What is next?
I always start with the data and the audience. What data do I want to collect and present to the web viewer and who is that viewer going to be. Once I know that it dictates what technologies I need to learn.
So if I was planning on doing a site which would allow a user to locate all the songs with a given title, for example. I'd probably need to look at database type stuff.
If instead I wanted to have a collection of clip art for newsletter writers - I might still want to learn database stuff - but I'd really want to focus on all the various graphical/presentational areas.
Thanks for your input dcheney:)
While in the state of wondering "what's next", I've always found it helpful to go back to the beginning and get a historical context.
When we learn something new, we often just jump right in and learn "how things are done". I've got a neighbor who has installed cable systems for years, yet he has no clue how the whole system really works. If he'd do just a bit of historical digging for background info, he'd understand just what it is he does by connecting this cable to that connector to get y to show x and make the little red like blink.
Same is true for web development. If you can take a bit of time and look at the bigger picture than just what we throw on the page and up in a visitors browser, the context will help in ways you can't see at first.
For example, maybe take some time and study just how your pages get back to the browser. Example topics: http, tc/ip, history of hyper text, history of page markup languages. Just coming to terms with how it all glues together [xoc.net].
After that, I'd take a look at how the operating systems work in relation to page display. This is a huge area to study and I'd even include as much low level "how computers work" information as you can possibly soak up. Sooner or later you'll start to "think digital". When that happens, all sorts of currently confusing items will become clear - like magic - a rare moment of clarity.
I can still remember when that happened for me. I'd worked on computers for a few years, both hardware and software. They were still these mystical beasts that eluded understanding. Sure, I could type in "hello world" as easy as the next person and hack something out in basic, but really understanding what was happening was mysterious and almost magical.
I'd picked up a good electronics book to do some modifications on an old Commodore VIC 20. I had all the info on tap from ones and zeros to crt screens, but it was just a disconnected jumble of info. The book I was reading spelled out simple computer addressing. Once I understood the whole life of a single byte in a computer program, things became so clear. It was like a room full of band members going from playing different tunes, to a world class symphony - it put context and connection on the apparent chaos.
You may think that sounds a bit high brow in relation to web development, but look at who the really good and successful site owners are out there. They are the ones who have a broad base of knowledge and rarely specialize in any one department. They understand it isn't just about specific code but about the whole process. Getting that level of big picture understanding only comes with a history contextual back drop. That wisdom slices through the noise of "what's hot" and comes out "whats going to work" and "what is going to last".
Good points Brett!
I'm from the "old school" of computers. I think all programmers at whatever level should _first_ learn assembly. Once you know how things really work behind the scenes then you can move on to higher level stuff.
For similar reasons when I start working on almost any computer project, I start with the data structures. If you don't understand the data and how it interrelates everything else you do is just a waste of time.
Thanks for the link Brett, it looks like i have some reading to do. So what you guys are trying to say it that i have to understand how and why it all works befor i can use it. I cant believe how much there actually is to learn about all this stuff.
>> I cant believe how much there actually is to learn about all this stuff.
Sheesh, tell me about it. I started the whole computer thing back in the day with a ZX81 (love that 16K RAM pack!), and have been kind of dabbling with them ever since. I'm still a total newbie compared to many of the members here
I would argue that there is another approach that could work, other than :
>> I think all programmers at whatever level should _first_ learn assembly.
This is true (I am NOT a programmer per se, although I do know a bit about coding), but not the whole truth.
I don't think that you NEED to be a programmer in order to be a successful webmaster. You need to know enough about the theory of coding to be able to talk to pure programmers, and be able to understand them when they talk to you. But I don't think you yourself have to be a programmer. If not though, you need to find a tame code junkie with whom you can establish a good working relationship
Similarly, you don't neccesarily have to be a TCP/IP whiz, and be able to disect a packet using a hex viewer.... but a good working knowledge of how the Internet works, and how it interacts with the telecomms system would be useful
If you don't have that knowledge though, having access to someone who is a specialist would be vital.
The same applies to most of the skills a webmaster needs. You, personally, need not be a master of any of them, but you do need to know enough to be able to communicate effectively with those that are. This will provide you with that broad overview that lets you see how the disparate pieces interconnect, and then pick out the areas that really interest you, or you need most, for further study
Be a generalist, not a specialist. Specialisation is for insects :)
>The same applies to most of the skills a webmaster needs<
Thats kind of what im trying to figure out. What skills does a webmaster need. I thought all of them, from Programming to design and search engine optimization. Isn't being able to manipulate most situations concerning the internet a big part of it?
