Ethical website best practices are too often overlooked. I admit that even as someone who now carries around a copy of The Better World Shopping Guide with me everywhere, I didn’t think to do my research before I made the mistake—as so many of us do—of selecting GoDaddy as my provider. When I decided to expand my website building hobby into a business, I finally did my research. And what a rude awakening that was!
I hope that this blog post helps prevent you from giving money to companies with values out of alignment with your own. I’ve included information about the providers that I’ve vetted and personally use. I recommend these companies to clients and anyone else who asks. And if you follow one of the links below and decide to make a purchase, not only will you be supporting an ethical provider, you’ll also be helping out my business since I’ll get a small cut. Just to note: I’ve been recommending these providers since before I became an affiliate and would be recommending them without any incentive. But hey, if they can help me continue to do what I do, why not partner up?
So with that housekeeping out of the way, let’s dive into it!
How to Build an Ethical Website
There are a ton of different factors that can be considered here, but I’m going to cover the basics for now. I’ll likely come back to this post as time goes on and update it with anything new that I discover.
1. Choose Ethical Website Providers
I believe that we vote with our money. What we consume dictates the world we create (which is why I do my best to live an organic, vegan, local, zero-waste, so-hippie-I-might-puke-but-hey-at-least-I-have-my-values life).
In order to create a website, you need to buy a domain (yourdomain.com) and web hosting (like an online storage unit for your website). These services can be purchased by the same provider or purchased separately. What was my mistake? Purchasing from GoDaddy. Who do I use now? Siteground for hosting and Namecheap for domains.
Why I Left GoDaddy
As I mentioned, I originally started building websites with GoDaddy, a huge corporation that offers competitively low rates for the first year. My later discoveries about the company left such a bad taste in my mouth that I moved all my business (which meant migrating websites, no easy feat) elsewhere. Here’s why:
- Bob Parsons, the founder of GoDaddy, not only hunts elephants but also posted a video of it.
- The company has a reputation for repeatedly producing controversial ads, which portray women as sexual objects for the sake of the increased press.
- GoDaddy originally supported SOPA—a proposed bill that could have greatly jeopardized online freedom of speech—which resulted in 37,000 domains being transferred from the company in protest.
Why I Chose Namecheap
Namecheap has positioned itself as the anti-GoDaddy in a couple ways:
- The company took a strong stand against SOPA and called GoDaddy out for supporting the measure.
- Similarly, they felt so strongly about the elephant hunting video Bob Parsons released that they offered a sale with 20% of revenue going to SaveTheElephants.com.
The other reason I chose Namecheap is the price. Although GoDaddy domains are cheap during the first year, the automatic renewal rates are much, much higher. Alternatively, Namecheap doesn’t steeply discount domains in the first year (although they do offer free identity protection) and instead offers more affordable rates overall.
Why I Chose Siteground
I am totally in love with Siteground! I have their customer service line saved in my contacts list since their support staff has always been a huge asset when I find myself stuck (and yup, tech professionals get stumped, too). After discovering GoDaddy’s dark side, I carefully researched my next provider to make sure there weren’t any red flags. In the end, while Siteground doesn’t get as involved in politics as Namecheap, I chose this provider for a number of reasons.
- Their support staff is friendly, approachable, easy to reach, and eager to help. They’ve saved me who-knows-how-many-times and have always been super encouraging while doing it.
- They offer quality hosting with great speed, uptime, and features.
- Most importantly, I feel safe in my decision buying from them since I know their values aren’t opposed to mine.
2. Choose Ethical Website Goals
To paraphrase Nir Eyal at his 2017 Designers & Geeks presentation, it’s unethical to withhold information from your audience just because it would make them hesitate or reconsider before taking a desired action. Tricking your visitors into signing up for something (such as a paid subscription after a free trial or a newsletter that’s tough to unsubscribe from) should not be your main website goal. Your website should be aimed at helping your audience while also providing them with all the information they need to make an informed decision on whether to take that desired action. Every website should have a purpose, but it’s important to make sure your website has an ethical one.
3. Deliver What You Promise
This rule extends beyond just the realm of websites, but it’s important to consider in the online context. Make sure you portray whatever you’re selling accurately so your customers aren’t surprised or disappointed with what they end up with. Again, do not do anything to trick them into buying (there’s a difference between marketing and actual deception). Don’t use the internet as a shield to get away with anything dishonest.
It’s also your responsibility to maintain and debug your site (or hire someone else to handle this) to ensure that any goods and services sold indeed make it to the buyer. And if you’re no longer using a website? Consider taking it down. I’m sure that there’s someone out there who would be happy to use your domain for their new project.
Did I Miss Anything?
Is there an aspect I overlooked or something you’d like to add? Feel free to post a comment or question below. And if you know anyone who might benefit from reading about these three steps/points in building an ethical website, I hope you’ll consider passing along this post.