University Web Developers

University Web Developers

I am in the early stages of adding another member to my staff that will compliment the skill sets of the existing staff. In all likelihood, this will mean adding someone who has a strong background in writing/marketing/public relations. Ideally, this person would also have strong web skills. I'm not looking for someone to do application development, but knows HTML, CSS, etc.

Two questions for the group:

1. Will I be able to find someone who has this combination of skills.

2. Is the appropriate title for this position a "Web Editor". (The job will involve much more than writing and editing)

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I think "Web Editor" would cover that okay. You might also consider "Content Manager" or "Web marketer." I think eventually we are going to look for that special someone that crosses web and marketing lines to focus on content, media, and presentation. In our initial discussions, at least now, I think that might be a tough find in our field with the money we can sling around because the need is fairly specialized, and there aren't a lot of marketing programs that are training people in the art of the web yet. I'd say if anything, find a technical writer if the content is the concern, the web side can be taught to them as far as they need to know.
Good question. To me a web editor is someone who has a strong grammar background and has a good eye for layout.
Must be a good writer, but also able to choose quality pictures and graphics. Familiarity with Photoshop or equivalent is a must and graphic design is an added perk. Basic understanding of HTML and CSS, but definitely not advanced. Page layout background is also nice.

A web editor must be able to proofread a page for grammar AND formating issues. We have lots of people who can write great content, but not formatting it properly for the web or choosing the wrong photo can kill it. To me I notice the little formatting issues and I think that really is the difference between professional or not. Writing for the web is different because it's expected for content to be bite sized with links spread throughout and pictures. Also weaving intelligent links is important. Seeing someone use a "click here" for a link has become a pet peeve of mine.

I really like Michael's comment about Web Marketer. Maybe you could re title that to even Internet Marketing Editor?
As a university web editor I would say your title is applicable if knowing HTML and CSS is limited to the basic function of them. Anytime you require more knowledge than can be used with a CMS or basic coding, you are asking for a writer/marketing/IT hybrid and those are harder to find. I happen to be one of those people, but it took them a year to fill my position. I imagine it's might be like that for you if you want all of those in one. If you just want someone with writing/marketing/pr experience, most journalism professionals can handle that. Those who have worked on the web side can do a little more but usually not much more. Hope that helps.
I was hired to do exactly the job you are describing, working alongside Web manager Luke Robinson to think strategically about Web content issues and then write and edit content that goes on our school's site. My background in journalism and book editing was a big plus for this. I wasn't as strong in the technology part, but I committed myself to becoming acquainted with HTML and CSS before starting the job. Then some learning sessions with Luke helped prepare me for doing Web work. After that I launched into some big redesign projects and had to apply my new knowledge and of course, that was the best way to learn! I'm pretty young and almost Web native, so I think it came a bit more naturally to me than it might to some.

And my title is Web Communications Coordinator, if that helps!
I think Web Editor or Web Content Manager would make sense. If you look for someone who already has a content focus you may be able to get that combo. That's similar to the job I started in at Case. They needed a writer/designer/Web person to maintain the Alumni and Development site, design posters, invitations and flyers, edit a quarterly newsletter and write a column on philanthropy for the magazine. After awhile the Web stuff grew, and I moved over to Marketing and Communications to focus specifically on Web work.

Currently my job falls under a communications team. When fully staffed we have two Web folk and two writers. I've been cross training the writers in Web work so they can write our daily newsletter directly in Dreamweaver. They enjoy learning the new stuff but it does take time. The coding isn't always intuitive to them, but it is gratifying to see when they hit those Eureka moments where they realize why something works the way it does. It's really helped the production process.
What does "web editor" mean to me? Web editor *is* me!

I work in the University Communications office here is Rochester, and my title is Web Editor. The position was new when I started about four and a half years ago now. The idea was to have someone who would be the content equivalent of the old "web master" role: the Web Services folks who keep the server up and running and build Web applications. So I'm not a programmer, I am a (X)HTML/CSS coder. I'm not a graphic designer (we have those in our Publications unit, thankfully) but I am an information designer. I don't do much writing at all, but I do edit, re-organize, and re-purpose existing written copy for Web consumption. I don't do media relations work like our publicists, but I look for ways to present and distrubute their work in the online world.

