The Webmaster's Job in 2016 and Beyond.
“What separates design from art is that design is meant to be functional.” ― Cameron Moll
Bradley FinneartyThe job and responsibilities of the webmaster is an ever changing world for sure. We spend countless hours learning and honing a craft that in a year or so will change. When I first started doing this it was about the design itself. Sure content was as important as it is today. The business of SEO (search engine optimization) is probably more important today then it ever has been. The emphasis now is not only on captivating content but also how easy the site is to navigate, how it views on their many devices (responsive) and how easy it can be found on the search engines. A designer had to know a large amount of coding, html and css. It would take hours to design the layout, determine the color schemes and then code the site.
Now it is not only about what the viewer gains from the experience of visiting the site, it is about how they find it. It is about how easy the site easy is to navigate. Does it appear easy to use and read on the visitors phones and tablets. There are many more parameters for a good website. It is up to the webmaster to insure that your site meets all that and more. The role of the webmaster now is less about HTML and css and more about content management, marketing, search engine optimization and assisting the website owner with growing their business. The webmaster now has tools like WordPress, Muse and others a webmaster can now spend time concentrating on the content and the user experience and less time about the back end design. This means a better experience for the user and the site owner.
Enter page builders.
The list of companies that are using tools like WordPress and others is growing monthly. Companies like CNN, The New York Times, GM and many more use WordPress for their site design needs. This makes the role of their I.T. people to insure that the content is good and the user experience is what it needs to be and not spend so much time on design. The job is to concentrate on making sure that user visits the website and stays. Their job is to make sure that the customer will have an experience that gives them the information they need and will make them trust the company. If the site is selling a product the user has to be able to access the product easily and have a smooth purchase and transaction experience. In other words, the concentration is on content and functionality.
The old static html sites are to costly to design and have a hard time being viewed on the new smaller devices. Designs like those used by the above mentioned companies use php to make their site lighter, faster and more responsive. The sites load easily are easy to navigate and are an enjoyable experience on the laptop, tablet and phone all at the same time. They are content driven and use the new HTML5 to the full. Do not be confused by the fact that huge companies use WordPress for their websites. These sites are still designed in unique ways that allow the company to define their brands. WordPress templates are easily designable and can be changed by a knowledgeable web designer to whatever the brand needs. They just provide a base. That base design helps with the basic style but the rest is up to the I.T. people. You can see examples of this when you look at their sites.
The New York Times
This site makes use of a huge amount of design features. On the front page you can see that it goes from a basic three column design to a two column then to a four column. It is rich with content as a news publication should be and uses large amounts of media. For the website to jump around like that it takes a designer who not only knows how to manipulate the WordPress template but to understand how to place the content so that it is easy to find by the viewer.
General Motors is a great example of a WordPress site that uses the K.I.S.S. philosophy (keep it simple silly). The front page gets the information that they feel is important to the viewer without all the clutter. Their slider has three simple slides that point you to the things they want you to see. Then under the slider they have the links to their individual auto brands with a navigation bar at the top that does pretty much the same thing. Very clean and simple.
eBay is a great example of a website that uses a lot of the the tools available through WordPress. The use of PHP, SQL and others is easy to see for the designer and a great site to point to and say “You can have something like this.”
Muse is a tool that designers can use that develops word press style sites that are beautiful and easy to design by the webmaster. They can use templates or design from scratch.
As you can see a trained webmaster is needed now more than ever. The webmaster must insure that their customers site does the best that it can do and gives the client what they need. Just because I may be using a template to start the process does not mean that my training does not come into play. By using all tools available to me it is easier to concentrate on content management, and save the money on the design. My job as a webmaster is not to be the best html code and create a great looking website. My job as a webmaster is to make sure that their messagegets across to the viewer. If the site is a failure then I am a failure as a webmaster.
It all goes back my favorite Steve Jobs Quote, “Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.”Being a trained webmaster I can go above and beyond what I could ever give them as a designer.
Webmaster vs. Web Designer.
There is a difference between a webmaster and designer. A designer is one who makes the basic design. He also works with the content and other things that are needed to put up a great website. The role of a webmaster is to work with my clients to have a great web experience and that their web presence is where it needs to be. It is not just about having a website, it is about social media, interaction, user experience and improving the users knowledge of what the website is trying to communicate. It is about helping with brand management. It is about knowing and understanding what the customer is trying to communicate to their clients.
I have said for a long time that as a business owner it is best to hire a trained webmaster as apposed to a designer. A certified webmaster knows about brand management, marketing, has training in eCommerce law and regulations, copyright law and many other things that help their clients with their web needs.
A lot of these things seem to be that they are things that you can do on your own, and certain extent you can. But do you have the time to dedicate to your site. Can you take the hours away from the daily operations of your business to do the content management on your site? Can you take the time to learn how to use the tools that are available? Do you have the time to take a basic WordPress template and make it unique?
Here is a video from Mike Locke one of the top webmasters in the country. Although you will hear him say he is not the best, he is being humble. Here he is talking about the difference between a webmaster and web designer. His comments are geared towards people who are learning the craft but they explain the difference exactly.
Don’t be mislead.
There are a lot of do it yourself website companies who tell you in television ads that you don’t need someone to do it for you, that just by pointing and clicking a few times that your site will perform well. That is misleading at best. You still have to learn how to use the available tools, the plugins, the widgets and other tools that work on the site. That is where a webmaster can help you. That is where your site does it’s best. There are SEO tools, snippet tools, and other things that gives your site a leg up on the do it yourself sites are good, but do you know how to use them to the full? Also the beauty of the website still comes into play. If your website is ugly, they will leave it without looking at what you want them to see.
My best site for a customer using this style is the Columbus Fire website. The client wanted a site that would allow them to have visitors sign up for the team. One that would allow the players to link to their email accounts. The site also allows for fans to get maps to the upcoming game venue, and allows the viewer to get instructions to the teams sponsors. The user now has a more informative experience that is easy to get around. They have a great site that is not as expensive but fills their needs.
This is a site from a WordPress theme that I manipulated to make it appear the way I wanted it to. Although I know coding I did not have to work in coding and I did not have duplicate each page. It is done in style that if I change something like a menu, background color or something like that it will change on all pages. Saving time and money for the client.