Embarrassing training gap for web writer/editors (ALA)

Professional web writers/editors are severely disadvantaged in terms of training compared with other web professionals. That's an inescapable conclusion from the latest report from A List Apart (ALA).

The Web Design Survey 2007 analyses statistics from 33,000 web professionals. That's an awful lot of data. ALA says this is the first data ever collected on the business of web design and development as practiced in the U.S. and worldwide.

The title of the report doesn't match the contents, because all kinds of web professionals completed the survey. (ALA intends to change the survey's name next year to reflect the reality of job titles among web professionals.)

Writer/editors comprise a teeny weeny itsy bitsy 1.2% of the 33,000 respondents. Actually, such writing specialists are a minority of the people who write intranet content and much web content too. However, designated web writer/editors are key people in any organisation's web team. They say they are as satisfied with their work as most. But outnumbered 98:1, I guess they feel a little lonely at times.

Web writer/editors are the least likely respondents (21.35% vs. overall 53.4%) to perceive their college education as having been relevant to their job. And they are also virtually the least likely to have participated in formal training for their job (48.2%).

Respondents were asked to indicate if they needed a set of skills for their web work, and, for each skill they did need, whether or not they had that skill. Writer/Editors stand out as the web professionals who most lack the skills they need, by their own testimony.

Percentage of writer/editors who say they need these skills, but lack them:

  • CSS skills: 47.2% (overall skill gap 22.5%)
  • Back end skills: 50.9% (overall skill gap 21.9%)
  • Front end skills: 56.9% (overall skill gap 24.1%)
  • Markup skills: 39.8% (overall skill gap 18.7%).

Here's my interpretation of these statistics, right or wrong.

Designated web writer/editors:

  • are perceived doing as soft, generic, easy, non-webby, non-technical tasks
  • come from a writing background, not a technical background
  • know they need to understand web technology in order to write appropriately
  • are overlooked when training in technical skills is offered
  • are overlooked when they could provide advice on things like search, metadata and writing templates.

Hear my cry! That's why we developed Contented courses. They are a bridge between traditional writing skills and the basic technical knowledge required by any web content writer nowadays. With serious discounts for groups, our web-based training is designed to solve precisely these problems.

Rachel McAlpine
Rachel McAlpine


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