In a nutshell i have to understand most things(like programming) but i dont have to be a guru at it:)
|I thought all of them, from Programming to design and search engine optimization. |
It is simply impossible for us stupid human beings. You can not be a great graphics designer, a great front-end programmer (HTML, CSS, ASP,...), a great deep programmer (C++, Java, VisualBasic,...) AND a great SEO.
Best is to know the framework, like a superficial knowledge, enabling you to ask the right questions. And then you have to know where to ask the questions (i.e. here ;)).
>It is simply impossible for us stupid human beings<
I thought you had to be an optimist in the web industry;)
|I thought you had to be an optimist in the web industry |
Well, in the beginning we all are optimists.
Then we see how much there is we could/should know :)
I must say that one of the most useful courses that I have taken at nightschool was a Network Administration one based around the TCP/IP protocol. Even though I don't consciously use that knowledge in day to day work it gave a far greater understanding in times of various server and network issues.
You have to know enough about something to realise how much you don't know!
I think I had the misconception that if you wanted to be a webmaster you had to know certain things. Like a set list of “what you have to know”. After reading through the replies to this thread, nobody really knows everything like sinner_G said. Its impossible to master everything.
Stever thanks for the tip about TCP/IP Protocol. Im going to look into that:)
Exactly. Start off with knowing a bit about everything, and see where it takes you. Depending on what sort of sites you are involved with, different skillsets will be neccesary. Some of these skills you should/will develop yourself, some you may well end up outsourcing, working in partnership with others. Thats very much the model the company I work for uses
There are a few basic core skills virtually any webmaster needs, but they are fewer than you would think. Most of your knowledge will probably be dictated by a mixture of your clients needs, your own interests and pure serendipity (like one of your best mates happening to be an XML guru etc)
>I do design and marketing.
The two go together, but unfortunately there are great designers who do fabulous looking web sites who massacre them as far as any possibility of search engine marketing is concerned. Not bad for some people, because as long as they keep doing it, it'll insure that there's always work for SEO's.
If you start with a foundation of basic knowledge of usability and what's search engine friendly, you'll be a step ahead, because that will influence your application of whatever you learn that builds on that.
The foundation of any site is still HTML, so learning about standards compliance is one of the basics, and so is CSS.
For starters you should know how things work and what they do, but you don't necessarily have to know how to do them at first. You have to use scripts and maybe modify or configure them to a degree, but you don't have to become a qualified programmer before you can use them on a site.
A lot depends on your own leanings, preferences and particular natural capabilities. Very few people can be an "expert" at everything, and people generally do better at what they like. I took a 1 unit seminar course when I went back to school that included skills and aptitude testing, which was invaluable. Something the counsellor said has always stuck in my mind. She said, "Do your passion. If you dislike what you do, you're sure to fail. If you do what you love you'll succeed." I've never found that to be wrong, all this time.
If you dislike working with detail, know how programming and databases work, how to use them and who to call in when you need help, but don't make that your emphasis. If you like detail work, you'd like it. If you're artsy and creatively oriented, love colors and spatial relationships and putting together a beautiful page makes your heart sing, do your "major" in graphic design, which you won't botch up for customers if you're working on a good foundation (which was the first point).
Pay careful attention to what you like and dislike and listen to yourself. Personally, I love to put together a well-balanced page with just the right layout and amount of white space, but it'll never happen that I make high end graphics for people, or anything beyond plain vanilla. But let me at a page to stick keywords in and rearrange the sentences and do titles and metas and I'm a happy camper. To me that's like when I used to do charcoal and pencil drawing and water-color painting. It's art, it's sculpture using words instead of clay or art media. I've actually caught myself looking at a keywords and description tag after it was done for ten minutes, thinking "this is perfection, it's like poetry."
Get a smattering of everything so your basic skill-set is broad, and stay an optimist. If there's an area you're not good at, that's just not your specialty. It's realistic to know your weak and strong points, and when you discover where your strengths are, you'll know what you should become a specialist at and where you fit on a team if you're in that type of environment.
WildAngel, it sounds like you are going through exactly what I was a year ago when I launched into full time webmastering.