I'm starting to sound like that old BASF ad: I don't make a lot of the things you buy, I make a lot of the things you buy better.
This is a good question, and could be broadened to all the roles in a Web operation. I think what works is if you step back from the technology and compare it to another publication, you begin to see how shortchanged Web content has been. Take a magazine. Typically, for every one person on the production side (layout through print run), you find three to five people on the editorial side (writers, editors, photographers, graphic artists, etc.).

Writing for the Web is different from writing for the alumni magazine. I think the way the content shifts, and what a Web Editior should key on is:
- logical links throughout content (you shouldn't just copy and paste text without looking for links);
- organizing content with heads, subheads and lists;
- SEO awareness;
- adherence to some style guide (AP makes a lot of sense as it is ASCII based);
- spelling, diction (e.g. difference between compliment and complement -- couldn't resist ;-)) and grammar;
- lastly, quality control for anything rendered by the browser (appropriate, images, alts, titles, etc.) .
Thanks everyone for your responses. I have two additional questions related to the role of a web editor:

1. How important is a web editor on a central web team when CMS systems give departments the ability to update content themselves?

2. How important is a web editor when more and more content is created by the community (the idea of the read/write web and blogs, wikis, and all things social)?
1. I'd say hugely important, because if you take us, for instance, the top layer of the site will be coordinated and controlled centrally, before you get to departmental content. Departments won't have control of what is on the top layer of the site. That will be the marketing deal, and they will make sure all information is current and consistent. You can't rely on departments to be consistent with each other, let alone current. The editor would take care of that top layer, and could also help departments to craft well designed messages, though ultimately the department is free to do as much or as little as they want. Even if they have no resources at all, at least with an editor for the top layer, we can make sure they have the basics up there, and that it's the same as everyone else.

2. Depends. I don't think any college is going to turn their site over to a wiki-like mob. At most, you might have one tool that works that way, but as a specialized tool, it will have its own checks and balances outside of a normal editor's role (unless you task the editor with keeping tabs on it). I wouldn't be inclined to let anything that presents content that reflects directly on the university be used without oversight, so that could be an editor's job too. Of course, that doesn't apply to tools not owned by the university (ie Wikipedia).
1) You still need quality control and management. You need someone making sure the departments are in fact updating content, and you need someone who can apply publication and university standards to that content.

2) In addition to the factors above, if you look at the role of an editor in a newspaper environment, his or her job is to sign off on the accuracy of the reporting. In a web environment, it could be very valuable to have someone working behind the scenes to ensure user-created statements are properly sourced. That said, case law and Web based content tends to say the less you look at something, the less liable you are for it. If you start bringing in an editor to evaluate or even moderate postings, you now have a lot more responsibility on your hands.
1. Critical.

2. And, Critical.

I manage a Web site that is entirely driven by a content management system, with about 25 content providers chipping in their additions and changes all the live-long day.

Unfortunately, most of the content providers I've managed over the years neither have the time nor the expertise to write effectively for the Web. There are exceptions, but overall, much clunkiness enters into the Web content.

The same goes for blogs and wikis. Content on both can easily rage out of control.

My idea of an ideal process would be to continue to engage content providers around the institution but have a Web editor who oversees posts and ensures content quality.
This role is one that we advocate for every college we work with. A position in marketing that has both a writing/marketing/communications background and web technologies/services (familiarity with HTML/CSS, etc) experience. The title we have often used is Web Architect, not be confused with the Web Master in IT. This role needs to understand the audience(s) as well as the communications issues/politics of the organization.

This person becomes the web solutions expert in Marketing, and works with their counterpart (the WebMaster) in IT to meet the web solution needs of the college or university. You will be able to find this person if you first look from the ranks of marketing/communications professionals who have gained web technology experience thru training or over the years thru hands on. You are not likely to find this person from within the ranks of technology professionals. As Web Architect, this person works with the other departments and faculty to garner participation from them in the web site to keep it fresh. This role works to define (or refine) the web needs of the college into workable solutions, identifying those products or services that can meet those needs.

This person becomes the web site's advocate in the organization, and helps to push forward the adoption of and transition to web related tools and services. This role may also do much of the 'mundane' new content writing and updating of the top most pages of the web site from various sources from within the college (the editor role). I think that this role of Web Architect goes to answer much of your second set of questions as well, as you will need a conductor (orchestra metaphor), or architect to get things moving in a cohesive direction to the benefit of the marketing objectives you set forth for the web site.



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