So, You Want To Be A Webmaster?

The Role of the Webmaster

A Webmaster is a person who either:

  • Creates and manages the information content (words and pictures) and organization of a Web site
  • Manages the computer server and technical programming aspects of a Web site
  • Or does both.

Companies advertising for a Webmaster vary in their use of the term. In a smaller company, a Webmaster typically "does it all." In a larger company, a Webmaster tends to be someone with either a writing and/or graphics design background who has acquired Web site creation skills (mainly knowledge and experience with HTML) or a more technical person with some programming skills. The "technical" Webmaster runs the server (for example, by managing the creation and authorization associated with file systems) and writes programs or PERL scripts required by the Web site.

In a very large corporation, there may be a Webmaster team of people at the top of the corporation who establish the overall corporate Web design and policies, arrange the necessary technical resources (working with the people who provide the corporation its network infrastructure), and supervise the design of the corporation's Web site (which is often done by an outside firm). At division and product levels, there may be additional Webmasters who organize and develop the Web content and programming for their division or product. In addition, there is likely to be an interrelated effort to create a Web design, organization, and content for the corporation's intranet.

At a small corporation, the Webmaster may be in charge of creating the site and putting it on a separate company's server or setting up one within the company. The Web design and creation may be done initially by an outside Web design firm that turns the finished site over to the company's in-house Webmaster to maintain and perhaps add content within the established design.

And if you are a firm that specializes in creating Web sites, you may refer to the overall producer or art director as the Webmaster for a site. Obviously, this term (and job) is is still defining itself. A Webmaster is what a company says one is. In general, almost any Webmaster would be expected to know the Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) and have a good understanding of why a company should want a Web site.

The role of the Webmaster requires knowledge in several different areas.

As a webmaster, you are responsible for the information base of a particular site or organization. Webmaster duties typically will include editorial responsibility for the content, quality and style of the site, in collaboration with the area authors on the team. This will include finding, creating and installing tools to create web content and check consistency; development and enforcement of the house style, including liaison with graphic artists; and the development of interactive web applications.

Typical areas of responsibility for a Webmaster include:

  • HTML Authoring. Including an understanding of HTML 2.0, 3.2, 4, Dynamic HTML, and other extensions; e.g. tables, frames, server-push/client-pull, server-side includes, etc., as well as an appreciation for browser compatibility issues.

  • CGI Scripting. Typically including (but not necessarily limited to) Perl, C and UNIX shell scripts.

  • Basic Graphic Design Capability. Able to produce attractive Web pages that are effective within the limitations of the delivery medium.

  • Internet Awareness. A general appreciation for the issues concerning the Internet and World Wide Web (download time/bandwidth, content-driven pages, graphics vs text, browser compatibility - colors, resolution, etc).

  • General UNIX and PC (MS-Windows) Awareness.

  • Basic TCP/IP and Networking (e.g. Service ports, Name Servers, Email, USENET, HTTP, FTP, etc).

  • Graphic Design Skills. A knowledge of graphics applications and techniques (e.g. Photoshop, Fractal Painter, 3D Modelling) and the ability to apply these in effective ways within the constraints imposed by the nature of the Internet.

  • Customer Awareness. The ability to manage a relationship with a customer and work within specified requirements.

  • WWW Server Configuration (e.g. NCSA, CERN, Apache, Netscape Commercial Server - including NSAPI)

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