This thread has a lot of value:
Important things newbies need to know [webmasterworld.com]
I also share Brett's philosophy of having a broad working knowledge of a lot of things. I for one am a specialist in nothing yet am seeking to expand my knowledge in a lot of areas....right now usability and marketing. Specialization is good if you are working for a company and that is all you do. However, it will hamstring you when it comes to building, promoting, maintaining and marketing a website. Successful webmastering requires such a broad area of understanding it is quite incredible yet exciting and always interesting.
Thanks for all the replies. i have actually drawn up a plan, based on what you have all told me. Alot of my questions now have answers.
And thanks for the link James iv read through it and made a few notes.
Well before anyone's going to pay you to be a consultant, you need to be able to prove yourself as a pretty good non-professional. Building up a solid portfolio of projects you've worked on will give potential clients confidence in your abilities, and in the process you will learn some (though not many other) issues involved in creating a successful Internet presence.
- Design, usability, optimization. Are you familiar with the interrelationships, and can you handle them well? Design is a short-term differentiator; attention to usability and optimization are what pay off in the longer term.
- Technologies. When do you advise a client to get a static site, when an ASP/database-driven one, when the full-blown J2EE application server with the XML content management system? In other words, do you have a grasp of where the industry is and where it's moving?
- Partners. If you're a programmer, do you know a good designer who can work up sophisticated graphics if you need them? If you're a designer, do you have programmers you can rely on to code the "heavy lifting" of the site? Who's your favorite host? Are you in the Adobe or the Macromedia camp? Are you a member of any industry associations, or have other networking contacts?
- Customer service and management. How much you charge will play into your initial contract; the availability and quality of your support plays into retention. Do you know how to deal with 1) the client who's afraid to do anything, so calls you 6 times a day, and 2) the client who thinks he can do everything and calls you once everything is well and truly trashed?
- Business adminsitration. Paperwork, licenses, copyrights, etc. that might apply in your jurisdiction. If you're going to operate a business, the powers that be will want regulate and tax you as one.
As everyone else has said, the key to being a successful web consultant is broad knowledge, and knowing when to ask for help.
Nice post WildAngel,
I am in no way a designer so I won’t touch that except I really admire those skills. I have a few suggestions though. Probably the biggest I’ve learned lately is you don’t have to know it all. Hook up with people you trust that do know their portion. Web site development is big, getting to be a bigger deal each day. Finding folks you can work with that really know well their skills can turn even smaller projects into a big deal.
I agree with the points made about having at least a working knowledge of how all the pieces come together and how each runs.
My next tip is to learn about themes and linking for optimization because those are two things I believe every web site should at minimum have worked into them.
Then, stay fresh. Allow yourself time each day for research, study or inspiration. Keep an open mind and stretch yourself. Continue to participate here in the forums. The knowledge and connections you’ll make benefits more than the time spent.
Last, have fun.
|Well before anyone's going to pay you to be a consultant, you need to be able to prove yourself as a pretty good non-professional. |
LOL, I got hired as a consultant just coming out of university... All my 'IT-experience' was from surfing the web (and playing a lot on MUDs). Ok, it was when the Internet was a hype anad they took anyone they could get, but still, everything I know about the web (and I personally think it is not that little) I learned WHILE being a consultant.
|Then, stay fresh. Allow yourself time each day for research, study or inspiration. Keep an open mind and stretch yourself. |
Paynt - absolutely 120% right. An hour a day - if you can manage it - just "playing" - whether opening up a graphics programme and dabbling with an effect; doing a php/mysql tutorial; or trying to read up on XML. Something away from what you've been working on.
Thanks for your input. Every bit helps.
>Hook up with people you trust that do know their portion.<
Alot of the replies i have gotten in this thread have mentioned that exact thing. I dont really have anyone else that i know in this line of work (with the exception of WW). thats kind of why im here.
There truely is alot to learn in this industry(maby im only speaking for myself here)but its not easy to get profesional constructive criticism. Ambition isn't enough. Its who you know, what you know and how well you know it. The steps to sucess suddenly seem alot longer. I love what i do, but there are alot of people doing the exact same thing as me who are better and love their job too. I need a big competitive advantage. But with everything if you want to be successful you have to really apply yourself, work hard and hope for the best.
After reading through this thread i can finally get some idea of what it takes to make it out there. Thank you for that.
