Basic HTML Knowledge of New Employees
April 19, 2011 11:10 AM   Subscribe

Is it unreasonable to expect most knowledge workers entering the job market today to have basic HTML knowledge?

I'm the Web Content Manager at a very large DC based non-profit. I manage our CMS from a support standpoint, train & supports users, and help develop new websites/relaunches (we have about a dozen websites which we constantly work on).

I'm 29 years old. I've worked at my current job for 3 years now, and 1 year previous at another non-profit. As the years pass, I see more and more people hired by HR who, as a part of their job, need work use various web based applications which, while they may have a WYSIWYG, it is really necessary that they have some basic HTML knowledge. Few, if any, do.

Am I crazy for thinking that these people should have at least a passing experience with HTML in at least one of their college courses they had to take in university? Am I just being lazy for getting sick of having to train person after person what a "P" tag <> is?

FWIW, this is my first post ever on Metafilter after lurking for years. Thanks in advance for the feedback.
posted by tuzy2k to Work & Money (95 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Why would they have used HTML? Have they taken web design courses? The whole point of the rise of WYSIWYG tools is to make it easy for people to publish to the web without having to use HTML.

I know many professionals (and college students) who routinely work with web tools (including publishing content to our website through the CMS) and WYSIWYG editors who wouldn't know a paragraph tag if it punched them in the face, because they have had no need to use it.
posted by kellygrape at 11:15 AM on April 19, 2011 [3 favorites]

Yes, I beleive this is unreasonable. I am just a bit older than you and neither I nor most of my comptratiots, older or younger, know how to do basic HTML. I wouldn't say you were lazy neccesarily, but it seems like it would be smarter to just develop an HTML guide. I have a master's in non. profit administration and never in any non profits I've worked for, needed to use HTML. Ever.

Make your guide or use something like Contribute and quit your whining.
posted by stormygrey at 11:16 AM on April 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Not unreasonable at all. That sort of stuff is Computer 101, with word processing and spreadsheets.
posted by unixrat at 11:17 AM on April 19, 2011 [4 favorites]

No, you're not being unreasonable. (I'm 37, since we're sharing ages.)
posted by entropicamericana at 11:18 AM on April 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

I got an entire Computer Science degree and at no time did I formally learn any HTML. And while I have a pretty decent command of basic tags, I actually never use the P tag - I manually insert BRs for linebreaks - so if you expected me to correctly use them, I'd just get it wrong.

So, yeah, it's definitely unreasonable. HTML awareness is common but not a fair assumption if you're hiring people for skillsets that don't relate directly to web development.
posted by Tomorrowful at 11:19 AM on April 19, 2011 [20 favorites]

But HTML is easy. Seriously, I learned HTML on my own just to make messing with our awful WYSIWYG system a bit easier. Or do you mean CSS? I don't really think it's reasonable to expect CSS from people who haven't had any particular reason to learn it, although it's also not that difficult. Train them on the job!
posted by Frowner at 11:20 AM on April 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

Am I crazy for thinking that these people should have at least a passing experience with HTML in at least one of their college courses they had to take in university?

Maybe they had a course that used HTML rather than WYSIWYG. Maybe they actually paid attention in that course, instead of just cramming to pass the tests. Maybe they still remember the basic info. Lots of maybes in there.
posted by smackfu at 11:20 AM on April 19, 2011

No, NOT computer 101. I've taught the equivalent of Computer 101 and along with word processing and spreadsheets, we show them how to make webpages using WYSIWYG programs (dreamweaver, NVU,etc). Believe me...students needing to be in a Computer 101 level course are not people that generally make the leap to HTML.
posted by ejazen at 11:20 AM on April 19, 2011 [12 favorites]

Definitely unreasonable.
posted by Perplexity at 11:21 AM on April 19, 2011 [7 favorites]

That sort of stuff is Computer 101

And yet I was one of only 20 (out of 400) students in my high school Web Design class in 2001 - most kids took typing instead. And I never had an Excel or Word class in 16 years of schooling.

It's really not that hard to learn or to teach on the job.
posted by muddgirl at 11:21 AM on April 19, 2011

My college's required computer skills course consisted of learning the basics of Word, PowerPoint, and Excel. The extent of my HTML knowledge (which isn't much) comes from being a geeky, web-obsessed teenager. I can't imagine why anyone who didn't major in computer programming would have a built-in knowledge of HTML out of the gate just because they have a college degree.
posted by litnerd at 11:22 AM on April 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

I don't think you're being totally unreasonable. But at a previous job, I was the only person on our team (knowledge management) who knew how to write HTML. A few others had no experience whatsoever, and some knew "basic" HTML.

I found it useful to write a document (posted in our CMS) for my team. It was constantly updated, and it covered HTML basics and practices that specifically related to the KM tools we were using at the time.
posted by methroach at 11:23 AM on April 19, 2011

I'm going to go with "Should be reasonable, sounds reasonable, but is actually unreasonable."
posted by valkyryn at 11:23 AM on April 19, 2011 [27 favorites]

If you're hiring computer scientists or IT people, then, no, you're not being unreasonable. Otherwise, yes, that is an unreasonable expectation. It's not offered in most basic computer classes graduates have to take for other degrees, and I've never met anyone outside of people who like to build web pages that learned any on their own for fun. It's like changing your oil - it's not hard, but if you've never had a car, why would you know how to do it?
posted by wending my way at 11:24 AM on April 19, 2011 [5 favorites]

You're being unreasonable. I graduated from grad school in 2007 (not in a CS related field, but most of my classmates went on to work at government or nonprofit jobs). I don't think I know anyone who knows any HTML unless they need it for work or I personally taught it to them. I didn't learn it in school, either; I picked it up on my own.
posted by desjardins at 11:24 AM on April 19, 2011

I was required to take a computer class for undergrad (although it got as advanced as "how to use the internet" in the late 90s), but my current college does not require a computer class of students. It's fully possible that they leave not knowing basic html code, but instead have some more advanced skills within like data analysis or something similar.
posted by bizzyb at 11:24 AM on April 19, 2011

Correction: I don't think I know anyone IN REAL LIFE who knows any HTML... (mefites don't count)
posted by desjardins at 11:25 AM on April 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Just a follow-up to add more clarification - out of our 276 employees, as a part of their job, 90% of them must post content into one of our internal or external facing web apps on a daily basis and they continually struggle with WYSIWYG editor in formatting their content in the way they want it to appear. Most of their content formatting is non-complex (they're simply trying to make a link, edit bullet points, bold some text) but due to the nature of how horrible most WYSIWYG editors are, their content constantly gets mis-formatted. If they would simply do it within HTML, it would be much easier.

