We’re in a transition in the web world. In smaller organizations, there is a growing desire for fuller site management and creative control of web sites.
The old guard of the work world that existed in the first thirty years of the web is moving on. Smaller staff organizations are being enabled with new hires that want to have more control of the site.
I suspect it will have some pretty rocky spots. Because, while the expertise needed to make a website successful has been expanding during the whole Web era, the knowledge at the smaller organization client level has been generally growing at a much slower rate. This is not a knock on smaller organizations. This is just the result of the web being huge and diffused and expanding, and smaller organizations being finite and having priorities.
This is going to continue, but there’s a very weak link in the WordPress ecosystem that currently isn’t serving this transition very well. Basically, web site clients can’t look at their web support as including web design training and full website management, at least not at this time. There needs to be better options for fuller WordPress and web management teaching going forward for the small organization client level.
So how do we deal with this? If designers design and developers develop, who teaches these skills to an expanding workforce? It’s not necessarily the skill of the hired designers and developers. Their current job is to design a successful site for the viewing audience and for the client, and to make it manageable for the client. The specifics within that job description can vary, but it probably shouldn’t be teaching how to design pages on the fly beyond the constructs of the existing design. After all, in the WordPress world, they will need to work with themes and plugins and pages/posts and be cognizant of a variety of different standards, some site-based and some industry environment based, that impact the success of the web site. They have to understand about security and Google and server environments, at least a little. There’s no way that they can replicate the knowledge and experience of a 10 year web developer, but do they know when they are trying to do so?
Sometimes. Not usually. It’s a growing issue. We need to figure out how to raise the knowledge level of the average small organization web site client.
Maybe the first thing to do is for the web designer/developer community to frame the situation appropriately and understandably for all involved. Part of that is still going to take work from designers/developers who maintain sites. Providing clients a more precise definition of what is and isn’t part of continuing web site support is probably necessary at this point. Along with that should come some explanations of the breadth of knowledge needed in various areas that are NOT covered in that web support, without hyperbole or monotony. Of course, that is going to lead to the inevitable questions of where and how they can get that knowledge.
I don’t personally feel there’s a good this-answer-fits-all for that question now and I don’t expect it to happen in the near future, either. It depends, on the client, the web site, the audiences for the web site, and most importantly the person(s) responsible to get this knowledge. Currently, everyone does what works for their own business model. Products will provide training on products. But who provides education on what products and software is needed? News organizations provide technology news, but it generally is based on what will draw eyeballs (and revenue).
There’s a lot of gaps in the web knowledge ecosystem. Who is taking a look at this? At some point, the working world is going to have to look at expecting an evolving wisdom of how the Internet works as a mandatory business skill. Not necessarily a skill all employees should have, but one that all online organizations should have. As the workforce generation transition continues, it seems like that time is now.