Last week on Twitter, @mycmgr asked its followers whether basic skills in HTML and/or CSS could be a deciding factor between two otherwise equal applicants to a community manager position. The majority of the Twitter responses stated what I myself concluded: that it really depended on the hiring organization and its needs. But at the same time, this very topic is something I have strong feelings about.
[Left Image (Click to Zoom In)]: Screenshot Of Responses For Reference.
I’ll say two things up front.
First, I love web design. So I’m all for people learning – at least – HTML and CSS. (HTML is used today for structure of a website: for example, to set off text in paragraphs, headlines, and so on. It is also used to define certain areas of the page. CSS is used to define the design: what fonts are used, colors of certain areas, among other things.)
Second, I do not expect anyone to know everything about everything.
If your experience is in online media and community engagement, I do not necessarily expect you to be able to program an iOS application, for example. Yes, it is true that you do not necessarily need to know the history of the tools you use or what goes on behind the scenes in order to use them. Many of us can drive cars just fine without knowing what’s under the hood. But to continue the car analogy, those of us who drive also know how to top up the gas tank, to check the oil, to check tire pressure, wash windows, possibly to change tires. We may enlist someone else to actually change the oil, or to change our tires, but we are expected to have an idea of who we can talk to for those services. We are not expected to be able to diagnose exactly what goes wrong under the hood, but simple maintenance work we are expected to do.
Knowing HTML/CSS in the context of community management is a bit like being in a car, to a certain extent. We may not be specialists, we may not be web developers. But look around and you’ll see simple HTML tags in many places: forums, for example, use HTML tags as optional formatting, as do blog systems (WordPress, Blogger). If you become interested in how to use it together with CSS (CSS is for design/layout, HTML determines the structure), there are many free tutorials and resources out there (i.e. CodeAcademy.com). You do not necessarily need a program like Adobe Dreamweaver just to get started, but Dreamweaver is industry standard for web designers and does make the designing process easier. Once you are comfortable with HTML and CSS, you have more control over how any website content management systems (WordPress, Drupal, for example) present your words.
You may not be a web developer, but knowing a bit about good practice may also help build a rapport with any web developers you do work with. In fact, I would go as far as to advise reading up on web design practices: even if you do not play with HTML/CSS, learning about how people view websites and what their eyes are drawn to will impact how your community engages with your organization’s online presence. Again, these are transferable skills that you can use in other related fields, and last I checked the willingness to learn is always highly valued whether or not you are a community manager.
Do you have any questions, comments or feedback? I’m sure you do! Please feel free to leave responses below. Thank you.
Don’t forget to register for the Chicago Community Manager UNconference on February 24, 2012.
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