Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Section 1: What did you just get yourself into?

It happens everywhere. A person quits, a vendor disappears, or someone just wakes up one morning and decides that “wow… we should really be updating our corporate website.”

Regardless of where it came from, someone – who likely has a full-time job keeping him or her busy and likely knows little about computers – is going to get stuck with the responsibility of updating (or building) a website.

Maybe it’s you.

Here’s how you’ll do it.

First the good news 

You don’t need to be some kind of a computer wizard to do this. The tools for updating websites are really as easy to use as Microsoft Word, Excel or PowerPoint. The hard stuff – the “coding” – is comfortably buried behind the scenes. It might take a bit of training and practice to get used to the quirks of a particular system, but it’s not rocket science.

Alphabet soup of web development skills you don't need right now.The key is not to overcomplicate it in your own head.

Seriously: Let the people who love this stuff do this work. Ultimately, it’ll be faster, cheaper, and give you better quality results than you trying to teach yourself.

While it’s good to know some of the standard tools of the Web business (Adobe Photoshop, Macromedia InDesign, Flash, etc.), I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised to know that you can get quite far without learning them at all. The text update tools look just like Microsoft Word.

If you can run Word, you’ll do fine updating a website. If the website is running on a content management system (CMS), you might need some training on that. Those are often just a little… odd in places (weird terminology for saving a change or extra steps for putting a graphic up or something like that).

Now the bad news

This is a huge amount of work. Updating website doesn’t have a “beginning” and “end” like updating an annual report. Websites are constantly changing and growing. You can hand off the management of a website, but you will probably never see a website “finished.” If this is a temporary assignment, you’ll have to define “finished” yourself. If you are being pulled in to oversee a redesign or replatform (both large projects that mean you are making really big changes to how the website looks or works), make sure you and your boss are clear about what, exactly, your tasks are and what will happen with the site when those tasks are complete.

What is a redesign and what what is a replatform?
What I think you’ll find surprising is the amount of time you’ll spend talking to your colleagues about the website:
  • Why does it take so long to do anything?
  • Why can’t my content stay on the home page forever? Don’t you know how important it is/I am?
  • Why did you use that ugly color/font/photo/layout/headline?
  • Why can’t I have my picture on the home page?
  • How come X (random colleague/department) is better represented on the website than I am?
  • Why does the site need such a large budget? Can’t you do this with less and let me have your slice of the budget?
  • Why isn’t there anything moving on the home page? I love websites where things move….
  • Why do I have to write something new? The stuff I gave you last year is still current.

Web people (or those who maintain computers and software) have a reputation for being a bit grouchy. After the fourth or fifth time of answering the same question (often for the same person), you’ll probably get a little grouchy, too.

I suggest dealing with your grouchiness with deep breathing and yoga. Booze is too fattening and smacking the person will just get you fired (or sued). There are some basic answers to these questions toward the end of this book to get you through this.

You can do this

You are probably asking yourself “what did I just get stuck with?” A lot... but don’t panic. If you manage your time, manage your stress, and work and play with others well, you’ll do fine.

You might even find that you like it.

A website is an important way for your organization to communicate with its customers or constituents. You have been handed control over something very important. It’s a treasure. Treat it with care and respect and it will do a lot for you and your organization.

Next: What Does A Web Manager Actually Do?

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