Earlier this week, I shared a post on You Can’t Ask Users To Upgrade WordPress To Fix Their Problems. In the post, I shared a few reasons as to why it’s dangerous to expect and/or trust your customers to upgrade WordPress.
You can read the full article for my reasons why, but Mike brought up an interesting statement in the comment feed that got me thinking about the ethics of our responsibilities a developers for building projects for clients.
Though ethics are subjective and that you’ll rarely hear me talk about them on this particular blog, I think that there is room for discussion as to what constitutes the ethics of programmers in the case of building, releasing, and maintaing software for others, and, in this case, within the WordPress space.
1. Building It Is Not Enough
I think that any developer would agree that the most fun part of any project is actually building something.
I mean, seriously: We’re taking an idea – something that’s completely intangible – and bringing it to life in order to solve a problem for someone else. There are very few careers that can breed such a satisfaction, right?
But the thing is, I think too many developers think that building is enough. We hand off the end result and then send our clients on their way and move on to the next project.
The problem is that themes update, plugins update, WordPress updates, and a business is depending on this application to run at least an aspect of their money, and if they are left to manage this themselves, they can do significant damage to their business.
2. An Insurance Policy
When you purchase an expensive product in a store, it’s not at all uncommon for it to ship with a warranty and/or an optional insurance policy and for obvious reasons, right?
The keyword is that it’s optional, but everyone knows that if you’ve opted not to take advantage of the warranty or the insurance policy, then you can be out a significant amount if something breaks.
On the other hand, insurance is all about risk management – you’re paying for something you may never need.
I think the same mentality applies to software. Service agreements aren’t necessarily new to the industry. I could be way off base, but they haven’t seen to reach the WordPress community yet.
Honestly, I’m still experimenting what this looks like within my own business.
But I know this: we’re building software and software breaks either via new releases, via dependencies, or via user errors. So we’ve got to have some sort of solution in place.
It’s a matter of exploring what that is.
3. An Ethical Stance on Development
Taking a stance on a subjective issue in a public arena – especially on the Internet – can be a dangerous thing because it often invites people to comment more about your personality than the idea at hand.
But I’m willing to take that risk.
Personally, I believe that we – as developers – have an ethical responsibility to treat our customers and our users with respect and with support to make sure that their experience with are products are as positive as possible. This doesn’t only include understanding their needs, providing a solid solution, but not abandoning them after the project is completed.
This isn’t to say that I believe we need to maintain a relationship for months or years after we hand a project over, nor do I believe that we should require our customers to sign up for an agreement.
I do believe that we have the responsibility to educate our customers on the risks that happen after a project hand off and what options they have for maintaining the project.
But I’m curious as to what this may look like for others. Sure, I’ve my opinions, but I’m curious as to what you guys think or what you guys have done, as well.
So what are the ethics of a WordPress developer responsibilities?