To answer some suggestions about documentation/guide - I have done so but found it's fairy ineffective. After bitter experience, they wont learn it unless I teach it to them directly. They generally ignore the documentation/guide and end up calling me once they screw things up. After investigating I find that, most of the time, they ignored the material I gave them to read.
posted by tuzy2k at 11:27 AM on April 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

After your follow-up, I think your problem is you're not hiring quick learners or even motivated ones. Sounds like you have the type of people who want to click a button, but never care to know why.
posted by valeries at 11:29 AM on April 19, 2011 [8 favorites]

I think the question needs to be broken up.

1: Is it reasonable to expect that someone who has just graduated with a CS or equivalent degree knows HTML? No, not at all.

2: Is it reasonable to expect that someone looking for a position that requires working with CMS knows HTML? YES.
posted by babbageboole at 11:32 AM on April 19, 2011 [10 favorites]

Sounds like basic HTML training needs to be part of your new employee orientation- not just handing them a guide, but a seminar or a class where they can do it while someone teaches. Teach them correctly in the beginning and that might solve a lot of your problems. This isn't an employee failure, it's an employer failure.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:33 AM on April 19, 2011 [28 favorites]

Maybe you need to re-work your internal and external facing web apps so that you have a better WYSIWYG editor??

I mean, I hear you, I'm in tech support and I know how frustrating it is to make the best help materials in the world only to have someone call you to do it for them as soon as they've hit a road bump. BUT if that many of your employees (approximately 234 of your employees by what you said) are having such a problem with it then it really seems that the issue is the web apps. I mean, most people can format the text in gmail pretty well enough to have bullets, italics, etc and that is pretty much the same as a WYSIWYG editor. Really, hiring someone to fix that problem once and for all would make the day-to-day tasks of all your employees go so much smoother (yours included). That also seems like a much more reasonable thing to take on (hire someone to come up with better WYSIWYG tools for your apps) than expecting all the employees to have a basic grasp of HTML.
posted by ejazen at 11:34 AM on April 19, 2011 [8 favorites]

I don't think you are being reasonable to expect it, I think you would get the results you want if you trained people and gave them the tools to use it.

I recently needed to get some back end website information changed at my work, and realized that my html skills were far greater than the people "in charge" of the processes. I also recognize that I am the person my department calls when they are having formatting/excel/word issues. These are people doing their jobs, but also people who don't have computer related hobbies. I recognize how frustrating this can be- I've trained people countless times on pivot tables- but I think the key is in making better tools for the people you have, rather than being frustrated at their lack of ability to use html. Whether those tools are better training or a better WYSIWYG editor is where I think the answer lies.
posted by Zophi at 11:39 AM on April 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

babbageboole has it. If they're going to be expected to regularly update documents in a CMS, they definitely should already know SIMPLE html. <p> tags, ul tags, links, images, etc. Assuming they don't need to be editing any presentational elements, this stuff is really easy to pick up in a day or two.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 11:39 AM on April 19, 2011

Maybe you need to re-work your internal and external facing web apps so that you have a better WYSIWYG editor??

This. It sounds like you have a tool that would obviate the need for any HTML knowledge, but your tool just isn't working.

Yes, it's good to know what makes your tools tick, but the whole point of a WYSIWYG is that it what you see is what you get.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 11:47 AM on April 19, 2011 [3 favorites]

How about split the difference between WYSIWYG and HTML and have them use Markdown instead? It handles your requirements (links, bolded text, bullets) easily. Hopefully your CMS is able to support it.
posted by zsazsa at 11:48 AM on April 19, 2011

Response by poster: @valeries I've been campaigning to HR for many months to hire new employees with HTML knowledge when their job requires it, to no avail. I recognize part of our organization is dysfunctional with respect to its hiring practices.

@ThePinkSuperhero As for training them during new employee orientation? My superiors are scaling back my training of people because it is taking up more and more of my time away from the more important work (web development). I don't have the time to train every new employee. I only train the ones that cross my desk needing CMS access/training.

@ejazen Sure - I'll get right on that (IMHO, there in the entire history of the web there never has been a sufficiently good WYSIWYG editor - but thats a rathole for another topic. I doubt, no, I know I cannot make a good one).
posted by tuzy2k at 11:50 AM on April 19, 2011

I think it's unreasonable to expect that with an intact user base that was hired without that in mind. You really need to work with HR and/or try to do some boot camp style stuff to get people on board, or find some scriptable WYSIWYG solution.

Sometimes, I just need to watch google's "what is a browser" video to get a reality check, when you are in a tech savvy field and used to a tech savvy group of friends it's easy to forget the level that most people are still on.
posted by yeahyeahyeahwhoo at 11:51 AM on April 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'm not sure this is entirely unreasonable for people who have an expectation of being involved in new media as a career. I'm several years younger than you, and many of the humanities grads I know in their early-to-mid-20s who work in content management-type positions know very, very basic HTML at the very least.

That said, almost all of them either (a) were exposed to HTML formally in an intro computer usage undergrad course designed for non-CS majors, (b) ended up picking up some web dev skills to develop projects for undergrad courses in information design or visual rhetoric, or (c) picked up those skills while on an internship or co-op work placement or while maintaining the blogs they mostly have.

(Also, note what Tomorrowful said -- it's not uncommon at all for CS majors to have not formally learned HTML.)

