One big aspect of my work profile lies in a very strange intersection between a variety of skills. It’s not quite a tech position, but it isn’t quite marketing either. The skills get given a variety of names; employers use a variety of job titles for it. However, the best name I have for it is web authoring. Web authoring is a strange hybrid sort of skill to have. One part designer, one part copywriter, and one part programmer, this role can seem very daunting, both to break into and to describe to those outside the community. Today, let’s talk a bit about this sort of role and how to break into the web authoring field.
What is Web Authoring?
Techopedia describes web authoring as “the practice of creating web documents using modern web authoring software and tools.” A common example of web authoring is making a WordPress or Drupal based website. You are making a website using a content management system (CMS). Occasionally you will need to use HTML or CSS to modify the website’s layout to meet your needs. You may also need to explain to others how different parts of the website structure work together. You are writing content for the site, using marketing and search engine optimization (SEO) best practices to convey your message in the best way possible, while also managing the design and formatting of the page, accounting for user experience and interface.
This hybrid meeting place of several roles has been around for a while, and it’s not going away any time soon. The rise of low- or no-code platforms mean that more and more individuals are going to become jack-of-all-trades website creators.
How to Train in Web Authoring
This is a complicated question, because everyone who approaches web authoring comes into it from a different position to start. However, I can go over some baseline skills you will likely need for this position and some ways to train in them.
HTML and CSS for Basic Website Coding
Just because you are likely going to be working in a content management system doesn’t mean you can escape from basic website coding skills. Take some time to learn the very basics of HTML and CSS. I highly recommend W3Schools as a resource for learning to make websites. Glitch is a great place to test your sites as you make them. Between these two, you should be able to get a basic understanding of both languages, enough to make a very simple website.
At Least One CMS
If you don’t already have experience making a website using a content management system, now is the time to make one. WordPress.com will let you make and host basic sites for free. Drupal is also a popular CMS if you want to delve into that. More exist, so do some research and pick one you think you want to learn. From there, make a basic website. A personal resume or portfolio site is always a great place to start. Learn how the CMS works, how to format things, and how to push the limits of the framework. If you can use one CMS, you can likely transfer the skills to another.
Any Basic Graphics Program
Canva and Adobe Express are both easy to use, free web based image creation and editing programs. Ideally you should be able to reformat images quickly and with as little loss of quality as possible. If you want to go above and beyond, learn some super basic video editing as well. Shotcut usually will do the trick and runs on just about any platform.
Writing for Marketing and Accessibility
Now is the time to brush up on your writing skills. If you have no background in marketing, I highly recommend learning the basics of search engine optimization (SEO). This is highly sought after, so I recommend you know the basics. Learning some basic marketing tactics will mean you can hold your own in a conversation with others you are working with. Knowing how to make a website accessible is always important as well. There are lots of ways to go about learning these things, so do some research. If you have a WordPress site, I highly recommend the plugin Yoast SEO. Over time, my writing has improved to better match the standards it sets without having to go back and edit my work later.
Marketable Career Skills
While this is a valuable skill set to have, being able to market your web authoring skills can be tricky. Job descriptions that match this sort of skill set are often labeled in one of three areas: design, programming, or copy writing. In reality, this job requires skills from all three. For some, this is a valuable skill set to launch a freelance career. If you are looking for a more traditional position, however, I suggest you look for the following:
- Positions that mention a content management system such as WordPress or Drupal. WYSIWYG site management systems supply the framework that lets a web author avoid needing heavy knowledge of code.
- Positions that talk about needing to “design, develop, author, and manage” websites. This covers the full range of skills you would want to find.
- Positions that mention writing and design for business or marketing needs, accessibility and user experience.
A good chunk of being able to find web authoring positions is learning the variety of names companies will label this position as. I’ve seen varieties of titles from “web production specialist” to “web content specialist.”
At the start, I would recommend picking at least one of these subsets of skills to delve into. All require regular retraining to stay up to date on the latest changes, but they can greatly advance your personal skill set.
If one of these skills is something you adamantly do not like to do, it is something to ask about in potential interviews. For example, I am not a fan of creating complex images. Something basic like resizing an image? Sure. However, I am not a graphic design expert nor a photographer. As such, I will avoid those types of positions. Unless you ask, you might not realize until you are hired that an employer assumes that task will fall under your position. With such a jumbled skill set to pull from, it’s important to be clear upfront.
The Future of Web Authoring
The United States job market for web designers is expected to increase by 8% through 2029, bringing tens of thousands of new positions every year. While the skill set required to get into web authoring is nebulous, and sometimes rather large, it is a very flexible role that often can be self-taught. It is well suited to remote or hybrid work setups, and is very rewarding if done well. If you are interested in this field, I wish you the best of luck and all the success. I can’t wait to see your website out there in the world.