Morality in Web Development – Your Thoughts?




I’ve been doing websites for as long as I can remember. Because of that, I’ve done at least one website for almost everything, from different kinds of religions, to goofy products, to websites in languages I couldn’t even understand.

However since I started freelancing, I’ve never had to do a website that really bothered me until recently. This potential client really got me thinking, how does our sense of morality effect the clients we work with?

This Isn’t About Tolerance

When I originally tweeted about this issue, some people misunderstood. I’m not talking about having tolerance for other peoples’s religions or beliefs. I’m talking about working on a website that really goes against your sense of right and wrong.

Morality seems to be little discussed in our field, but I think it deserves a bit more attention, especially considering the wide range of our clientele.

Morality In A Full Time Job

At my last full time job, my boss was at the very opposite spectrum than I was in the political sense. Normally, this wouldn’t really bother me and we really got along well together.

However, he started bringing in a lot of website projects from political candidates and groups from his side of politics. While this probably shouldn’t have bothered me as much as it did. I’m pretty outspoken about my political beliefs and felt wrong about “working for the other side“.

I mean, why would I want to help the other side get elected or their issues passed if I felt what they believed in was both morally and personally wrong?

Freedom Of Choice

Since I started freelancing, I’ve never had to deal with this again to recently. I was approached by a potential client that represented a lobbyist group who fought for “things” I believed to be immoral. They stand for things I’m very strongly against. So do I work with them or not?

Weighing Your Options

If you’re hurting for work, you may feel like you don’t have the option to pick and choose in this scenario just because it goes against your personal sense of morality. Hey, work is work right? But how will you feel once the project is over? Especially if your good work helps the cause?

It’s ok to sit back and think of what’s more important to you. I have no problems working on church sites for other religions. Religions (peaceful ones) don’t hurt anyone. But what about these kind of sites?

  • Pornographic
  • Pro or anti-abortion
  • Pro or anti-homosexual
  • Political
  • Violent subjects

For some developers who really don’t care either way, none of the above websites would bother then, and they’d be happy to work on them. But what if you really cared about these issues and were approached to do one the opposite of your beliefs? Would you still work on it for the money?

Would You Be Ashamed?

Another way to determine if you should work on the project or not is to gauge how ashamed you would be to put your name on it. If it was the best work you’d ever done, would you still put your name on it or in your portfolio regardless of the content or group?

Would It Hurt Potential Business?

What about your potential clients? Putting up a controversial site in your portfolio might turn off a large portion of your potential clients. Is the money from that one project worth losing all of that business?

What if It’s Illegal?

Thankfully, I’ve never had to deal with this, but what would you do if the website the client wanted was actually illegal? Would you do it anyways, pass on it, or turn it over to the proper authorities?

A Quiet Issue

I’m very surprised at how the issue of morality never seems to come up in web development. Especially since we all have our own strong beliefs. I’m sure deciding whether or not to take on a project based on your beliefs isn’t as uncommon as we think.

It’s ultimately up to you to decide if you can be comfortable working on something you disagree with. Most of the time, the stress is simply not worth the money, so it’s often best to pass on something you strongly disagree with.

As for me, I decided to go ahead and work with the client I mentioned above. The company does stand for some things I strongly disagree with, but they also stand for a lot of things I do agree with.

Your Thoughts

How do you approach these kinds of projects and issues? Do you let morality guide you in your business dealings?

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Amber Weinberg

About the author:

Amber is a freelancer with over 10 years of experience and specializes in clean, semantic and valid 1.0 Strict XHTML, CSS and Wordpress development. She also writes a web development blog on her portfolio at www.amberweinberg.com.

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