The digital world has left the purely virtual space a long time ago. Its impact on our lives is real. The web has become a tool to connect, among people and with companies around the globe. Every organization, larger or small, should, more than ever, be aware of the responsibility they bear, digitally just as much as physically. But what does it mean to create a responsible website?
Let’s dissect the foundations of a responsible website:
This is the core of integrity of any website. Whether it simply infoms, allows users to get in contact with their bank advisors or shows available products in a webshop: What distinguishes a responsible site is the way its underlying purpose gets translated to the customer.
A website is defined by factors such as design, content and accessibility, to name just a few. Responsible companies aim to achieve a good balance between all factors, for the site to be as useful as possible for visitors.
The internet can be a scary place, even for the more savvy users. Over the years, there have been countless security issues – and even the biggest companies have been attacked. Web developers obviously take action to prevent hackers and criminals. But to make this mission even more difficult, modern sites have a lot of third party code running on them. It can be very challenging to protect your website from malicious third party code, as you won’t be able to find it easily, with hundreds of lines of code being injected into the pages. But of course, users must be protected as well as possible. Especially non-technical users (which refers to most people) are often not concerned about what is going on inside the website. And they really shouldn’t need to worry about their security and their privacy. As a responsible company or developer, you’re expected to invest in this aspect of your website and make sure visitor security and privacy are according to legal standards, and the latest best practices.
Affordability is a bit of an abstract concept when it comes to websites. A site doesn’t cost money for their users, right? Wrong! There is hidden cost when loading the pages, namely in time and usage of data. It is important for companies to realize that even though their site might be rather small, it still has an impact on the data consumption of their users.
Some actions, like caching, have become common. These standards are indeed useful and will help you keep the size of your site under control. But developing websites for affordability also entails a change in mindset. Analysts need to start thinking about sending the right data. Do you really need to send a big carousel with ten images, or can you solve the business requirement in a way that consumes less data?
Especially marketing departments already do care a lot about this subject. They want the company website to communicate respect with their offers to the visitors as they are (potential) clients. But the focus of marketers is mainly the content that is rolled out – and respect goes so much further than that. What about cookie banners? Or pop-ups, requesting the user to allow location services? Or a third party library, requesting permission to vibrate the user’s phone?!
Above examples show that the discussion about respect should be broadened. In the EU, marketing departments already got pushed in the right direction. GDPR forced the marketers and designers to start thinking about ways to inform the user, without being all up in their face with a giant banner. We still have a long way to go in finding the perfect solution, but at least, the right people have been nudged into thinking about it.
In my opinion, taking into account these four principles can help you a long way in becoming truly responsible within your site in the digital world. You can use them as a starting point, to open discussions with your broader website team and think beyond the basics. Together, we can make the web an even better place.
(If you want to dive deeper, you can see here a video from a GOTO Berlin conference, where a speaker evolved this subject in his talk about HTTP headers.)
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Tim Melotte is an AEM consultant at Amplexor Belgium. He started his Amplexor career with an AEM bootcamp in 2017. Since then he worked as an AEM consultant for various customers, working with AEM, AEM Forms and Adobe Campaign Standard.