Let’s talk about an important issue that is ubiquitous in our current digital landscape – unethical website developers.  Sadly, while we have certainly become a digitally connected world due to our obsession with instant gratification we want our services fast and cheap without concern for ethical standards.  Wikipedia defines ethics as a branch of philosophy that investigates the questions “What actions are right or wrong in particular circumstances?” In practice, ethics seeks to resolve questions of human morality, by defining concepts such as good and evil, right and wrong, virtue and vice, justice and crime.

Identify Unethical Website Developers

Calculating Developer

The calculating developer creates a website for a client and builds in a backdoor to maintain control of the website after payment is made and the site is published.  This scenario can be obvious when the site is developed on a proprietary system, but we’re really focusing on sneaky developers that may appear legitimate but have an ace up their sleeve.  I was hired recently to repair a website that the client said he, “lost control of when he parted ways with the websites designer”.  It turned out that the website designer hosted the contact form processor on a server that the client could not access. Once the client stopped doing business with him he redirected all form submissions to an advertisement on his website.  This could have been much worse if the websites’ leads had been redirected to a business competitor.  I fixed the websites contact form and got them back on track but was then faced with the dilemma of whether or not to tell the client about the calculating developer and his evil deed.

Devious Developers

The devious developer creates a product people want to use, offer it to the general public, either for free and an extremely low price but there’s a hitch.  How wonderful such a handy little piece of software, except that the developer has deviously included code that allows him to dynamically include links to other questionable websites.  An insurance company hired us after bad experiences with other Internet marketers and upon reviewing the websites content management systems generated code I discovered a link to a shady payday loan site that was being dynamically loaded by the plug-in Shareaholic.  CSS was used so that nobody would see the link but search engines would find it and pass off page rank to the payday loan site.   Recently, a similar tactic was used by an unethical website developer that would unlock and give away professional website templates.  Unsuspecting businesses thinking they were getting a great deal inadvertently became malware distributors when they implemented the hacked templates. Crooked developers often use out-of-date CMSs to hijack Web traffic and redirect visitors to rogue websites hosting CryptXXX Ransomware.

Ill-equipped Developer

The ill-equipped developer is not really nefarious but problematic just the same.  Maybe they are self taught which isn’t a problem until something does not work and they lack the technical skills and expertise to perform the arduous task of troubleshooting and repairing the websites functionality.  This was the case with a client that had an e-commerce store that was under-performing.  It turned out that the sites functionality tested fine, until it was moved to a public server, and unfortunately the small business owner was unaware for months. Customers are not going to track you down to tell you that your site is not functional…they just move on to the next supplier.

Competitive Developer

The competitive developer registers a similar domain name then takes your sites design and content becoming your direct competitor for whatever reason, whether they recognize a good business plan or are more insidious.  Unfortunately, this is something that I have seen happen time and again.  What is even more unfortunate is the duplicate sites often look better than the original because the designer puts more effort into his site and has plenty of spare time to keep it fresh and up-to-date.

Nefarious Developer

The nefarious website developer is similar to the competitive developer however he is more difficult to detect and is particularly prevalent among development outsourced in foreign countries.  While you may have legal recourse when dealing with a local developer you have virtually no recourse when a project is off-shored to foreign parties.  A client recently saw their website traffic plummet and upon further research we found several near exact duplicates of the site and while that may not definitively indicate a nefarious developer the fact that over 20,000 incoming links from networking sites suddenly dropped off within a days of the first duplicate sites publication it is a good indicator of wrongdoing.

Protecting Against Unethical Website Developers

Now, that we have educated you about the evil deeds of shady or unethical website developers let’s move on to some practical ways to avoid becoming the victim of an unethical developer.

Don’t Be a Cheapskate

Put simply, you get what you pay for – if you do not want to pay for the work, then do not expect to get anything legitimate in return.  Website developers are people with bills to pay and families to support.  Most developers are honest, forthright and professional but if you are too bottom line oriented, disrupting work flow with constant phone calls and emails you should expect to pay for Gold Standard Service.  Website development and design companies will need to factor in the cost of a dedicated staff member to run communications with you or pass on the project onto a larger more expensive design and development company.

Don’t Offshore

If you offshore your development project to save a buck, you’re asking for trouble.  When dealing with local companies non-compete agreements provide some enforceable protection, this is not the case with foreign providers.

Do Your Homework

Legitimate developers proudly advertise testimonials from clients and there are a plethora of social media sources or service review websites out there like Yelp, Facebook or Google that are great places to verify website development services providers. Do not be fooled by companies that display an assortment of high-profile business logos.


Have you been the victim of an unethical website developer?  We want to hear about it.  Are you one of the good guys with knowledge of a new tactic used by unethical website developers? Tell us about it in the comments.

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