As an Ethical Designer, I Can Sometimes Be a Bit of a Mama Bear

22 Jun 2017


I don't like feeling as though I'm lecturing my clients.  And sometimes I catch myself perhaps explaining more than you care to know. I do feel a sense of obligation to ensure you have all the info you need about what is good practice, legal, or counter-productive, when it comes to website design, client attracting content writing, and marketing methods. 


Sometimes I might be a bit of a bear about insisting on certain requirements, or refusing some requests, and I'd like you to know why.


Now, my clients are all conscientious business owners. Many of you have had ethics classes and ethics questions on licensing exams, and are required to get malpractice refreshers on a regular basis. What isn't typically covered in this learning are laws and best practices that pertain to publishing a website.


So here is a brief review of the requirements and restrictions you may hear me repeat when we're working on your website project.


Copyright / intellectual property law will be observed


When writing isn't your lifeblood there's no reason you would know some of the finer points of intellectual property law. And everything seems like it might be available for the taking on the internet, but that is far from true, especially when your website is part of a money making enterprise. So part of what you get when you hire me as your designer is my acute concern for avoiding copyright violations.  This means that:


1.  Photos and other images must be provided with verifiable source. There is an ever growing library of free photos from Wix and those are copyright-free, but any others you send me to use on your website must either be taken by your personally, or I'll need verification of purchase.  Sometimes it may be easier for me to by such photos for you with my special designer account.

2.  Poems often have a special appeal for those of us who work in fields requiring a lot of empathy and who may tend to see life through poetic and metaphoric perspectives.  But in most cases poems written by anyone other than you will not be used unless we can verify that they are in the public domain.

3.  Recorded or written interviews produced by news media cannot be used without written authorization from the producing media or reporter, even when you are the person who was interviewed. It's a quirk of copyright law that your answers may not belong to you when given in an interview -- they usually belong to the interviewer or the company producing the interview. 

Testimonials must carry disclaimers


4. The Federal Trade Commission, which regulates truth in advertising, holds website owners liable for misleading statements and hype when it comes to claims made by happy clients that you might display on your website. For those of my clients who believe testimonials skirt the unethical  dual relationship prohibitions levied by your professional body, you won't need to worry about this.


But for my clients who can operate under the more standard business marketing practices of what is called social proofs when testimonials and reviews and rankings of service providers are shown online, this is regulation we will adhere to.  The requirement is that there must be a disclaimer to the effect that all results are individual and no absolute guarantees can be made.

Terms of Use and Privacy Policy pages


California has a strong internet practices law that requires a page outlining data privacy and terms of use policies on websites for businesses located in or doing business in the state. Other states will follow where California leads sooner or later.


As such, I'm starting to add a page with required footer links that covers this kind of information for all websites I build. The policies essentially let your website visitors know what you do with any personal info you collect when they email you for an appointment, download an intake form or give away document, subscribe to a newsletter, make a donation to your non-profit via your website, or purchase things like meditation audios or proprietary worksheets.


For my clients who are mental health or naturopathic clinicians who are obligated to follow HIPAA rules, just being in compliance with HIPAA doesn't cover you where this additional website page is concerned -- but much of the same text on your privacy policies and data safeguards might be usable.


The California Online Privacy Protection Act of 2003 (“OPPA”) for safeguarding any personal information collected from website visitors, requires that the website privacy policy page itself must contain the following:


  • A list of the categories of personally identifiable information collects

  • A list of the categories of third-parties given, sold, shared personally identifiable information, if any

  • A description of the process (if any) by which consumers can review and request changes to his or her personally identifiable information collected

  • A description of the process by which consumers are notified of material changes to the operator’s privacy policy

  • The effective date of the privacy policy

More about what is required on this policy page can be found here:





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Why I've Retired

It's possible this will come as a surprise to you -- it certainly has snuck on me that I'm well past retirement age. Over the last year or so, my heart has been pulled in other directions, and while I still love the creative aspects of website design, I want to use my time making a life rather than devoting my energies to making a living. So I plan to travel, attend writers' retreats, work on learning to take good iPhone photos, and just be open to where my spirit guides take me. I have also stepped back from my esoteric work for 2020, and who knows what the future holds for that.

Please see the blog post for my two Wix designers who have earned my highest recommendations for serving my client niche.

All the Best to You!