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Being a Webmaster

By Phil Bate
Posted Thursday, December 2, 2004

It's easy to become a webmaster. But, to become a really good webmaster takes a lot more. And this takes a lot of work and study.

Many years ago, I started yacht racing in the Caribbean. I had been sailing since the age of 11. I thought that I was an "expert" sailor, but I found that I was really a novice. It's easy to teach someone to sail from point A to point B. BUT, getting from point A to point B in the shortest possible time is a whole new story. It took me a full year before I won my first race in a field of 10-12 boats.

Webmastering is very similar. Sure, anyone with more than three brain cells rubbing together can learn HTML, and with all the free editors out, it doesn't even take that much effort. (Like learning to sail from one point to another.)

As my own webmaster, being retired, an ex-digital engineer (before psychologist), and computer guru, ex-sales engineer/sales manager, etc. I thought that I had the tools to do the job.

After having a web site for over a year, I found that I have put thousands of hours of just plain study in to all facets of this fascinating job. Having spent my "retirement" money in sailing around the Caribbean for several years, I don't have much money, so had to learn it all on my own. (I don't regret the cruising years at all, by the way.)

So, what did I learn about webmastering? It's a very complex job, requiring several levels of completely different areas of basic knowledge. I've been studying it intensely for well over a year, and have set up four web sites for different types of sales, (free health advice, a yacht company, a travel company, and a personal site). When starting a web site, what is necessary?

First, the webmaster (and you if you have decided to hire one), have to analyse just what you are selling. After that analysis, decide how to present what you are selling, and how to do that on a website. All too many people just jump into a web site using one of the fancy editors such as Front Page. Using their "flashy" setups is easy, but is it really the way you want to present your message?

How about graphics and salemanship? If your graphics are too big and take too long to load, people will click off before they get to your real message. So, you have to know (or learn) a lot about how to make graphics effective - not just flashy - and how to condense them so that they load as fast as you can get them to. You have to learn a lot more than you wanted to know about graphics, but it's all necessary. If you'd like to see a site (mine) that has minimal graphics for the message, loads fast, easy to read, see:

(http://www.alternate-health.com/home.html)

For this site with mostly free health advice, I believe this approach is right, but for more involved salesmanship, spice it up as needed while still keeping the load time as low as possible. For an example of a lot of necessary graphics, look at: (http://www.smg-yachts.com) The emphasis here is on graphics, as people want to get a look at the yachts that are being sold. This sells, where text wouldn't do the job.

Next, if you aren't gifted with sales ability in writing (and graphics to go along), you have to learn a lot more in this field. Or, you have to have somebody around that does. Decisions, decisions - do you use paid ads, paid banners, ffa's, ezines, MLM's,or what? More and more study is needed, or more and more money is needed to hire this knowledge (and hope that whoever you hire knows what they are doing.)

With thousands of ads telling you that "they" have all the secrets of the internet, and positioning, and making 10,000 a month, it's more than a little confusing, and some expertise is needed in this area as well. >From personal experience, I can state that this knowledge comes with making some mistakes and learning from them.

So what's a competent webmaster? He/she is a really multitalented person, or preferably, a team. A technical HTML expert, an expert on search engines, a graphics expert, a sales/marketing manager, a technical writer, an ad writer, a computer technician experienced in software and the list goes on and on.

There are a lot of would-be webmasters out there, charging a lot of money, and designing lots of very flashy webs. But, are these webs actually doing the job, and making money for the owner? Do they load reasonably fast? Surfing will show you hundreds of sites that are pretty lousy in some ways, and the odds are that they cost somebody a lot of money, and they are getting very little return.

About the Author
Phil Bate PhD - (http://www.alternate-health.com) Free health advice site using holistic techniques. Professional resources lists on all health subjects.