Sure, you might be able to find new grads/hires to do this, but were many of the people involved in CMS editing hired prior to having web work be part of their job description? If so, maybe the answer is to rework your WYSIWYG workflow. Expecting people who may have not been hired (or initially educated/trained) with web-savviness in mind to pick up even basic HTML simply doesn't meet people where they are.
posted by thisjax at 11:52 AM on April 19, 2011

Response by poster: @zsazsa Unfortunately we're a ASPX/.NET shop. We use a .NET CMS which does not support Markdown.
posted by tuzy2k at 11:52 AM on April 19, 2011

From bitter personal experience: no one reads documentation. Get them in a class, IN PERSON (no conference calls), and quiz them afterwards. Require periodic retraining for people who just don't get it.
posted by desjardins at 11:53 AM on April 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: @thisjax Most of all of our hires are under the page of 30, most between the ages of 22-26. We have a very young workforce. This is why I am so perplexed by this. If we were primarily hiring people between the ages of 30-50, I would understand, but we're not.
posted by tuzy2k at 11:54 AM on April 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

This is a constant struggle in the world of librarianship. Many people are using CMSes but very few of them seem to understand HTML. Which is fine, I would never consider not hiring someone just because they didn't know HTML, but I would be crystal clear that learning basic HTML would be part of their job description and not something that I felt required hours upon hours of training. Not knowing it is totally fine. Not being able to learn it within a reasonable time period is indicitive of larger skills-uptake problems.

And to be fair, a lot of the tools create these sorts of problems. Wordpress lets you cut and paste from MS Word which can do terrible terrible things to HTML and ignore the formatting that your stylesheet is trying to enforce. So it's important to explain not just HTML but the culture in which WYSIWIG editors live and maybe some specific-to-your-tools training just to make it clear how to do things.

And then, yes, people are expected to learn and use HTML the same way they are expected to use spell-checkers and clip-art and printers and functions in Excel.
posted by jessamyn at 11:55 AM on April 19, 2011 [8 favorites]

Am I crazy for thinking that these people should have at least a passing experience with HTML in at least one of their college courses they had to take in university? Am I just being lazy for getting sick of having to train person after person what a "P" tag <> is?

Well, which course do you have in mind, exactly? Universities have fundamental requirements such as a writing course and a calculus course. I don't agree that knowing HTML falls under such requirements.
posted by polymodus at 11:56 AM on April 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

I don't think it's necessarily reasonable to expect them to have experience with it. The last ten-plus years have increasingly been about letting HTML-illiterate folks post to the web without acquiring special knowledge. (C.f. content management systems, blogs, etc.)

But I think it's very reasonable to expect them to pick it up easily and without bothering you about it. And it would be very reasonable to reject an applicant if they were unable to convince you that they are capable of climbing that quite-gentle learning curve.
posted by richyoung at 11:59 AM on April 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

I've been in IT for over 10 years and have a CS degree. I don't know anything about HTML.
posted by eas98 at 12:00 PM on April 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure if "knowledge worker" in this context is a specific term of art that I'm unfamiliar with, but if it means someone whose core job function pertains to anything not having to do with IT, then yes, I'd say this is unreasonable. This includes people who are blogging, for instance, and whose expertise is related to the content of the blog rather than the creation of the blog itself. I'm 25, and have been casually involved in writing for a couple of blogs (and obviously read and post on Metafilter) so you could probably peg me at sort of an intermediate Internet skill level. I don't know HTML, nor do I know anyone who learned HTML in college who wasn't involved in media studies or computer stuff.

Is HTML knowledge listed as a requirement or as a desired skill for these job positions?
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 12:00 PM on April 19, 2011

Response by poster: @jessamyn People copy & pasting content from Word into our CMS is the bane of my existence.
posted by tuzy2k at 12:02 PM on April 19, 2011

Yes, it's unreasonable to expect high school graduates to know HTML. The only group of traditional aged college students who have edited a wikipedia article even just a little, are white men (and I assume enrolled in CS). I have no reason to believe that Markdown will fix this for you. For you and me, markup languages are all the same. For the rest of society, it's not apparent why there's a difference between whitespace and a p tag. Or why our computers don't do better jobs making that obsolete.

So until you start asking for HTML familiarity and testing for it in interviews, you're gonna have to either develop a new hire training regimen or fix your WSYWIG tools. TinyMCE and CKeditor are popular, but my suggestion is to try to remove the more obscure buttons.

The training regimen doesn't nessecarily have to involve you. It could be a "see one; do one; teach one" process by the new hires.
posted by pwnguin at 12:05 PM on April 19, 2011

Response by poster: @dixiecupdrinking In this context, I'm borrowing the term "knowledge worker" from Merlin Mann. To paraphrase Merlin, a knowledge worker is someone who's job is mainly done while sitting at a desk, in an office, using a computer all day long that is connected to the internet. They email, they may use Microsoft Office or an equivalent. They may to go meetings. In other words, their primary job relates to organizing, thinking about, or creating work that is dependent on their brains.

I probably did a horrible job of defining that term, but I think that is the gist of it.
posted by tuzy2k at 12:07 PM on April 19, 2011

Also, I'd try to keep in mind that most people couldn't care less about HTML or CMS or WYSIWYG or ASPX or whatever else. They just want the tech stuff to work. If someone were on my ass about learning how to use HTML at work, I would probably write it off as sort of an irrelevant IT geeky obsession unless it was made *crystal clear* to me how and why learning it is somehow indispensable to me adequately doing my job.
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 12:08 PM on April 19, 2011

Many English majors learn basic HTML these days; the popularity of technical communication/rhetoric as a field is growing (I teach an undergraduate English class in web design and we do it all "by hand" as a kind of exercise in thinking about language). Maybe you could do us poor humanities professors a favor and look into hiring some English grads!
posted by media_itoku at 12:10 PM on April 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

Based on that definition, then, yes, you're being completely unreasonable to expect them to know html. That definition could include everyone from minimum-wage call center workers, to secretaries, to app developers.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:10 PM on April 19, 2011

This thing with this:
2: Is it reasonable to expect that someone looking for a position that requires working with CMS knows HTML? YES.
though, is that a lot of jobs that require the use of a CMS to update webtools are not tech-focused jobs-- they're administrative support jobs, or communications-type positions, and "update website using CMS as required" is often included under "and all those other things we need someone to do". I've had several jobs that have included some form of "update webtool using CMS". It' always been something that was, at most 2% of my job.

