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Webmaster

Webmaster

Tell me about it
Exact career definitions are almost impossible in the fast-moving world of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) but a webmaster – who might also be known as a web designer, web developer, information architect, internet engineer or multimedia architect – is a reasonably well accepted title for a specialist in designing, coding, running and maintaining websites for companies, organisations or individuals. 

In designing a website, the webmaster first talks to the client to find out what their needs are. They might discuss the target user group, what information the site should include and how it should be presented. They would move on to text style, fonts, colours and page backgrounds, icons, logos and graphics, animation, audio and video sequences, and the use of technical elements such as frames, tables, lists and hyperlinks.

Depending on the client, the webmaster may need a working knowledge of programming/scripting languages such as: Java, HTML, XML, XHTML, Perl, ASP, PHP, Javascript, ActionScript, Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), SSL security technologies, and SQL and MySQL databases.
He or she should also be familiar with one or more of the common web authoring programs, including:

  • Dreamweaver
  • Creative Suite (includes Dreamweaver, Flash and Fireworks)
  • Coldfusion
  • Axure RP
  • Adobe GoLive
  • Visual Interdev
  • HotMetal Pro.

Once the initial draft has been approved by the client, the webmaster tests the site for functionality in different browsers and at different resolutions, fixes any errors, inputs the editorial content, and uploads the website to the internet.

The webmaster may also provide maintenance and updates for sites that have already been established.

Entry level
Most webmasters have a degree, foundation degree, HND or HNC in a subject such as computer science, 3D design or graphic design, although there are tales of very young, even pre-exam, computer enthusiasts succeeding on nothing more than intuitive flair.

It is certainly true that a strong portfolio of experience in designing web pages may compensate for lack of formal qualifications. A personal website with an online CV or career profile and hyperlinks to other websites produced is undoubtedly useful and can be accessed directly by potential employers.

One way or another, you will need to develop a portfolio of both 'front end' ideas (how to make a site look attractive and easy to use) and 'back end' systems (how the site actually works).

You should also have an understanding of the standards for website accessibility agreed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).

Making the grade
Web technology is constantly developing, so - whether you are freelance or employed by a company - you should continue to update your skills through formal training, on-the-job experience or self-study.

You could aid your career development by pursuing a training option such as:

  • Certified Internet Webmaster (CIW), which certifies skills across a range of software and systems
  • British Computer Society (BCS) professional awards at Certificate, Diploma and Professional Graduate Diploma level
  • e-skills Graduate Professional Development Award (GPDA), which you can study as part of an undergraduate, postgraduate or work-based training programme.

In large companies and organisations, there may be opportunities for promotion to project manager level or beyond.

Personal qualities
You would need creativity and imagination, an in-depth understanding of how the internet works, confidence and calmness under pressure, and experience of using graphics packages.

Effective verbal and writing skills would be essential, together with strong design ability and good presentation skills. You must, of course, have a passion for ICT and enthusiasm for keeping up to date with changes in hardware and software.

Looking ahead
This is a career area that is developing at great speed, with even the smallest companies wanting their own website. There is, however, little job security in the ICT sector. Some individuals rapidly amass fabulous fortunes while others are associated with equally spectacular failure. Even so, there is currently good demand for webmasters, and plenty of opportunities are on offer with a wide variety of clients.  You might be employed full-time by an agency or consultancy, dealing with briefs from clients, or by a large company or organisation as a full-time webmaster or combining that responsibility with other tasks in the IT department. Once experienced, you might work on a freelance basis or set up your own consultancy.

Although there is a shortage of people with the appropriate skills, entry is still highly competitive.

Alternative suggestions
Other possibilities might include computer games developer, computer software engineer, graphic designer, network engineer, systems analyst or systems architect.

Take-home pay
Earnings can vary a great deal, depending on the terms of employment.  A webmaster in full-time employment within a company might earn around £22,000 to £25,000 a year on starting, rising with experience and increased responsibility to more than £40,000. 

Self-employed webmasters or contractors may earn more, sometimes considerably more, according to their ability and reputation.

Effects
An employed webmaster might work 37 to 40 hours a week, Monday to Friday, possibly with some evenings and weekends. Self-employed web professionals, on the other hand, work whatever hours are necessary to meet their workload. They could work from home.

Some time is spent in meetings, sometimes at a high level of management. The work can be stressful as deadlines are involved.

Sources of information
British Computer Society: www.bcs.org.uk
British Interactive Media Association: www.bima.co.uk
e-skills UK: www.e-skills.com  
British Web Design and Marketing Association: www.bwdma.co.uk
UK Web Design Association: www.ukwda.org
National Computing Centre: www.ncc.co.uk
Apprenticeships: www.apprenticeships.org.uk
Big Ambition: www.bigambition.co.uk
Certified Internet Web Professional: www.ciwcertified.com
Web Developers Virtual Library: www.wdvl.com
World Wide Web Consortium (W3C): www.w3.org

 

 


 

 

 

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