unprofessional companies will claim that they abide by the code (and use it as a marketing tool) without even reading it and/or having any intention whatsoever to honour it. Why? Because they can. Who’s going to stop them, or pull them up for abusing the code? Answer: no-one.
So ‘teeth’ means the existence of a professional, independent, transparent, entity which, at its core, will work to uphold and evolve/improve the code on behalf of its members. Both freelancers (via individual memberships) through to large web companies (corporate memberships) should have a place as members of this organisation. It can’t be an exclusive club for the big boys.
Don’t believe in a professional body with teeth? Answer me this: would you rather get treated by a doctor who had a recognised licence to practice, or someone who had been struck off the register for malpractice, or was never on the register in the first place? We rest our case.
Clearly the professional entity will need funding. Logically this funding should come from annual subscription payments from members (in the absence of any governmental support). Ethical, professional web companies should welcome this entity with open arms – assuming it remains transparent, independent, and focused on upholding the principles of ethics and professionalism upon which it was founded. Unethical, unprofessional web companies or individuals will despise it. They will attempt to discredit it. They will likely form rival organisations with lesser or no standards and claim it as the authoritative body. That’s to be expected.
This professional body might happen through the evolution (stepping up?) of existing web industry representative associations such as The Australian Web Industry Association (AWIA). If, for whatever reason, this doesn’t happen, then logically a shiny new professional entity must emerge. This entity could be international from day one, but more realistically it would more likely happen on a per country basis, with the potential for international co-operation / collaboration down the track.
Will it happen soon? No chance. But we believe there is sufficient and growing will amongst ethical, professional web companies and individuals to make something happen in this direction over the coming months and years. Itomic strongly supports the creation of such an entity – or the “stepping up” of an existing representative entity – and are keen to assist where we can. Initial discussion and debate has already begun at the Web Industry Code of Conduct thanks to a small collection of local WA web companies and individuals, including Itomic.
Watch this space. Be hopeful, but don’t hold your breath. Lots of politics and debate to be had first!