How to Hire a Webmaster

How to size up and select a webmaster who can keep your site one step ahead.
Magazine Contributor
3 min read

This story appears in the March 2011 issue of . Subscribe »

In the web's early days, knowledge of HTML and an eye for graphics were all a webmaster needed to succeed. Now, a top-notch webmaster must be a jack-of-all-trades, excelling in server and application programming, graphics design, e-mail marketing, media development, site security, social media integration and more.

Here's what you should be looking for in an outstanding webmaster:

A diverse portfolio demonstrating knowledge and skills in visual design, web graphics and programming.

Knowledge of standards, technologies and tools. The ideal webmaster knows what is possible and required to implement certain features, but also knows that the latest and greatest craze may not be suitable for a specific company or client.

Efficiency. Webmasters who really know their trade build sites more efficiently. They may cost more per hour or charge a higher retainer, but if they accomplish more per hour and deliver on schedule, you save money.

Does your webmaster have the right stuff?
When considering candidates to manage your website, check for the following:

Positive references or testimonials from previous clients.

Diverse portfolio that proves an ability to build an attractive site and implement the features you need, such as secure e-commerce, user registration, automated technical support.

SEO results of existing sites. How do other sites managed by the webmaster rank in comparison with competing sites?

Performance of existing sites. Check other sites the webmaster has designed using tools like Page Speed or YSlow for the Mozilla Firefox browser.

Total cost. Hourly rates are a poor comparison. Compare cost per page or total cost of a project or engagement comparable to yours.

Project management expertise. Rarely does a single individual possess all the knowledge and skills required. On large, complex sites, a webmaster is primarily a project manager who works closely with designers, programmers, writers, editors, artists and others.

Social media savvy. Your website is just a start. Establishing a strong brand presence online requires a blog and a following on social networking venues. Since webmasters today surely will be involved with the technical requirements of these once ancillary areas, they must possess a working knowledge and proficiency in these areas.

Comfort and confidence in serving as a vendor. Assuming you know what you want to do from a marketing perspective, your webmaster's job is to execute the plan, not spend the bulk of their time trying to persuade you otherwise. You or your marketing or corporate communications department should have the final say in decisions related to branding, site design and copy.

Expertise in developing non-web templates, such as those for e-newsletters and e-mail marketing materials using third-party marketing platforms such as iContact, MailChimp and Constant Contact.

Ability to configure servers and to host sites, unless you have your own IT department for managing the servers.

Responsiveness. At the very least, your webmaster must acknowledge all of your requests in a timely manner or have a help desk environment that captures, organizes, schedules and reports on request submissions.

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