Our Social Impact - a Work in Progress
We first got into this business because web and application development by itself is able to make a substantial social impact. As a business, we use a triple bottom line methodology to understand our social impact and to tune our processes to create more social change. And we're always changing and fine-tuning our social impact, and are transparent out our efforts.
As a company, we measure our social impact first by our clients. We choose clients based partially on their social impact, and our ability to help them do their jobs better. We build websites and applications at cost for nonprofits, which make up an easy majority of our clients. We also help our nonprofit clients create efficiencies beyond just promoting their good works by helping to create processes that make the nonprofit more efficient or give them more reach.
In progress: we hope to gain more like-minded clients by publishing our mission and motives for social impact on our new website.
We are a first-job teaching studio. We hire people who have little or no industry experience, people of non-traditional tech backgrounds and underrepresented people in tech. We give them the space to learn and grow, and to build confidence, and at the same time we give them real hands-on products and projects to build, so they're seeing their hands build and add on to real websites. We also train from bottom to top how websites and applications work. Every developer learns the basics first, then simple frameworks and then more complicated ones. Every developer immediately works with real, structured data that they can see the whole before delving into more complex methods and practices. Byte alumni have gone onto starting their own businesses, working with major tech companies and other companies, speaking at conferences and creating better tech worldwide.
Another way we help workers is to help them get into tech in the first place. Getting into tech can be very daunting, what editor to use, how to share their work, how to get help, all are things that nobody knows how to do on their own. We solve this first-mile problem by hosting open office hours to help people who are keen to start in tech and people who are considering transferring into tech from another career path. Open office hours can cover any subject in our expertise, but for many it's the first connection with a professional studio. We help people cross that first mile and help them devise a plan to continue their explorations toward finding the job they want.
In progress: because we work mostly with nonprofits with limited budgets, we've not found a way to also pay market rates. We're exploring new products and efficiencies that can help us work better within those budgets.
Modern application and web development are full of inefficiencies that cause a clear negative impact. Two metrics we pay attention to are download size and computing power. Larger download sizes cause people to be on their computers or phones for longer just to wait for content to load, and cause bandwidth issues that require more infrastructure and power usage. Computing power is also very much determined by the technologies used to build a website or application.
Modern frameworks and tooling actively work against developers by abstracting away the number of files and computing power required to make a product. The basic tools of adding a library to a project (to be able to have a function, say) don't tell the developer the impact at all, making it easier to not care about the number of required libraries or download size to create that function. When we create a website or application, we never let our command line tools add a series of files to a project, we look at and approve every single one of them.
When we work on a website or application that's used by hundreds of people, we're a lot less worried about power consumption, but many of our sites reach millions of people and the multiplication makes this a clear priority to get right.
In progress: we're exploring better efficiencies and expect to make more gains in coming years.
The web was created with accessibility in mind and better accessibility practices are documented and even legislated because they simple help more people use a website or application. Very few web design and application firms even try to do accessible practices, despite the fact it's baked into the DNA that makes the web work in the first place.
Our best practices include strong accessibility for libraries and sites that have a wider audience. We've created base level tools to help our sites be more accessible, and we're continuing to develop better practices to make accessibility stronger in all websites and applications we build.
In progress: we're hoping to expand our accessibility options through staff and client education.
Our studio was built with sustainability in mind. First, when it was time to a permanent home to Byte, we wanted to own it so we could create the perfect space. Instead of a new construction, we opted for finding an old building that we fully gutted and created the most sustainable space we could with high efficiency and low waste, along with substantial insulation. We used recycled materials including bricks and windows, as well as low-impact materials including bamboo flooring and post-consumer recycled paper/resin countertops. We also use eco-friendly paint and more sustainable cleaning products, and use reusable bathroom towels versus paper towels.
In progress: we're hoping to see more vendor options to use green energy for hosting and other power needs.
Byte has been involved in many community efforts in technology and open data including Milwaukee Data Initiative and Brew City User Experience. We are commonly in middle and high school classrooms helping kids understand what a career in tech and design might look like. And we help build online communities for arts organizations and nonprofits. We're also a part of a variety of technology communities nationwide.
We hire only locally, and we don't do any offshore development, which is common in the industry. We work with local vendors whenever possible to try.
In progress: we're hoping to see more local vendors cover our technology needs and keep more money in the local economy.
Got any other ideas? Do you work in technology and have social impact ideas to share? Are you a competitor or comparable business and want to help create industry standards for social impact?
Get in touch!