When I applied to be an intern with the Digital Communications Department here at Mary Washington, I didn’t know what I was getting into. Running such a large website comes with more problems than I could imagine, and I had no idea the amount of work it takes to keep everything up to date and functioning correctly every day. Add in building a new website from scratch as well (to be launched right before fall semester starts) and I had a lot of learning to do!
Because I was an intern and have no actual skills or expertise in web design, I was tasked with mostly what we could call grunt work. This makes it sound dumb and like a waste of time, but all of it was absolutely necessary. If the other interns and I hadn’t been able to help, everything would have gone much slower. We primarily did a lot of fact-checking. In order to make sure the website is up to date, you have to ask the people who know! The computer can only do so much in catching errors; human eyes are needed to look critically at information and know what is outdated, what is incorrect, what is confusing to read. So while the official employees were designing and testing the layout of the new site, making big decisions about appearance and content organization, we interns were making sure that the content that got put into that site would be correct and easy to read.
The work of a website administrator is never done, because tons of new content is being added every day. It all needs to be checked for clarity and usefulness, and it also has to be in the right place. This means you need someone looking at every single page on the site for errors. A lot of the time that was me. While other interns worked on the new directory, which has the job title and contact information of everyone employed by UMW, I went through several departments’ sites individually, and took notes on what was broken, misspelled, outdated, or just plain confusing. This took a long time and could get very frustrating, but it will help the content creators of those departments create new content that is more accessible for users, which makes it all worth it in my book.