Department Management Report
JOB-SKILLS CHECKLIST FOR NEW WEBMASTERS
most marketing department functions, personnel management is likely
to be the biggest stumbling block for your department's Web site.
Qualified talent is scarce and outstanding Webmasters the
felicitous term for site administrators are even rarer. This
creates problems what qualities to look for, what to pay
for them, and where to find them that this article will help
is no widely recognized job description or standard list of required
skills for the post of Webmaster. Webmasters themselves tending
to be independent jack-of-all-trades types and proud of it don't
even like the term ''Webmaster.'' Most prefer other titles such
as Web administrator rather than a geeky term borrowed from ''postmasters''
managing e-mail systems.
finding that right person isn't impossible, says Marianne Paskowski,
an editorial director at Cahners Publishing, whose department
runs a popular business news site. ''It's the hardest job for
companies to fill when no one has hired one before,'' she told
MDMR, confident that she recently hired ''a renaissance guy''
combining technical prowess with sensitivity to her site's editorial
and advertising missions. Newspaper editors write the copy, however,
and print space reps sell site advertising.
sites will require more. At high-tech giant Texas Instruments,
a troika of managers handle different tasks. An ''Internet editor''
takes charge of content and makes sure the site meets its goals,
an ''infomaster'' manages the site's all-important response activities,
and a ''Webmaster'' per se handles software and hardware technical
What Qualities to Look for
The Webmaster or as is increasingly likely in
a more complex cyberspace, the Web team must perform five
tasks, says Web developer and author Selena Sol.
1. Content creation. ''Content is king on the Web,''
Sol writes. ''Regardless of how snazzy your Web site looks, how
many cool Java applets you can cram onto one page, or how macho
your server is, no Web surfer is going to spend more than five
seconds at your site unless you offer him or her something of
substance.'' As MDMR sees it, at business-to-business sites catering
not to surfers but to inquirers seeking specific information,
content is critical.
it's tempting to simply ''repurpose'' print ad copy or video commercial
clips, you need to repackage promotional and information material
to meet the Web's requirements. Site visitors scan rather than
read information and will jump to hyperlinks or leave your site
and not return if forced to wade through material from other media.
Your technical and promotional writers control what is said, but
the Webmaster must know how to say it online, and work well with
others to handle that task smoothly.
2. Architectural design. But no matter what the quality
of content, your Web site must make navigation easy, even intuitive.
Sensitivity to the download speeds the average visitor will experience,
flow control, the selection and description of hyperlinks, the
placement of search engines on the first screen a visitor sees,
proper frame design, and other Web-specific navigation requirements
are essential considerations. Good Web architects have the ''street
smarts'' to understand user needs.
3. Implementation. Some marketing department managers
argue that certain technical skills writing hypertext markup
language and using content distribution technologies like CGI
and Java, for instance are no longer important Web technician
qualifications because site automation tools have taken over much
of the grunt work. Others, however, insist those skills be hiring
criteria, reasoning that people with those abilities will know
their way around the Web.
Paskowski at Cahners Publishing, for instance, asks
candidates for Web technician to sit at the keyboard during the
job interview to show what they know. ''I asked one to perform
a tough maneuver downloading from other sites that we
couldn't quite handle before. He found a backdoor to do it. I
hope he didn't break through any firewalls!'' she exclaimed.
Sol, ''A good technician will write code that is so standardized
and easy to read that he or she could get run over by a bus and
a newly hired technician could acclimatize in a week. No [automation]
tool will ever write well< !->designed and documented code.''
also means managing Web server hardware and software, plus security,
particularly when site visitors can access inside-the-firewall
4. Visual design. Your site must invite visitor participation
and convey information efficiently. Ask to examine Webmaster candidates'
portfolios, just as you'd review samples from copywriters, art
directors, and photographers. Says Sol, the Web developer ''will
also be trained in the quirks and specifics of Web graphics design
as opposed to print graphics design.''
5. Management. With the Web becoming a critical marketing
tool, not just a supplemental communications medium, Web site
administration becomes a central concern to brand managers, sales
managers, communications managers, and other marketing department
specialists all having to coordinate how they present themselves
to customers and prospects online. The Webmaster should sit at
the center. Anything but the stereotyped socially inept geek,
he or she needs strong collaboration and communication skills.