The more-pertinent issue, IMO, is whether your company is using the 'ease' of a CMS to hire people whose core job function is something totally outside IT (admin, writer, researcher, etc) and assuming that they can toss "update webtool as needed" under "other duties as assigned" because they have a CMS. If working with webtools/CMS is a big portion of the job, okay-- but if these are support-staff positions (and, on preview, they probably often are), yes, it's unreasonable.
posted by Kpele at 12:11 PM on April 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

Sounds unreasonable. Being a tech hobbyist, I can read HTML and XML, as well as vaguely understand simple code in a few different languages. I've realized that this is extremely rare for someone whose job or education was not in a technical field. There's a good reason for that: while the basics of any field usually aren't that tough to grasp, there's a big initial hump that a user has to get over to grok a technical topic in a useful way. I only understand HTML because I wasted lots of time as a teenager learning things that weren't useful to me in any way (and still aren't).

The essentials of accounting are not tough to grasp. The essentials of vacuum cleaner repair are not tough to grasp. The essentials of replacing a tire or changing oil are not tough to grasp. The essentials of HTML are not tough to grasp. But unless you had a reason to learn these things, or at least an interest, why would you know how to do them? And more than that, I could sit through a 2-hour training on any of these things. But there's a big gap between training, and truly understanding the material in a way that you can use it usefully. Someone may know learn to insert tags, but do they understand which ones need to be closed so they can fix their own errors themselves?

Plus, if you add HTML to the job description, you've just intimidated away a bunch of applicants and attracted a group of applicants asking for higher salaries. Rhetorical question: Do these jobs start in the 50k range, or the 25k range? Asking someone earning < 30-40k to successfully step out of their field of expertise and so something (HTML markup) that is a tech function without a lot of hand-holding is expecting too much.

Also, anecdata: I do lots of things online and on intranets. I haven't used an HTML tag in years.
posted by Tehhund at 12:11 PM on April 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

We have a very young workforce. This is why I am so perplexed by this.

You're buying into the myth of the "digital native". Kids today may be learning how to make a web page in school, but I guarantee you most schools aren't teaching the actual HTML code behind it.
posted by MsMolly at 12:12 PM on April 19, 2011 [17 favorites]

@ejazen Sure - I'll get right on that (IMHO, there in the entire history of the web there never has been a sufficiently good WYSIWYG editor - but thats a rathole for another topic. I doubt, no, I know I cannot make a good one).

Well first, I definitely didn't mean to imply that you should do it, especially if it is not your job. But, I have to disagree that there isn't any good WYSIWYG editors out there. I've found many that are very good. Our internal web community at my job where I work has a great WYSIWYG editor created by our web guru guy. It even has a handy dandy "paste from Word" button to avoid the ridiculous problem you mentioned. We're a professional school at a large university and have everyone from faculty, staff, and students posting and creating internal and external facing content everyday.

Would this be something you could put out as freelance project? I feel like, again, hiring a web developer to come up with a set of WYSIWYG tools you could incorporate would take less time and money that scheduling hour upon hour of HTML training for new and old employees; plus more reasonable than expecting everyone to already have that knowledge.
posted by ejazen at 12:12 PM on April 19, 2011

I was an English major. Didn't learn a lick of HTML. My professors barely could use their email.
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 12:13 PM on April 19, 2011

Response by poster: Okay - now you've all depressed me greatly. I guess I'll just go back to banging my head into the brick wall. And I need to work harder on my iOS app so I can just work for myself :)
posted by tuzy2k at 12:14 PM on April 19, 2011 [3 favorites]

Most of their content formatting is non-complex (they're simply trying to make a link, edit bullet points, bold some text) but due to the nature of how horrible most WYSIWYG editors are, their content constantly gets mis-formatted. If they would simply do it within HTML, it would be much easier

I happen to be the sort of person who, frustrated with the dumb WYSIWYG, will just look up some simple HTML in order to fix content. I am not typical in this regard. Most people are going to expect to use the tool that they are "supposed" to. Reasons may include the following attitudes:

a) The content is what they know and what they were hired to do, why would they know the technical stuff?
b) Can't someone just make the system work, rather than showing them how to get around it?
c) They've been told not to mess around with technical stuff lots of times, is this even really okay?
d) Their email is filtered and their internet access Websense'd, but they're expected to learn how to program the website?

However, I must say that it's not really necessarily easier for them to do it in HTML. It's easier for YOU to do it in HTML because you know what you're looking at. But to most people, the page source is a confusing jumble and not intuitively connected with how they want the webpage to look.
posted by desuetude at 12:14 PM on April 19, 2011 [7 favorites]

Response by poster: I appreciate all of your feedback. It's a nice reality check to the growing frustration I'm experiencing with this problem.

The actions I plan to take:
1). I think what I'll try to convince my superior + HR that it is important that folks be trained on this when hired and if they're hiring for a position, if possible, hire someone with this knowledge already.
2). Expand upon my existing training documentation and work with HR on making sure this is given to new hires.
3). Work harder on my iOS app side project so I can go to work for myself so I don't have to deal with this type of thing anymore.
posted by tuzy2k at 12:21 PM on April 19, 2011

@Kpele has a very good point. CMS is supposed to get you away from having to work at the HTML level. But, frankly, no CMS does this perfectly. There is always some level of HTML intervention.

I read something about ten years or so back that said that IT is still struggling to get out of the Model-T era. That was an age when you had to know how your car worked because your car regularly broke down and needed to be fixed, right there in the middle of the road. It's still true (and that makes me mad).
posted by babbageboole at 12:22 PM on April 19, 2011

I think that it isn't necessarily unreasonable. However, I also think that your frustration is partly your (as in anyone who finds this an annoyance) own fault. If this is a real annoyance, and it is a mandatory part of the job, then I would say it is up to the company to provide training, not just manuals, for employees.

I know you said you put together a manual, but I know I am a tactile learner. Reading something and then trying to piece it together sometimes frustrates me.

Also, if I have alot on my plate, and then am asked to do something else on top of this, which is outside my skillset, I would greatly appreciate a formalized "lesson" in it.

