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What is a Webmaster?

The Duties and Responsibilities of a Web Developer

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I have been working as a full-time Web Developer (or Webmaster) since 1995. I guess I like it, or I wouldn't still be doing it.

There is a lot to the job, a lot more than really meets the eye. In this and the following article I'll take you on a virtual tour through my office and see what it's like to be a working Webmaster. If you have any specific questions answered about Webmastering, why not bring it up on the bulletin board? Or if you are also a working Webmaster, you can share your thoughts about the job.

I am a member of a six person Web Development team. We have two Web Engineers, a Graphic Artist, an assistant Webmaster intern, a Web producer, and myself. For the most part everyone does a little of everything on the team. However, the engineers specialize in CGI programming, the graphic artist on graphics, and the producer on content development.

Maintenance

As a Webmaster, I don't have as strong a focus on any of these areas, but rather spend a lot of my time doing all three. About 20% of my time is spent maintaining the existing site. New offers are going up all the time, the focus of the site is rethought, improved graphics are created which require changes to multiple parts of the site. Someone needs to have a good idea of where the site is going, and what items fit where.

Because of this, I need to have a h3 grasp, not only of HTML, but how it interacts with the major browsers that we support. I do most of my work with Netscape as my default, and this can turn around and bite me if I make a mistake in the HTML that IE4.0 doesn't like and a Director or VP uses IE4.0. Some of my co-workers are amazed at the number of browsers that I have on my PC — I have Netscape 1.0 through 4.04, IE 4.0, IE 3.0 at another computer, and Netscape 3.0 Gold on my Unix Sparc workstation. Plus, I have easy access to Netscape 3.0 and IE3.0 on a Macintosh, but I usually just ask my co-worker to check those for me.

Programming

Another 30-50% of my time is spent in project development. I create and maintain CGIs for the site, and so I have to know C programming. Many sites use Perl as their scripting language, but our company chose C because we felt it was more flexible in the long term.

Development

My favorite activity in my job is new page/application development. I have to do development both from scratch and from work other people have done. It is not simply coming up with an idea and putting it up, but also making sure it fits in the scheme of the whole site and doesn't contradict other information up there.

Depending on how busy they are, I will give the graphic development to our assistant Webmaster or to the Graphic Designer, but I often will do the graphic development as well. This requires that I be familiar with Adobe Photoshop and (less so) with Illustrator. I also use tools to animate the graphics, do 3D modeling, scan photos, and do some freehand drawing.

Server Maintenance

We have an operations team that is devoted to keeping our Web server machines up and running. One of the two Web engineers also does work on maintaining the servers themselves. I work as backup in that position. We keep the server up and running, add new MIME-types, check the server load, and make sure that there are no obvious problems.

Release Engineer

The last major duty that I have on our team is as the Release Engineer. I develop and run the scripts that move our Web pages from the development server to the production server. I also maintain the source code control system to prevent bugs from entering into the code or HTML.

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