What Is a Webmaster?

The duties and responsibilities of a web developer

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The web design industry is full of various job roles and titles. One title you may run across from time to time is a "Webmaster". While this job title is certainly a product of years gone by, it is still actually used by many people. So what exactly does a "Webmaster" do? Let's take a look!

Part of a Larger Team

For the sake of example, we'll say we're part of a six-person Web Development team. That team is made up of two web Engineers, a Graphic Artist, an assistant Webmaster intern, a Web Producer, and ourselves, the Webmaster. For the most part, everyone does a little of everything on the team, which is fairly common in the web design industry. You will certainly wear a lot of hats if you work as a web professional! However, while we may all have skills that cross over into each other, we also all have specialties that we focus on. The engineers specialize in CGI programming, the graphic artist on graphics and visual design, and the producer on content development. So what does that leave for the Webmaster? Quite a bit actually!


As a Webmaster, we don't have as strong a focus on any of the aforementioned areas, but rather spend a lot of our time doing all three. About 20% of our time is spent maintaining the existing site. New offers and aspects of our site are going up all the time, the focus of the site is sometimes rethought, improved graphics are created which require changes to multiple parts of the site, etc. All of these changes are ongoing and they each require that someone has a good idea of where the site is going, and what items fit where. As a Webmaster, we need to see the big picture and how all the pieces fit today and tomorrow.

Webmasters need to have a grasp of HTML, CSS, Javascript, and any other code that the site uses. They need to understand how that code will work in major browsers as well as on many devices that are on the market today. Just keeping up with device changes can be a daunting task, but it is part of the role as a Webmaster.


Another 30-50% of our time is spent on project development. We create and maintain CGIs for the site, and so we have to know C programming. Many sites use Perl as their scripting language, but our company chose C because we felt it was more flexible in the long term. Different sites will use different code bases or platforms — you may even use an off-the-shelf package like an eCommerce platform or CMS. Regardless of what you use, programming against that platform will likely be a big chunk of the Webmaster's time.


One favorite activity for Webmasters may be new page/application development. Here, you have to do development both from scratch and from work other people have done. It is not simply coming up with an idea and putting it up but also making sure it fits in the scheme of the whole site and doesn't work against other information already up there. Once again, you need to see the big picture and how everything goes together.

Depending on how busy they are, you will give the graphic development to our assistant Webmaster or to the Graphic Designer, but you will sometimes do some of the graphic development as well. This requires being familiar with Adobe Photoshop and (less so) with Illustrator. You may also use tools to animate graphics, do 3D modeling, scan photos, and do some freehand drawing. As you can see, as a Webmaster, you really are a Jack-of-All-Trades.

Server Maintenance

We have an operations team that is devoted to keeping our web server machines up and running. One of the two web-engineers also does work on maintaining the servers themselves. We work as backup in that position. We keep the server up and running, add new MIME-types, check the server load, and make sure that there are no obvious problems.

Release Engineer

The last major duty that we have on our example, six-person team is as the Release Engineer. We develop and run the scripts that move our web pages from the development server to the production server. We also maintain the source code control system to prevent bugs from entering into the code or HTML.

These are just some of the responsibilities that are a part of the role as a Webmaster. Depending on your site or the company you work for, yours may be a bit different. One thing that is likely to be consistent, however, is that if a site does have a Webmaster (and not all do these days), that person is the authority on the site. They know how it works, the history of the site and code, the environment it runs on, and more. If someone in the organization has a question about the website, a great place to start to find that answer is with the Webmaster.