Archive | September, 2010

Life, the Universe and Websites

30 Sep

Ever had one of those moments in life where you think “what have I actully done up until now?” You know when a sense of panic kicks in as you begin to go through the mental check list of things to do before I turn 30 and realise that you missed half the list and you are about to turn 40.

Before hurling myself down the path towards becoming a web professional, I had a very similar experience. While it wasn’t turning 40, it was just before a milestone birthday. Waking up one morning I came to the realisation, I hated the job I was in. Sure we all have these moments and most of the time we brush them aside and get back to the grind. For me though this morning was different.

By  the time I finally got out of bed I had a plan of attack. Go back to study and start building on skills and experiences I have developed over the last few years and, start looking for work in the area I wanted to move into: web development.

As luck would have it, not one month into my new life plan, a role in online at my then employer materialised giving me the opportunity to move into the online space immediately. Can you believe it? From this point on my eyes and mind were opened as I was exposed to new concepts, ideas, process and skills. I began to soak up all the information I could both formally and informally. I drew on my own previous experiences and extrapolated that to my current role and slowly I started to understand what it really took to build a website.

Building a website isn’t the hardest thing in the world to do. In fact, with a little patience and persistence anybody can learn HTML and CSS and pull together a few pages of content. Building a great website though, that takes time and team of people coming together with their own unique skills and ideas.

This is something I have discovered along my journey thus far, and the further along I travel, the more I want to share about what I have learned, specifically what I have learned about being a producer. For me now, writing about building websites and the role of the Online Producer allows me to express my thoughts and ideas, encouraging me to explore what I do, look at it in different ways and learn new things.

So this is my career path now, fortunately it’s something I really enjoy and although I am still cutting my teeth, it’s something I have found I am pretty good at. Of course there is still lots to learn and what better way to learn than by sharing my thoughts and opening up a dialogue with those who feel the same way as me.

I getz da mad skillz

28 Sep

Trying to tie down one particular skill set an Online Producer should be focused on is, at the best of times, difficult.

Often described as a “Jack-of-all-trades-and-master-of-none“, the producer needs to be across; development, design, usability, content, marketing and more, and more often than not, all at the same time.

This requirement for breadth of knowledge can lead to producers having broad but shallow pools of knowledge. Although this is not a failure as a producer,  Josh Hatch, Interactive Director at USA Today points out in the video below, there are ways to offset the limits in a producers skill set.

While Hatch is coming more from the content creator definition of producing, the concept sill stands. Build your knowledge across a wide range of areas, work on plugging your gaps and most importantly, add some depth to at least one area of expertise.

While taking this approach won’t solve all problems, it is a right step forward to helping the producer better manage projects and deliver the end results.

Content vs Production

21 Sep

There is a common misconception with the job title of Online Producer, that is  many people see the idea of the Online Producer as the creator of the content. In fact, if you look at Wikipedia’s definition for an Online Producer, you will see a lot of talk about web editors, content creation, journalism and the like. While I don’t deny the Online Producer is indeed closely linked to a sites  content, the role of Online Producer is not so much around the creation of content, or even the management of content.

But don’t producers make stuff?

Some of the confusion probably stems from the actual word producer. When most people think of the word producer, they can jump one of two ways: That of creator of content or television/film producer.Personally I prefer the latter of the two.

When attempting to explain the producer part of my title to friends, family or random people on the street, I align the role to that of a television/film producer; organising, coordinating, budgeting, “making sure stuff gets done”. Richard Rutter extends this analogy well on his about page at Clagnut.com, further positioning the Online Producer as a director of sorts for a website.

So now your a Online Director?

Just as in Rutter’s example, the Online Producer producer should have an understanding of the content and how this content is best presented to the user. An excellent Online Producer will have an innate understanding the content and how it works on the page for the user. So really it’s not about content vs production as a producer, it’s about content as part of the production which is something that is all too often forgotten when building websites.

Career Development

18 Sep

When I first started out I was clueless to the career and development path of an Online Producer. Over time I have gained a good understanding of the common producer team structure and development path. While the below structure is probably the most common, it’s by no means the be-all-or-end-all.

Associate Online Producer (Junior / Entry Level)
The Associate Online Producer is generally tasked with supporting more senior team members on projects or handling business-as-usual (BAU) tasks such as uploading or maintaining site content.

Online Producer (Mid Level)
Depending on experience the Online Producer will manage small to medium projects and campaigns. At this level the Online Producer may be responsible for whole sections of a site, helping maintain content and developing online strategy for stakeholders.

Senior Online Producer (Senior Level)
Sometimes seen as Online Project Managers, the Senior Online Producer is responsible for delivering larger site wide and standalone projects plus help develop online strategy. Senior Online Producers generally work end-t0-end and will deal directly with all the associated teams and client.

Executive Producer (Senior Level)
Responsible for the overall team, the Executive Online Producer is less a hands on and more administrative in nature reporting to senior management on team performance. The Executive Producer will also help develop and deliver a business’s overall online strategy.

You will find this structure or variants of in both large and small business’s. If you do work in a different structure to the above please feel free to share below.

It’s Really About Communication

12 Sep

Web Producer, Digital Producer, Online Producer no matter what you want to call it, they all do the same role. Depending on the business or industry there are always going to be discrepancies and variations on responsibilities, but at the end of the day the Online Producer is all about ensuring the smooth development and day to day running of a website.

With the above in mind, when people ask me what the hell does an Online Producer actually do, I tend to describe the role as the grease on the gears, working with a range of people across multiple teams from development to design to analytics to usability, translating the clients idea into web speak and the teams vision back into something the client can understand.

Communicate, communicate, communicate

So when you really get down to the nuts and bolts; to me being an Online Producer is not just about managing the process of building websites, it’s about communication with a disparate group of people and making sure there vision is aligned and they are all working to the one common goal. I know this is really just one aspect of the role, but to me it is integral to the role. Let me know below if you agree.

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