Core Basics: (for a webmaster anyway)
...will at least get you to the level of webGrasshopper ..:)
1. https (128 bit SSL encryption)
- not just for commerce anymore...need to protect any type of data being transmitted that could be considered private, as competitors would love to get a login to your site and see your products.
- if it is for commerce, then know how to setup a merchant web account with bank and setting up inhouse/outsourced payment processor.
2. database technologies. (once you learn the basics of SQL, then everything else is just database connectivity, and reading the databases' docs to install)
3. DHTML technologies
- Setting up interpreters for your webserver ( ex php, jsp)
and knowing which webservers are available and what dhtml scripting languages are available.
- Once you learn how to do one, it shouldn't take more than a week to be up to speed with another ( vbs, jsp, php, etc..)
- note to others: I'm from the newschool of webdevelopment, so if anyone would like to comment on cgi being different please do as I have never touched the stuff.
- as before, know what's available and what they support.
( apache is always a good start. )
If you have design and marketing skills in place, then with these, you should be able to start up your own company with this knowledge selling/promoting whatever you want.
You need a goal. Write it down. Make it something specific (add a date when you want to reach the goal). Say, your goal is to become a webmaster by the end of this year. But what kind of webmaster? What is a webmaster? What do webmasters do? What do you want to do?
It might be best starting with a small project and aquiring the skills as you go. Webmasters are solving problems. Again, what's the goal of the project? What do you need to know to achieve this goal?
For example, if you notice lots of 206 Partial Content status codes in your log files, you will ask yourself why this happens. The answer might be the size of your pages. You might ask yourself how you get the file size down, and discover the beauty of CSS.
Or, someone will point out problems with your HTML and tell you, your code doesn't validate [validator.w3.org]. Now, you'll learn how to write valid code. Someone might tell you, he has problems accessing your site. So you might want to learn about accessibility [diveintoaccessibility.org]. You will notice lots of 404s in your log files? Go learn about .htaccess 301 redirects. Want to create dynamic content? Go have a look at PHP and MySQL, ...
So, you either want to learn something cause you are interested in the topic or you have to learn something to solve a problem.
Of course it's possible you don't like programming or you don't want to do database stuff, so you might want to focus on interface design or something else.
The really important thing is to notice a problem, describe it, track it down, and find a solution. It really helps to have someone you can ask (WebmasterWorld) if you have a problem.
Do what you like to do. Learn how to ask good questions and learn how to find people that can help you solve the problem.
Oh, and check if you achieved your goal. Good luck. :)
While I work as a Webmaster for a single company not as a consultant, I would say this would be true for every body. You have to keep the “big ball rolling” (in e-commerce that’s keep the site up and orders coming in) and keep juggling everything else. You have to keep everybody a little happy and nobody unhappy. Sure advertising wants to redesign everything with graphics, but you have to take into account load times and keep the pages from becoming bloated. Your programmers want to keep everything text based like google so its efficient and fast to load, but then your site becomes boring. Your boss wants everything to “sparkle” and “sizzle” so it gets everybody’s attention, but then you don’t want to overwhelm your customers with a site that looks like a banner advertisement. Your PR department wants you to use the latest plug-in so your site gets a lot of press, but 80% of your customers are one browser version behind. Then you have SEO, networking, security, and usability issues as well, and what about learning about new things like xml and xbr. Its frustrating, gratifying, overwhelming, challenging, and different everyday, and that’s what makes it great.
Heck I love my job! Sure I like some things more than others, but that’s why they pay me to do it. Like most people here I couldn’t think of a better job (or title) to have.
Make your home page webmasterworld.com
In addition, know how to manage knowledge. You should have over 1000 bookmarks in your favorites, including
a folder dedicated to the posts made on this web site. You don't really need to know how to do everything
but know how to get it done; there is a big difference between those two concepts. One will give you headaches
and the other will make you money.
but dats onlee wat i tink !!!
My mum used to say: "the more you know - the more you realise that the less you know". I think this is relevant to this discussion too. I know I am pretty good at the creative side and I know HTML inside out but then I talk to folks on this list and I realise that I have a long way to go! I would say though that a great webmaster has to have both the left side and the right sides of their brains on excellent speaking terms. Often we only use our science/logical brain capacity and the arty/creative brain lies ignored (and sulking). It's like that episode of Star Trek where there was a 'good' Captain Kirk fighting the 'bad' Captain Kirk and they realised at the end that you need both to have a balanced personality. Am I going way off tangent here? Too much caffeine maybe... :)