Webmaster: Tasks and Responsibilities

The Webmaster is a strange and varied beast, something of a jack-of-all-trades. The role demands an attitude that supports self-help, constant upskilling, and a vigilant eye on technology. A Webmasters responsibilities can vary greatly between organisations of various types and sizes.

It's not unusual for a Webmaster to be expected to posses some skill and take part in a range of traditional IT roles for web related services or projects.

Irrespective of who traditionally performed them, following are some typical tasks that are potentially a Webmaster's responsibility in a larger organisation with one or more web servers..

Educating Authors:

An Author is any one of potentially hundreds (or thousands) of people who will actually be responsible for collating content and publishing it in some form on your web server/s.

Anyone can supply content, but not everyone is likely to be actually publishing as such. In a large organisation, people are often assigned to the role of content authoring, or administering.

The more a Webmaster can pass on to these distributed web owners or custodians, the easier it is for them in turn to pass on knowledge or skills to staff within their team, department or workgroup thus freeing up more time for the Webmaster to focus on the other tasks listed on this page.

Authors will generally need some knowledge of HTML even if they are mainly using a WYSIWYG editor to publish content. With a background in HTML an Author is more likely to be able to fix a problem page themselves, rather than pester the Webmaster for support.

Although as a Webmaster you will be expected to have a thorough understanding of HTML (and other supporting technologies), you may not neccessarily be a skilled trainer. It is often more effective to outsource generic HTML training to a company that specialises in such things. You might then provide a supplemental session afterwards that focuses on peculiarities of your site and its design and the hidden things and traps that an Author will need to know when applying their new knowledge to publishing in your web environment.

You should have at least a passing familiarity with all publishing tools that your clients are using. Not every author is going to be comfortable using a text editor or being shown how to fix something using a text editor when things go wrong.

Log Reports

Generating and analysing Log reports is a key task for the Webmaster. The more you know about how people are using your site the easier it is to maintain, or plan an upgrade or redesign. Often the Webmaster is asked to create personalised reports for a narrow area of a busy site, which is then passed on to the custodian of the content area so they can manage their own linking or promotion.

Log reports are a standard offering that clients expect of an ISP or web host these days. Even if your not offering it to your clients now, you should be investigating different tools for your own purposes.

One problem with producing logs for clients is that the reports need to be all things to all people, a demanding requirement indeed. You will often get requests from clients for changes in format or presentation. Other than buying or developing an impressive tool that lets client massage their own output, you may find you have to present the client with some basic reports and/or the raw data and leave them to do their own thing.

For a list of popular Log analysis tools, see the Webmasters Toolkit page.

Managing Content

Link checking, meta data, content migration,