Online Presence: Hire Help or Do-It-Yourself?

If you have never fully developed a web site, you may have the impression that it is super simple or daunting. Neither is necessarily true for you. It depends on the choices you make in building a team.

Here are the roles that need to be filled for a fully functioning, successful, online branch office, integrated with social media. How many of these roles do you already have the skills to do? Which would you like to learn in order to complete your web project? In the real world application of these roles, it is most useful to think of them as hats that people wear, rather than as specific people or positions to fill.

Planning, Strategy, and Design:

  • Project Management: This role is crucial to keep the project organized and moving, as well as to keep all the different team members communicating and addressing details and questions. Project management is sometimes tackled by someone filling another role. The other roles might be web designer, copy writer, online business strategist, or usability specialist.
  • Online Business Strategist/Web Analyst: This role is helpful when you are not sure the best path or system for your businesses needs. As a business analyst specializing in online solutions, this person can explain how various solutions could meet your business needs and provide a return on your investment. Unfortunately, many web design firms do not have anyone in this role. Instead they recommend their favorite way to do things to you as the best way to do things. Be sure to ask if they have a particular method or software that they always use and their reasons for doing so. Then you can decide if their reasons are aligned with your business needs.
  • Social Media Strategist: This role is similar to the Online Business Strategist, with a more narrow focus on growing and troubleshooting the businesses social media presence. Social media strategist is sometimes filled by someone filling another role. The other roles might be copy writer or online business strategist.
  • Business Subject Matter Expert (SME – commonly pronounced “smee”): The subject is the business. The role of SME can be filled by anyone who deeply understands the nature of your particular business and the needs of your potential clients. Most often this is the founder or combination of administrative and directors.
  • Information Architect (IA): This role takes care of organizing all the information into easy to use and understand navigation and hierarchy. Information architecture is often tackled by someone filling another role. The other roles might be web designer, copy writer, online business strategist, or usability specialist.
  • Graphic Designer: This role often handles the creation and production of primary branding files and printed materials, such as logo, business cards, signage, logo use documentation and more. Only some designers are both graphic designers and web designers. It is inappropriate to automatically expect someone called a graphic designer to also have the full skill set required for web design. Graphic design is rooted in solid, hard and fast environments, like print, signs, banners, t-shirts, coffee mugs and more. Even if someone lists web design on their site, they may have only done the graphics and none of the CSS coding necessary to actually apply the design to the site. Some will have specific programmers they call upon to apply the design, others will expect you to find that person.
  • Web Designer: This role usually handles both the design and application of the design to the website. This often means they have the same foundations as a graphic designer, but without the expertise for building files for production printing. Instead, when called a web designer, it implies the person has experience and knowledge designing specifically for the liquid, flexible environment of the Internet. It is also common for a web designer to specialize in other roles that influence the design, such as the aesthetic, usability, or programming.
  • Usability Specialist: This role has a keen eye to making your website easy to use and work well for the people who you want to attract and actually use the web site in every aspect, from speed to button size and placement, to proper coding information organization. Usability is often tackled by someone filling another role, like web designer, online business strategist, or programmer.
  • Programming: This role varies depending upon the system you are using and the need for custom work. Some can manage the project, and many cannot, they need you to do that. They need the technical specs from someone who speaks their language to get the job done.

Content Generation and Management:

  • Copy Writer: Copy is the word used for this kind of text. This role can take care of any writing on behalf of the business, including web pages, blog posts, tweets, photo captions, ads, brochures, and more. This role requires a clear understanding of the company voice.
  • Copy Editor: It is really important that someone other than the copy writer reviews the writing for errors. Content accuracy can be reviewed by the SME and maybe the project manager. Grammar and spelling can be reviewed by anyone with appropriate skills in English and a clear understanding of the company voice.
  • Online Copy Optimizer: This role makes sure that the content online is written for the way people use (not read) the internet. Studies show that people scan and skim web pages, and only read after they have discovered a compelling reason to do so. The optimizer makes sure that pages are easy to scan or skim to get the salient points. This is accomplished with properly breaking up long paragraphs, using lists as much as possible, starting the page with the conclusion, and using proper headings to outline the content. Only after all that is done, is it appropriate to add bold or italics to a phrase. Online Copy Optimizer is sometimes filled by someone filling another role. The other roles might be usability specialist or web designer.
  • SEO Specialist: This role handles keyword research, writing titles and editing content to optimize every page in the site for search engines. SEO Specialist is sometimes filled by someone filling another role. The other roles might be copy writer or online business strategist.
  • Photographer: This role is strictly taking well lit, well-composed photos according to specifications in a photo plan, which is often created by the project manager or designer, in collaboration with the SME.
  • Photo Editor: The photo editing might be done by the photographer, although that is unlikely, unless they are accustomed to editing for the web. Much of the editing normally done for portraits is overkill online because the images are smaller and lower resolution. Most often the photo editing is done by the web designer to ensure proper sizing and resolution.
  • Webmaster: This maintenance role is usually only involved after the site is built. The person in this role is expected to know how to use your web site’s system and make appropriate changes to content using proper heading assignments. They are not expected to know how to change the system. Usually HTML and CSS writing skills are the most that is required, and sometimes those are not even necessary.
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