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What Skills Do Successful Website Teams Require?

If you have the role of quoting jobs for clients or working out budgets for outsourcing to contractors, you know it’s no easy task. There are many things to consider, from staff to skills to job requirements. Your client, however, wants to know just one thing: how much is it going to cost?

Let’s look at this another way. How much are your skills worth? I’ll break this out by job category and description.

Website creator or user interface engineer

Subset skill: Graphics designers, logo creator, copywriters, Flash development

How many times has someone approached you to say, “Why do I need you when I can use a free template and get free hosting somewhere?” What does a web site designer truly need to know? Here’s a big, but probably incomplete list.

How to use Photoshop or some other image creation software. Photoshop can take years to learn because it’s so robust and complex. Free templates may offer some graphics but who will design the logo? What if you want buttons or other custom artwork?

HTML, JavaScript, CSS and possibly .asp, ColdFusion, PHP and any other language that tells browsers what to do. Would your client want to pick a template off the shelf without understanding how to make it work?

Requirements gathering. The evidence of web sites built without a plan is everywhere. What does a web site do? Who is it for? What do people do with it?

Marketing. Is the free template SEO-friendly? What does that mean?

Every web site designer should be trained in usability. Without an understanding of the user experience, a web site may not be usable. Search engines don’t want non-usable web sites in search results. Sadly, web site owners, especially those who are using free software and WYSIWYG site building software have no idea what usability or information architecture are.

Every web site needs content. Where it goes, how it is presented and how it is written are all necessary skills for a successful web site.

Site developer, programmer or software developer

Subset skill: Performance engineer

What do these people need to know/be able to do?

Behind every web page that has a feedback form, shopping cart, login procedure or reservations and bookings capability is a programmer who makes it function. You know how to customize free “plug and play” applications, whereas the free route forces the site owner to live with whatever they chose.

You are likely also a web site creator with some skills in front-end design such as those listed above.

No web site can survive without you. You give web sites life by developing ways to interact with users. This means you are a programmer. No matter what programming language you chose to learn, it required untold hours of practice and strict attention to tiny details.

You are interested in and may be trained in at least basic usability standards.

Programmers may be aware of how search engines respond to their work. Those that know how to build workarounds or can discuss alternatives are the folks worth seeking out.

All application development, from the smallest feedback form to the most complicated travel reservation process to healthcare management applications needs to be tested. Performance testing is a subset of software development (also called QA Testing). Without performance testing, applications will not work in all browsers or operating systems. They will crash servers because load and stress testing was not performed. The tools and software used by performance engineers run in the tens of thousands of dollars.

Analytics. With any testing, the data is studied and used to make executive decisions.

Internet marketer (SEO, SEM, SMM)

Subset skill: Social media marketing

From the moment the first search engines and directories appeared, every web site owner wanted their web site in them. A few shockers followed. For starters, searchers are in a hurry. So if your web site isn’t in the top of search results, your site simply isn’t there. Competition created the need for people to learn how search engines work and how to get web pages to rank higher in search results. It’s laughable to think a free template is going to miraculously achieve top rank without some help from a marketer. So, what skills are required?

A true internet marketer is someone who has a working background in web site design and/or programming. They understand the medium they are promoting. They must understand the source code that search engine algorithms are reading.

Web site promotion includes pay-per-click advertising, linking (reciprocal, text, text-ads) and search engine optimization, which is the ongoing practice of page optimization for the purpose of indexing and ranking well.

As the internet grew, the social aspect spawned social media marketing and social networking. This is now a subset of skills each internet marketer should have.

Content writing is one of the foundations of online marketing. This means that writing skills are vital to web sites.

Usability comes into play by the most advanced internet marketers because they need to know how people search for information and what they do once they get it. The bottom line is that a true marketer has to know user behavior so they can be better at promoting.

Analysis is a large part of an internet marketer’s daily routine. They are trained to use a large number of tools to capture data and interpret the results.

Usability/User Experience/Information Architecture Consultant

Subset skills: Information architecture, accessibility, persuasive design, user testing

For me, this is the most exciting field of all for website related work because it has to do with all people. It’s the sociology and psychology of the web combined with neuroscience, captology (emotional design) and physics. How these touch web site design and internet usage is an area of strong fascination and research. Skills required:

Entry into these fields requires strong knowledge of web site design and some working experience with programming or performance/QA testing.

There are a small group of people cross trained in both SEO and usability. Some of them bring other skills to the table, such as social site design and maintenance or strengths in information architecture.

Research is the foundation. The only other area that comes close to the constant demand for new studies and testing is the SEO/IM field. People in these careers eat/drink/sleep the stuff.

Discipline. For user testing, performance testing, usability heuristic evaluations and developing overall information architecture, this person has to be well organized and trained in the routines and regimen’s required for each project. Requirements’ gathering alone is a painstaking process when done properly.

Advocates for everyone who wants to use the internet. This includes people with special needs, and people of all ages and cultures. It may even include a site visitor’s emotional or mental state, any stresses and known habits gleaned from human computer behavior studies.

And then there is the realm of mobile devices. It’s difficult to find one person who can do everything listed above. Add mobile design and development to their plate. Now they must learn how people use mobile devices, or surf the internet from a tiny monitor using a wireless connection. How do you push a “submit” button the size of lady bug? What happens to a Flash-based site? Who makes the best applications interfaces for hand-held devices?

How much are you worth? Like me, you’re most certainly not asking to be paid what you’re really worth because even in today’s internet world, most people have no idea what we do. They rarely have an idea how we do it. To our credit, perhaps, we make it look easy. Some of it can be. WordPress made blogs fun and available to everyone, but permitted room for challenging customization and plug-in development for programmers. But having a WordPress blog using a free template does not equate to being usable or being found in search engines. It just means a web site exists.

Some companies offer services where they charge a small monthly fee for a web site they host, using their templates. They may do things with your web site that you have no control over. Their applications may not be what you really want and you can’t customize. This means you’re unable to make any changes needed for your targeted users.

Some companies that have been around for years learned that it’s next to impossible to find one person who can wear all the hats listed above. They know, perhaps by painfully expensive lessons that it takes a team and possibly outsourcing for all the help needed to make a project run smoothly. The path to success requires a generous financial investment and hiring multi-skilled people who can approach a web site project with 360 vision.

There’s that choice. And then there’s the “Why can’t I just use a free template for my business” approach. Which one is worth quoting and which type of client do you want to quote the job to?

Hopefully you choose the client who values you.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

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