This is an awkward question to ask. There are many benefits that I can see to our clients and to us as professionals, but there are also some really bad pitfalls that could damage our industry.
Some of the world's oldest and most highly regarded industries are regulated by some professional body or another. I always notice when an architect's practice has a RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) emblem near the front door.
Regulation leads to standardisation, which I think is something the web industry is trying to wrestle with currently, although we may not realise it yet.
I recently worked on a high-profile site for a leading entrepreneurial event held once a year in the UK and involves someone very much in the public eye. With that good a reputation, you would think that their website would be built by people who understood the necessities of modern web development, but it appears they didn't.
The site was over 2MB in weight, despite being a relatively small blog. It had 32 plugins, all linked directly in the header instead of enqueued as is the standard for Wordpress builds. Needless to say, with all this cruft, the site load time was terrible—nearer the 16s mark than the 3s drop-off point.
The decision was made to rebuild the site almost from scratch so that it would be useable by modern standards.
Regulation would help to enforce some kind of standard for these builds that others could follow. We would get some clear channel of communication that would hilight potential pitfalls and benefits of certain ways of doing things. A regulatory body would also help set training standards for newbies, and Continuing Professional Development routes for more experienced professionals.
This appeals to my sense of order and structure as I'm sure it does to many of us ... but there are some pretty dark sides to this that we need to weigh up too:
At this point in time, the web industry is struggling to keep hold of its friendly, equal and mutually respectable conglomeration of individuals. Perhaps like any of us you have spoken to some of the — can I call them "thought leaders" in our industry—and found them to be pretty grounded and approachable.
This is a great win for our industry, and I find it to be crucial to keep it that way, even if there are still things we need to consciously work on to be more inclusive, for instance addressing the imbalance of males vs females in our industry.
Regulation could easily — very easily — set distances that may be insurmountable to overcome. Would someone who was not a full member of this regulatory body feel comfortable working with — or even approaching — someone who wasn't? Would a person be able to maintain his / her approachability and (dare I say it?) humility in the face of such a qualification?
It starts here
I've personally joined the fledgling Web Guild - partly because membership is currently free if you get there quick enough - but also partly because I want to distance myself from those who give our industry a bad name.
There are getting to be plenty of those, as I've demonstrated.
I'm not going to offer a call to action here, as I think it's still something that needs a great deal of thought and careful consideration before we allow it to develop and promote it.
However, I'll simply end with this question: for those of us who wish to be known for professionalism — is this a good route for us to be going down? Are we about to sacrifice too much for the sake of some meaningless badge?