The specific skills required to manage a Web site change depending on the type of site. For example, an intranet will have different demands than an e-commerce Web site. However, fundamental skills are required regardless of the site. These revolve around an understanding of content.
Content is the formal communication of knowledge. The Internet is fundamentally concerned with this formal communication. The vast majority of it occurs through the use of text and static images.
What good is email to you if you struggle to get your knowledge into meaningful sentences? What good is your Web site if you cannot express your knowledge in words? Words are the building blocks of email and Web sites. If you want to manage a site, you must master text.
An editor’s traditional job is managing text, images, and the people who create these. What keeps an editor awake at night? Worrying whether she’s getting the right content to the right reader at the right time at the right cost. If you want to manage a successful Web site, that’s what should be keeping you awake at night, too.
But the Internet is different from traditional publishing. In addition to standard editorial skills, you also need:
- A thorough understanding of the organization or company: what it is about and what it seeks to achieve.
- A sense of evangelism and a drive to convince internal and external parties of the Web’s benefits. This is required because the Web is a relatively new medium and a great many people need to be convinced of its merits.
- An ability to work across departments to create a unified and cohesive site that clearly communicates the organization’s knowledge.
- Authority and stature that allow you to gain the respect of the departments and groups you need to knit together.
- An ability to encourage and respond to interactivity, from reader feedback to online communities.
- An understanding of the strengths and limitations of technology. It’s vital to have an effective working relationship with the IT department.
- An ability to manage the information architecture of your site. Be prepared to get your hands dirty with metadata, classification, navigation, search, page layout, and graphic design.
Does this person exist? People with these skills and experience are scarce. Currently, the only practical solution may be to nurture site managers internally. It’s an obstacle that can and must be overcome.
As the commercial environment changes, so do the people and skills required to be effective. On the Web, your role as an editor changes, too. Whether intranet or e-commerce Web site, it begins and ends with a mastery of content and an ability to get the best out of the people who create, edit, and publish your content.