Web Teams: Skills and Credentials

You may have read my previous article on starting an in-house team and wondered what those "specialized roles" might mean. Perhaps you are considering hiring someone to help you with your church's website, and their resume reads like a Latin church service. More importantly, aside from a business card, you are unsure what skills they truly possess, and the credentials that this person their so-called expert status. Instead of focusing on job titles I will discuss some common skill and credentials those potential employees and volunteers should possess.

Specialized Web Skills

User Experience

  • Skills: UX practitioners work with your leaders to create prioritized experiences; integrating your strategic goals into every aspect of the site.
  • Credentials: Portfolio of website designs that focus on how components of the site solved specific strategic problems.

Information Architecture

  • Skills: These tactical resources make sense of taxonomies, content, and produce wireframe prototypes.
  • Credentials: Portfolio of content audits, component libraries, interaction guidelines, and website prototypes; tactical solutions for strategic problems that management or a UX Architect provides.

Web Design

  • Skills: Your website needs the appropriate color, font types, and spacing that wireframes and prototypes typically have not refined. A bonus skill would be interaction design, which is providing guidance if an element on the screen changes when clicked or needs to move.
  • Credentials: A full portfolio of work, with plenty of examples of modern web designs. If not provided, ask about the decisions they made in the design

Front-End Development

  • Skills: Hand-coding a standards-based HTML/CSS website, with JavaScript interactions is no small feat. It is both an art and a science, especially if you consider adding requirements around mobile-ready and responsive websites.
  • Credentials: Examples of website and code. The focus should be on how clean the code is and (if it is a live website) how well the interactions work. You may need help from another web professional to determine if these are indeed true.

Back-End Development

  • Skills: Many websites interface with back-end systems, such as databases and mainframes. While this will not be nearly as common with smaller and simpler websites, you still may require this skillset from time to time. Even a content management system such as WordPress uses a database to store all of its content.
  • Credentials: Code examples will most likely not going to help you hire someone, but a resume with a suitable history of companies and projects will suffice. Also, I would suggest asking about their troubleshooting abilities; as often they have to fix complex problems or find work-arounds for difficult situations.

Search Engine Optimization

  • Skills: There are very specific rules and guidelines for creating good content with the proper HTML tags. Plus you also need to set up, configure, and track your progress using an analytics package. Lastly, creating reports that demonstrate the performance of your key conversion points is what will help inform various teams and leaders.
  • Credentials: A track record of success, with lists of projects and campaigns, plus reports and data to back it up.

Social Media Specialist

  • Skills: A firm grasp of how to use various social media platforms is a good first step, but working knowledge of the latest content formats, standards, and policies will put you over the top. Experience using tools that allow you to monitor multiple accounts, schedule postings, and track interactions is an added bonus.
  • Credentials: Ask for examples of how they have both grown the following of a particular platform, and increased interactions. Also, see what they know about typical demographics and audiences for each platform; and ask how they intend to approach each differently.

Copywriter / Content Specialist

  • Skills: In the end, content is still king of the web. It should be obvious that grammatically correct and properly spelled content comes first. However, writing for the web is a relatively new skill, and the ability to write condensed content that gets to the point quickly and effectively is a must.
  • Credentials: Ask for examples of content such as articles, summaries, instructional text, error messages, social media snippets, and emails.

Action Item

Well this is quite a long post, but I hope it helps you better understand a core listing of skills your website might need. If you are just starting out and have a basic installation of WordPress, maybe the development skills can wait. Also, understand that people will often have several of these skill groupings. Their titles may vary, but hopefully the skills they represent on their resume match what your church web team needs.

Author: Stephen Morrissey

I have been making websites since 1996, and using social media since 2006. My current profession is designing user experiences for corporate software, websites, and mobile applications. I started sharing my knowledge with the world in 2011, about a year after a revival in my faith.

2 thoughts on “Web Teams: Skills and Credentials”

  1. Hey Stephen, great article! This is a wonderful break down of roles!

    Since Web content now includes audio, video, images, infographics, etc., I'd suggest the Content Specialist would be separate from the Copywriter. And, I'd add a Content Writer role. The Copywriter writes text that's meant to promote, advertise or sell, whereas a Content Writer is primarily responsible for writing/editing text that's designed to inform, educate, and engage.

    The Content Specialist might be responsible for writing/editing text, but their tasks could also include creating and maintaining photo galleries, multimedia, video, etc. This role and the Web Designer should be skilled in Graphic Design. Actually, I'd even add Graphic Design as its own role. This visual problem-solver is skilled at using typography, color, and images to communicate ideas and concepts, visually. Depending on the project, producing Web graphics could be a full-time job.

    You know, a couple weeks ago, a young lady at my church asked me about the knowledge/experience requirements for being a "web designer". Actually, her mom encouraged her to talk to me. I think she'd tried telling her daughter that there was much more to modern Web design than she thought she knew, but her daughter was skeptical. Her daughter is studying "IT" in college, and assumed she'd be able to easily translate her "computer knowledge" into a side gig building websites.

    I could see I was slowly letting the air out of her expectations as I explained how Web technology has evolved to the point where the individual pieces and parts have now become more complex and specialized disciplines. I had to break the bad news that Wix and Squarespace are trying to sell a product. Building an EFFECTIVE website requires much more than the ability to point-and-click-and-drag-and-drop elements into a pre-designed template.

    I advised her to take one or two "Web Design Basics" courses, so she'd at least get an overview of the discipline. I hope she does. I think I'll share your post with her, too.

    1. Thank you very much for the input!

      Lately I come at this from a UX perspective, as my freelance design & coding days are pretty well behind me. I agree that these days it takes much more than a mild interest in websites and a copy of FrontPage to get into the field. While it's good to have some basic knowledge of HTML, many tools (like you mentioned) are creating very effective sites.

      And I cannot agree with you more in that creating effective content still has a lot of human involvement. Creating aesthetic graphics, engaging videos, and well-crafted text is still an art form machines have not yet mastered, Plus there are still a lot of opportunities in connecting an organization's strategic goals to website functionality. While it may not seem very technical, having that background in web technologies and empathy for the website users makes UX practioners very useful for years to come.

      Thank you again for posting and I wish her the best!

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