Personally, however, I do think that people should at least know the basics of HTML formatting if they work in a business with an online presence. Though, that's a slippery slope. I would never ask the sales reps I work with to learn HTML, as I'd be going behind them and correcting anything they do.
posted by TheBones at 12:29 PM on April 19, 2011

Also, upgrading to a better, more user friendly CMS might help to mitigate the issue as well.
posted by TheBones at 12:31 PM on April 19, 2011

I work for an organization consisting almost entirely of people who know at least some unix and sql, and they don't get it right. What we did is hire a couple of content editors in India that clean up before publication.
posted by dhoe at 12:33 PM on April 19, 2011

The vast majority of people finish college without ever having taken a computer course.

Your expectaion is only reasonable if 'basic HTML' is in the job description and/or you are explicitly looking for people who have some web design background.
posted by Kololo at 12:34 PM on April 19, 2011

I have an IS degree (graduated in 2007) and I'm a web developer by profession. It is unreasonable to expect non-IT graduates to know HTML.

If you're sick of training people write up a document with some examples focusing on tags they might encounter, maybe include a link to a website where they can enter HTML markup and see the results instantly (versus telling them to create an HTML file on their desktop). That will let them learn on their own and see real-time results - they'll come to you only if they don't understand something.
posted by exhilaration at 12:36 PM on April 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Sounds like you have an opportunity to be a go-getter office star and run a series of 'HTML Basics' lunch n learn seminars.

Be part of the solution.
posted by Kololo at 12:36 PM on April 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: On the question as asked: is it reasonable to expect someone who, as part of their job, has to update a web page using a CMS, to understand HTML: I think it is somewhat unreasonable. They're not web editors. This is part of their job (is it a major part? Or just something that they have to do, because they're the local subject matter experts? If it's a major part of the job, then not unreasonable. If a relatively minor part, then yes, unreasonable).

On the unspoken question ("what should I do about this?"): can I suggest some options?

1. More training. Really push this with your boss.
2. Push on HR to hire people who have these skills.
3. Don't train everyone, but train some local champions, so instead of always calling you, people can turn to the local expert in their group.
4. Alternatively, suggest that not everyone have responsibility for web updating (why do so many people have this as part of their jobs? Why not one or two people in each group?)
5. Depending on how much power you have: insist that no-one gets access to the CMS until they've been trained on HTML basics.

What I don't suggest you do: more documentation. I'm a librarian and I've done a lot of training and written a lot of documentation, and here's the thing: people don't read it. They really don't. They like to ask other people for help (I mean, you signed up to MeFi to ask this question, rather than researching it yourself, right? ;-)). Manuals are for methodical people like IT workers (and librarians), not for the majority who don't really want to be doing this work anyway, and don't want to read pages to find how to do something, but just want the answer now, please.
posted by Infinite Jest at 12:40 PM on April 19, 2011 [6 favorites]

I work in an office of 35 people. I'd say 90% of those people have advanced degrees.

I am literally the only person who knows that there is a way to move text around in Word that does not involve hitting the spacebar 50 times. Literally the only person.

posted by thebazilist at 12:46 PM on April 19, 2011 [11 favorites]

Also, one of the things my group has done is set up a forum for questions so that people can access questions and answers. It helps our international team be more self sufficient and creates more of a crowd sourced mentality. Also, a wiki with basics and examples that could be added to by the community could be set up.

Both of these have helped our team tremendously.
posted by TheBones at 12:47 PM on April 19, 2011

Response by poster: @TheBones We just spent 2 years upgrading all of our sites to this CMS. Unfortunately, in the .NET/ASP community there aren't many good CMSes and this one is the one of the best ones of the lot. I also have no influence or control of what CMS we use. We're forced to use this one due to it supporting a lot of legacy code we use.
posted by tuzy2k at 12:54 PM on April 19, 2011

Response by poster: @Infinite Jest Yes it is a part of their job.
posted by tuzy2k at 12:55 PM on April 19, 2011

I am literally the only person who knows that there is a way to move text around in Word that does not involve hitting the spacebar 50 times. Literally the only person.

I'm eager to hear more about this thing you describe.

I can't say if it is reasonable or not, but since you've already tried to get your work to hire people with these skills, and it isn't working, your options are 1) find a way to teach new hires, or 2) change the process so they don't need to know it. Not sure what else to suggest.
posted by JenMarie at 1:11 PM on April 19, 2011

I have taught college students, and a surprising number of them don't have basic computer literacy skills. There are some who don't know what cut-and-paste is, some who don't understand the difference between web apps (and saving things to a remote server or to the cloud) and programs on their desktop (and saving things to their machine), etc. There are many who don't know that you can type a web address into the address bar of a browser, instead they think you just always go through Google. Many of them are so accustomed to Google searches being pretty reliable and Wikipedia being a good fallback that they don't have what we think of as basic web research skills. There is no requirement to take a computer course in many schools.

You may get people who can write and think passably, and who use things like Facebook all day long, but who are as ignorant of the basic how-to-get-things-done side as a stereotypical older office worker might be. Imagine the difference between people's understanding of cars if they grew up with a Model T where you could easily get inside and fix parts yourself (and it broke a lot so you HAD to know how to fix it) vs growing up with today's cars which are more reliable (you don't have to know how to fix it) and lots of the parts are sealed or computer-driven. In many cases they are less computer savvy than the late-20s/30s generation since it's all been WISYWIG their whole lives.

In short, you can't assume the younger generation are all computer savvy.
posted by LobsterMitten at 1:11 PM on April 19, 2011 [3 favorites]

Whether it is reasonable or unreasonable is a red herring. They do not know how to use html, they need to know html for some part of their jobs, and they are not hired with the explicit understanding that they will need to learn html.

They struggle on a regular basis to get the WYSIWYG editor to do what they want it to and . . . then what? Do they come to you? Do they upload bad html? What you need to do is ask them how they would find it easiest to learn how to use the CMS for formatting.

I would certainly not expect people in their 20s to know html just because they use facebook (no html) and tumblr (no html) and blogger (no html).
posted by jeather at 1:19 PM on April 19, 2011

I am an adjunct college professor (in arlington, va), and here is my two sense:

IF they are CS majors, even if they don't know HTML, they should know XML, and HTML is pretty similar. Further, they should be able to pick up HTML quite quickly.

That being said, last semester i taught a graduate course in basic html/ javascript. It was rough... it was gearded towards business students, so they weren't thinking in the same way a programmer should, but it was tough getting them to understand the basics.

