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The term “webmaster” was first used by Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, in his document “Style Guide for Online Hypertext.” The word is composed of the English words “web,” short form of World Wide Web and “master.” In the early days of the WWW, the early 1990s, the term was mostly used as a professional name for people who run their own website. At that time, web pages were usually only developed and managed by one person, so the webmaster was responsible for all aspects of the site. Responsibilities included design, development, maintenance, and marketing. Nowadays, these tasks often require a whole team of specialists, which is managed by a webmaster. That person is now a generalist, who monitors all section of the project and coordinates the procedures.
Webmasters can work as employees in an agency, as freelancers, as self-employed entrepreneurs or in the IT department of a large organization. If a website is small and not too complex, it is now often created by just a webmaster, possibly in cooperation with a specialist. The following tasks must be performed:
- As part of the conception of the website, the webmaster (together with the client, if it is not their own site) composes the content requirements in a requirements catalog. That includes the texts, menu items, navigation, and external appearance, i.e., the design. The technical requirements for the project to be realized and the associated costs are assessed next. With this information, the webmaster can select a provider to host the website.
- For the Creation of the page, the webmaster follows the requirements catalog and programs the intended functionality and the desired design. Nowadays, a Content Management System (CMS) can be used to make it easier. The most popular ones are WordPress, Joomla, TYPO3 and Drupal. Websites can be created without any programming skills using such a CMS. After its creation and acceptance by the client, the website is finally published on the Internet.
- Even after completion, some pages require regular maintenance, which only the webmaster may be able to perform. These include, for example, subsequent, content-related adjustments or the administration of user rights.
- The subsequent marketing of the site on the Internet is more and more important. In order for the web page to be found by users, webmasters do Search Engine Optimization. An example of OnPage Optimization is the analysis of search terms that make the website rank as high as possible in the result lists of search engines. These should then be sensibly inserted into the text. In OffPage Optimization, you try to make your site popular with practices such as Link Exchanges or Affiliate Marketing.
However, if a more complex application is created, such as for a large e-commerce website, a team of different experts will be required. In this case, the webmaster serves as a “website architect” or project manager. His tasks are as follows:
- Consulting in the planning phase of the project
- The selection of the experts involved in the project
- The general management and coordination
- The technical support of websites and applications
Market studies have shown that successful websites are neither developed by pure designers or just technology specialists. These projects were realized by generalists, who have various professional and methodological skills in all fields. Moreover, webmasters as coordinators are often in the tension field between customer and production team. In order to master this, in addition to just pure specialist knowledge, a high degree of communication skills, team skills, social competence, perseverance, creativity and capacity to handle a lot of work are required.
Training and education
Since the professional title, webmaster, is not legally protected in Europe, vocational training is not regulated by the state. However, some private education institutions offer primary education or vocational training, which generally takes 6 - 12 months. Long-distance courses on this subject are also offered, allowing you to complete your training part-time. The duration of such a training course is about 2 years. Technical colleges and universities are already delivering several webmaster competencies, for example, “digital media” or “media information.”