The Webmaster: Online Everyman1 | 2 |
“I came from designing the front-end usability side, focusing on the usability of the site and designing the cascading style sheets, programming HTML and working with engineering teams,” Hall said.
He added that right out of college, he took care to grasp as much of the engineering component of Web design as he could.
“That has helped me because I’m able to fulfill more of the needs of the client,” Hall said. “If a hard-core engineering piece comes up, I have the knowledge to at least get the right person and fix it. Once you learn the engineer’s needs, if you focus on the client’s needs, you become the middle man, and as the webmaster, that’s primarily what you are a lot of the time.”
This is where, again, being all things to all people and having excellent project management skills come into play. “It’s being able to juggle the needs and priorities of all your clients so that you’re not making someone a nonpriority when they shouldn’t be,” Hall said. “You’re able to look at the task at hand and see if it’s something that needs to be done immediately, needs to be done in four hours or can be done at the end of the week. You want to have a clear idea of when the work’s going to be done and when you’re going to be able to fix the problem, or at least be able to illustrate the issues at hand.”
Of course, long hours are part of the equation.
“Because of all that juggling, I’m working at night a lot,” Hall said. “It also depends on when the issue comes up — if the site goes down in the late afternoon, you have to get it working. It doesn’t matter if it ruins your evening or weekend.”
Because Chili Interactive assists many clients in designing and administering Web sites, in a typical day, its webmasters will manage projects at different stages of evolution.
“On a week-to-week basis, there’s content that needs updating, there are things that need to be done to the site, whether on the admin side or on the front-end side,” Hall said. “Then there are the more critical sites that are actually launching. They’re usually the focus of the week if the site’s actually launching because it’s switching from the old site to the new one and getting all their admin things worked out. And then we have the new designs, which are more on the design side and the requirement side. Each week, I’m working on clients that launched a while ago, clients that are about to launch and then clients that are in the early stages of their Web sites.”
Chili Interactive seeks to establish clients so they’re well-prepared to run their own Web sites, but this doesn’t always occur.
“We try setting our clients up with content manager systems so they can make a lot of updates themselves, so that they don’t need a full tech person to go in and make easy updates to the site as far as content goes, and then we come in next to help support them on that,” Hall said. “It’s your job to make sure that if the site goes down and something’s not working that you can either solve it yourself or solve it within that group, and it’s quite difficult sometimes because it’s multiple parties all working toward the same goal. As a webmaster, it’s your job to ensure it gets done, whether you’re doing it or someone else is doing it. It’s not as simple as it used to be five or six years ago, when a lot of technologies were in-house.
“You’re required to know more and more. You’re required to know all aspects of both the front-end and back-end pieces, which is really challenging because as technology grows, that does too.”
Hall said he feels the expectations placed on webmasters will only increase, going so far as to say that in the future, the market will articulate a need for a “superwebmaster,” an IT professional who can handle any Web-related need, engineering, design or otherwise.
– Daniel Margolis, firstname.lastname@example.org