I feel the best way to teach them is to let them play with it, give them a test page to mangle and give them an HTML cheat sheet... I taught myself ASP in my undergrad time because i needed it for a summer intern. In my undergrad years, i took a few courses dealing with java/jsp, but in grad school, we never used it.
posted by fozzie33 at 1:21 PM on April 19, 2011

I don't think it's unreasonable to think that people who use the Web every day should at least know some of the basics behind how it works. However, HTML basics are old hat to people who've been editing HTML since before it had a version number.

From your coworker's perspective, it might be as if their mechanic asked them to explain the workings of an internal combustion engine. People will retain knowledge that is useful to them, and as long as the web just works, a lot of them don't care. They know what they need to know to get along, the actual mechanics of it are somewhat irrelevant.

Still, I am often surprised by how non-technical people who work in technology are. I once worked at a place where HTML writers used Dreamweaver to indent things with 15-20 consecutive blockquote tags, a practice which drove me to drink and made the saints cry.

Try creating a short cheat sheet might help a lot—particularly answering the kinds of questions you get repeatedly. (I can't emphasize short enough, people do not read documentation no matter how much it might help them.) Also, if you can find a way to train a couple of the more advanced users to answer questions for others, that may take some of the load off you. Changing the CMS is a bit like tilting at windmills, every single one of them will have quirks that make it completely suck, except in different ways that other CMS quirks cause them to suck.

As a last resort, start documenting how much time this lack of knowledge is costing you on a daily basis. Management might not get the scope of the problem until they see the lost productivity.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 1:21 PM on April 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

This is pretty well-answered, but just in case the comments and arguments made in this discussion provide you with ammunition for discussions with your boss/HR department:

I'm 37, and have been building web pages with various tools since 1995. It is astounding how many people who call themselves professional web designers/coders can't code HTML by hand. So yes - I would say that it is unreasonable to expect that everyone under the age of 30 would have basic HTML knowledge.

However, I don't think it is unreasonable to expect people who work daily with a web-based CMS to have a fundamental understanding of what HTML is and how markup works; even if they rely on WYSIWYG copy/pasting 99% of the time, they should understand that it's not just like Microsoft Word.

When I get into discussions about what I do for a living with people, including 20-30 year olds, I find myself in "what is a browser" territory pretty quickly. (Thanks for that link, yeahyeahyeahwhoo, it's enlightening.) It doesn't mean that people are dumb or that they couldn't learn how the web works or how to write HTML, it's just that it's never been relevant to the way they use it. Infinite Jest's suggestions are great. If you can do some kind of in-service training with content editors and demonstrate how knowing some HTML basics will make their lives easier, then you may get some traction.
posted by usonian at 1:44 PM on April 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

As one of those rare folks who code their own web pages in a bare-bones text editor I find the response here fascinating.

But HTML is easy.

Agreed. But my experience is if you weren't hammering out simple web-pages back in the mid-90s, you don't agree, maybe don't want to know. Just look at how many MeFites can't put together a simple link here.
posted by Rash at 1:58 PM on April 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

Is it unreasonable to expect most knowledge workers entering the job market today to have basic HTML knowledge?

1. Once you realize it doesn't have to make sense, this won't trouble you as much.

2. It doesn't matter if you or I think it's reasonable, it matters what the higher ups think.

But HTML is easy.

No, it's easy for you and some others. That does not mean it's easy for everyone and it especially doesn't mean they should care about it. There are very smart people who simply don't grasp it or not as quickly. THe OP's job is to give support and it sounds like that's what he's doing.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:05 PM on April 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'd say it's reasonable to expect them to pick it up quickly. You can't deal with the huge regrettable gaps in people's education, but it is incredibly easy to learn. So give them a tutorial and if they can't handle it get rid of 'em.
posted by paultopia at 2:07 PM on April 19, 2011

There are lots of things that are 'easy' that i don't know how to do.

I don't know how to crochet.
I don't know how to drive a motorcycle.
I don't know how to play Donkey Kong on a Commodore 64.
I don't know how to use the fax machine at my new office.
I don't know how to ask where the bathroom is in German.

The easiness of things has nothing to do with whether or not I know how to do it. I don't know how to do those things because i've never had to do them before, and therefore it is not a personal deficit for me. If i accepted a job and it turned out that as part of that job, every 5 weeks i had to crochet a mitten, i'd be pretty frustrated if it was assumed that i know how to crochet because crochet is easy.

Your coworkers have never had to code HTML before. It doesn't make the dumbasses. It makes them people who don't know how to code HTML.

There is nothing wrong with the people in your workplace. There is something wrong with a set of processes that requires a mass group of people to perform a task they have no expertise in, and there is something wrong with being an expert who expects everyone else to be experts too. Either teach them or find ways to circumvent their need to know how.
posted by Kololo at 2:16 PM on April 19, 2011 [13 favorites]

Re: pasting from Word - I've found that the occasional foaming-at-the-mouth rant - not at them, but at Word - has surprisingly good results. Everybody who uses Word knows that occasionally it does strange stuff for no apparent reason, so extrapolating that to the web is understandable to most office types. I'm usually pretty hand-wavey about it, too.

I once inspired someone to send an email including the phrase "[epersonae] assures me that gremlins will eat the intranet if you copy text from Word." (or something to that effect. there were definitely gremlins involved.)

We are "lucky" enough that our intranet has a "Paste from Word" in its WYSIWYG that works well enough most of the time. For your purposes, maybe training them to use Notepad as an intermediary step will help. I've done that in past situations.

Definitely document the time you have to spend helping site authors. If nothing else, it should help convince the higher-ups that this is a significant aspect of your job, and maybe adjust other things accordingly.
posted by epersonae at 2:17 PM on April 19, 2011

I don't know how to use the fax machine at my [...] office.

Me neither. I have to send a fax about twice a year, max, and I always feel like a freaking idiot when I do it. I've worked here four years, too.

So: consider something in your job that you only have to do occasionally, and which you feel somewhat inept about. That may help you figure out how to be more effective in providing training.
posted by epersonae at 2:20 PM on April 19, 2011

First of all, the failing here is your organization's hiring practices and seeming inability to screen applicants for job skills which apparently are essential, not in your colleagues' lack of HTML experience. So don't get mad or frustrated or feel superior to your colleagues - that only breeds contempt and won't help them learn. The other possible explanation to your situation is that higher ups disagree with you about said HTML skills being essential. Either way, you probably don't have control over that.