''The Webmaster really fills the role of general contractor, working
with architects on design and then tapping specialists to pull
off different pieces of the project,'' reasons Computer Reseller
News columnist Heather Clancy. ''With this in mind, you're about
to see a big shift in how Internet specialists are trained.''
Whoever fills the position solo Webmaster or
Web team leader needs a passionate commitment to online marketing.
''Real zeal,'' Paskowski calls it. She scrutinizes job candidates'
samples of sites they've designed, discussing them in detail during
an interview to sense the commitment behind the work. And she
asks probing questions, such as why a candidate liked a favorite
What to Pay
Examine salary ranges carefully. Considering the unprecedented
shortage of talent, plus the fast-changing and all-over-the-map
job descriptions for Webmastering, pinning down industry-average
salary ranges is tricky. Competition prompts more companies to
sweeten salary packages with sign-on bonuses and noncash incentives,
Computerworld's latest salary survey indicates.
to IOMA's 1998 Report on Salary Surveys Yearbook, surveys by ZD
Internet, Computerworld, and the now-defunct Web Week peg base
pay for Webmaster and equivalent Internet-related job titles in
the $ 50,000 range, with wide variation by geographic region.
ZD Internet (www.zdnet.com) reports that the highest paid ''Webmasters''
in its survey have master's degrees and earn an average salary
of $ 53,000 annually. The lowest paid have two-year degrees and
average nearly $ 40,000 a year. There's a skew: 65% earn $ 50,000
or less, with 40% of the sample earning $ 29,000 to $ 48,000.
programmers,'' however, average $ 66,000 at the high end (generally
having Ph.D.s) and $ 47,000 at the low, says ZD Internet.
Use salary reports cautiously. There's hardly a guarantee
that survey respondents' duties match the job you're trying to
fill. National Business Employment Weekly lists four Web-related
titles in its salary survey: ''Web site general manager,'' ''Web
engineer,'' ''Web programmer,'' and ''Web site artist/layout editor.''
Average salaries for those posts range from $ 45,100 to $ 72,600.
Each position arguably is similar to ''Webmaster.'' And the average
''Web programmer'' salary of $ 47,800 only slightly exceeds the
low end of the ZD Internet range for that job title.
Where to Look
Turn to the Web itself. For immediacy and low cost, networking
with colleagues and posting jobs on recruitment Web sites is becoming
the preferred approach matching Webmaster jobs to available talent.
Generating resumes via the Internet ''costs pennies, while using
newspaper ads averages about $ 128 per resume received,'' Reggie
Barefield, executive director of Humana Inc.'s Talent Resources
and Technology Team, told Internet Week. Internet Business Network
has expected online resumes to total 2.5 million this year, about
double the 1997 volume, and Management Recruiter International
surveys found about 37% of executives recruiting online.
Web-wise rule of ''surfer beware'' still applies, however. A recent
study by Michael G. Kessler & Associates Ltd., a New York<
!->based corporate investigation firm, found 25% of the 1,000
resumes the company collected from clients and examined were fraudulent
in some way.
Web also provides current information about Web management certification
programs, a number of which have sprouted this year. In addition
to commercial ventures such as USWeb Learning, trade groups such
as the Association of Internet Professionals and the International
Webmasters Association say they're investigating certification.
Try other options. The U.S. Department of Commerce, monitoring
the impact of the IT talent shortage, reports that companies are
expanding their recruiting practices, paying larger bonuses, providing
more benefits (including lifestyle benefits such as telecommuting),
recruiting at lesser< !->known schools, hiring foreigners,
and training non-IT people in Web management.
Outsourcing might work for you. A relatively simple Web site that
does not need a team to run it could be operated by a Web-hosting
service that not only handles the server technical details 24
hours a day, but also manages site software at your direction.
The savings can be great: a few hundred dollars a month to outsource
a small site compared to about $ 60,000 for a Webmaster's annual
salary and $ 1,000 or more a month to connect your own server
to the Web. You can move your site in-house as it grows, particularly
when it accesses your company's backroom and database operations.