Web Manager teaches site skills

Randy Eltringham, a program analyst who supervises Web site content for the Office of Military Community and Family Policy at the Defense Department, made some changes to the site after learning that major search engines overlook links labeled “click here” when scouring the Internet.

Links need to identify the content they lead to for search engines to correctly list the pages in search results, she said. She learned that principle at a workshop she recently attended that kicked off a new semester at the Web Manager University.

The university, a General Services Administration effort, is a comprehensive, multidisciplinary training program for managers responsible for Web content. It attracted more than 500 Web managers in its first semester earlier this year.

Sheila Campbell, senior content manager for FirstGov at GSA, said she expects as many as 1,000 participants this semester. This fall will be the Web Manager University’s second semester. It previously was known as the Usability University until Web Manager University began in 2005.

The program was created to help federal Web managers learn about the latest Web trends. Citizens go to government Web sites frequently to get all sorts of information.

Experts say citizens’ expectations are high, and they will only be more demanding as they become more Internet-savvy. Agencies must meet their demands, and as authorities on information, agencies are held to an even higher standard.

The program offers two-hour seminars and one- and two-day courses on topics such as Web content and information architecture, Web governance, Web analytics, usability and design, Web marketing, and search engines.

“We’re not just giving people theory. We give them really practical tools,” Campbell said. John Lewis Needham, strategic partner and development manager at Google, is one of several Internet search experts who coached content managers on tools to improve their sites. He addressed about 220 of them Sept. 19 at the Government Web Managers Workshop, the one Eltringham attended to learn about improved links.

Campbell said the program is hands-on and practical. Content managers learn from one another. “We’re all in the same boat,” she said.

Susanne Brunhart Wiggins, an information technology specialist at the Montgomery County, Md., Division of Solid Waste Services, said local governments wrestle with the same issues that federal agencies do. She has attended several courses, and with two other colleagues, she has applied those lessons by creating a Web content working group for local government.

Making the grade at Web Manager UniversityWeb Manager University is a training program that focuses on the responsibilities of managing government Web sites. It has six course tracks:

  • User-centered design, usability and accessibility

  • Web management and governance

  • Web content and information architecture

  • Search engines

  • Marketing your Web site

  • Web site evaluation and Web metrics

  • Fees
    Two-hour seminars: $30 per seminar for government and nongovernment participants.

    One-day courses:$200 per course for federal, state or local government employees; $300 for nongovernment participants.

    Two-day courses: $400 per course for federal, state or local government employees; $600 for nongovernment participants.

    Webinars: Free

    The university is open to federal, state and local employees who work on government Web sites. Contractors and other nongovernment professionals can also attend trainings.

    — Webcontent.gov

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