So what can you do? Maybe hold trainings or brown bag lunch sessions on a regular basis. Limit the size of the trainings to 15-20 people max so they can ask questions and it can be more of a workshop than a lecture. I am a social media manager and recently did a Twitter 101 brown bag lunch for my fellow staff so that they could help me tweet from an event we hosted. It was pretty well attended considering it was not required, and everyone said they really enjoyed it. One of them even sent an email to me, CC:ing my boss and CEO about how much she learned. Score! In your case, because basic HTML should be part of their jobs, you can at least work with HR/management to require the attendance of new hires at such sessions.

I think Infinite Jest has a great idea about training local champions. Then they can start holding these regular trainings so it's not all on you.
posted by misskaz at 2:44 PM on April 19, 2011

Most of all of our hires are under the page of 30, most between the ages of 22-26. We have a very young workforce. This is why I am so perplexed by this. If we were primarily hiring people between the ages of 30-50, I would understand, but we're not.

I think in some ways you have your thinking backwards here. I'm between 30 and 50. I was an education major way back in the day, and my only computer training was in summer college courses I took out of personal curiosity (not required for my major). I can still remember the days of FORTRAN and BASIC and typing everything with C:> before it. So, anyway, with that background, when I wanted to be able to Do Some Things beyond just visiting Yahoo on the web, I just naturally assumed I would have to level up my computer knowledge. So I went back to school and took some computer classes and also taught myself some basic HTML.

But the twenty-somethings of today grew up with GUIs and customized software. They just take it for granted that when there is something they have to do, there will be an application for it. They never had to go through a tedious process to format disks or get a printer to start working with their computer or even to just copy a file off of the hard drive. Some of my old 'computers' didn't even have internal hard drives. But these days? Computers are marketed specifically as being easy to use "right out of the box." So it's no wonder your 22-26 year olds are stumped when they have to do something *sigh* manually.

It sounds like this WYSIWYG editor you have is not up to your needs, and the people using it are not up to deciphering it. And they don't want to read your documentation, and even if they did, practice is what makes this all stick, so someone really needs to teach them with a hands-on approach.

I'm thinking that this should come through HR. If this is a pre-requisite for the job, put the basics in an orientation class for all the new hires. So I think you should pitch this idea to management as a way to make daily operations more efficient, streamline the processes now in place, increase productivity and thus save them money.

And then you may have to spend just enough time to teach ONE person, the HR person who will in turn be in charge of training the new hires, how to do the basics. Either that, or get someone familiar with the WYSIWYG program to come in as a consultant and do it. Whoever sold you the software would be my point of contact on that.

Good luck. Sounds incredibly frustrating, but I think you can spin this into experience that is going to look really good on a resume, if nothing else!
posted by misha at 2:46 PM on April 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

Hm. I read most of this thread, but skimmed through some of the final posts, so sorry if this is redundant in any way, but: based on your definition of "knowledge worker," no. This is not reasonable. And, you really might want to do research into the digital divide, which is a concept that probably echoes what msmolly mentioned earlier. Assuming that everyone is familiar with such technologies is a really limited view, considering: A) access to "mainstream' technologies is hugely dependent on socioeconomic background B) the proliferation of multiple technologies means it's easy to become an expert in one but not another C) there are also regional/geographic issues that influence how we know what we know about tech.

I mean, basic example: I am a "knowledge worker" with a graduate degree who can also type 85-90 wpm. Which is super handy if you have to write technical documents all day. But how many words per minute can I type of a specialized spanish-language keyboard? french-language keyboard? Um...suddenly, there are additional/different keys that I have to contend with, that kind of rearrange everything. I may need some time with the new keyboard before I can reclaim my status as a stellar typist. But, regardless, I am still an awesome knowledge worker, no matter what tools I'm using.

The only reason why I know anything about html (which is, needless to say, almost nothing) is because I made a sleater-kinney fanpage back when I was 16 and stuff like wordpress didn't exist. The page lasted about 6 months, and I have never, ever needed html again for anything related to my career.

This is probably frustrating, but if you figure out how to navigate this in your workplace, you will probably be able better to handle future incompatibilities that arise. Because they will; given the variability of experiences, backgrounds, and education that good workers have, it would not be surprising for another similar situation to come up, even if it doesn't relate to html.
posted by vivid postcard at 3:41 PM on April 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'm 30, just one year older than you. No one has ever taught me HTML. I never had to take a computer course at my universities or in high school. The only time I've ever taken a computer course was before high school, and that was in the early '90s.

I taught HTML to myself a few years ago because I started a blog. I regularly use HTML to write my blog, but I don't expect other people to know it.

I agree with the comment that said there's a myth that young people are "digital natives." Younger people may be more accustomed to computers, but they're also used to computers that make everything easy by relieving users of the burden of dealing with technicalities.

People have given URLs as an example. I've read on Metafilter about people not understanding how URLs work, and I used to be skeptical of this. But recently I tried to give out my Facebook profile to a 22-year-old friend in conversation. I said if you go to Facebook, you just have to put "[username]" after the last slash in the URL bar. So she did type my username at the end of the URL bar, but she deleted the ".com" for some reason! And this wasn't just a typo, because when I pointed out the problem -- that "http://facebook/username" isn't going to go anywhere, since there's always at least one period in the domain name -- this didn't seem to register. I'll bet this kind of thing is quite common with people her age, and probably more so than for people my age (even though I'm just 8 years older).

I find it interesting that you marked as best answer one of the few comments that confirmed your preconception that new employees should be expected to know HTML. That goes against almost all the responses you've received to this question. I recommend subjecting your preconceptions to empirical scrutiny. There's a reason why so many job ads specify that HTML is a qualification -- because employers know that applicants can't be assumed to have this knowledge.
posted by John Cohen at 3:41 PM on April 19, 2011 [7 favorites]

(also, I am in my twenties, if that helps you contextualize my point.)
posted by vivid postcard at 3:43 PM on April 19, 2011

It is totally unreasonable, and ass backwards, to adapt hiring requirements to a shitty CMS. Do you want HR to say no to the super qualified marketing gal with no html skills in favor of the just qualified guy with html chops?
This is the grandeur of the IT department talking. Fix the CMS or work around the problem. That's your job, right?
posted by mr.marx at 3:54 PM on April 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

Anecdata--my college-age kid learned HTML on Neopets, and then taught it to me. But most people just out of school, at least in my world, know all the various blogging platforms etc., but not what makes them actually work.

If the CMS won't do what's required, I'd fix that, rather than try to recruit people who have HTML skills, unless you'd want to pay more for that knowledge. Or you could make up a cheat-sheet on your server, where people can copy and past the appropriate HTML bits and pieces for the task. (Strikeout, bold, insert link, etc.)
posted by Ideefixe at 5:07 PM on April 19, 2011

When I look at developer resumes a lot of them still list HTML as a skill, of course it is just for keyword scan that HR does but I still wouldn't expect most people to know it.

Here is my un asked for opinion, write some XSLT or other logic that will strip all of the MSO junk that word sticks into HTML and just let them paste from word. You could probably do it in JavaScript right on the page they use to update content. Save everyone a lot of headaches.
posted by Ad hominem at 5:58 PM on April 19, 2011

Like the majority of answerers I think this is unreasonable, given any normal definition of "knowledge worker".

As for ways forward...

A little Googling suggests that that there is an open source C# implementation of Markdown, apparently originally created for Stack Overflow. You maybe can find a way to use this with your CMS.

There are also tools that claim to convert Word docs to reasonable HTML, like this one. I don't know if they're good, but it sounds like given where you are now you could hardly be worse off giving them a try.

If you can't fix the CMS so people can make decently formatted content without resorting to HTML, your most practical option may be to train up a bunch of power users so there's someone close at hand in every office that people can go to when they get in a mess.

I don't know if HTML is easy to learn for the average person, but I do know that having to think about markup doesn't help your thought process or productivity as a writer.

That is why for example it helps that there is a live preview of my comment on Mefi, so I can actually review what I wrote without the distracting clutter of the markup.
posted by philipy at 6:13 PM on April 19, 2011

I say unreasonable, but I sympathize.

Think of it this way -- I'm 36, and in grad. school for a decidedly non-technical MA in English lit. I started a blog. Had to teach myself HTML and I have a basic command of it. It was just what you did in the early naughties before blog-friendly free software.

A few years later after grad. school I started a new blog on Wordpress. I was quite happy to enter the world of WYSIWYG, albeit with some moments were I had to go into HTML and fix little things like line breaks and links and so on. To me and to many others it was a feature, not a bug, to no longer have to mess about with HTML. And for 20-somethings now, even blog-savvy ones? I can't imagine where they'd have ever learnt HTML, let alone been face with the necessity of learning it for themselves.

I really do sympathize, but you're sort of framing this as "Why are all these jagoffs incapable of knowing something as basic as HTML?" Your co-workers, and quite possibly your bosses, see it as "Why can't the tech guys just do things the way we can do them on Wordpress or Blogger or what have you."

You've got to express this to management as directly as possible because they obviously need to make some basic HTML skills part of the job requirements. I think you also need to think about where they're coming from re: the supposed non-importance of HTML.
posted by bardic at 11:37 PM on April 19, 2011

I'm not sure I can believe that basic HTML takes longer than five minutes to learn. First you have < b > bold < /b > and italic. That takes literally fifteen seconds. Then you say to make text a link instead of bold, you use < a > instead. The tough part is memorizing the href="(paste URL here)" thing. Then < BR > is another fifteen seconds and you're done. Skip bulleted lists and use asterisks. You can fit the "training course" on a post-it note on the side of your monitor.

I suppose since I learned HTML so long ago and I've never actually taught anyone, I'm being silly about this, and it's really rocket science.

Heh, I just happened on a "rocket science" thing myself -- the previewer ate my tags until I used my knowledge of &lt;.
posted by Noumenon at 3:59 AM on April 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Management suggestion: Can you identify a couple of people who are either perfectionist, impatient, curious, or know-it-all enough that they would actually kinda like to know how to fix messed-up formatting?

Train these people on basic HTML so that they can act as the local experts for their colleagues. Set guidelines as to how much support they are expected to provide so that this is not sucking too much time away from their jobs. This can be a volunteer position, like serving on a committee, but it should be something that is noted in their HR file as going above and beyond.
posted by desuetude at 6:40 AM on April 20, 2011

While HTML itself is very easy, I think some people are just scared or unwilling to learn "code", especially the kinds of people that have never ventured outside of WYSIWYG. And the kinds of people that will never use "page break", but simply taptaptaptap the Enter key.

One of the thing's I've learned in being one of those "the local computer guys" is that really, seriously, computers are NOT user-friendly to people that aren't interested in them.
posted by Harry at 8:26 AM on April 20, 2011

I think I'm a knowledge worker as per your definition -- 25 years old, in a technical PhD program at a very good university. I've never had to learn HTML for my job. The only HTML I know is from a long ago attempt at creating a webpage when I was 15 or so and perhaps from comments sections of forums and the like. On the other hand, if I needed it for my job and was given reasonable instruction in it I would learn it really quick. For example, I learned Latex for a college project and that didn't very long at all. So I really think you should be screening for people who have the capacity to pick up new skills quickly and provide simple web-based tutorials to help people understand that basics. Knowledge of HTML isn't something you can expect everyone to just have picked up somewhere.
posted by peacheater at 3:49 PM on April 20, 2011

HTML is easy to learn but that doesn�t mean it is intuitive. Everything on a computer is set up with arbitrary rules that must be learned. You could say ASN.1 is intuitive if you know it.

If CMS duties are really essential to certain job functions, write a basic HTML test that HR can give to new employees. Include some fuzzy "how would you fix this technical problem" open ended questions that will let you see if they know how to read a help file or google a topic. Make sure you actually have some say in rejecting applicants or it will be useless.

For the existing employees, do in-person training with dedicated blocks of time (no lunch seminars) that their managers have committed to. Apply the same tests after training to see who needs remedial help. Only if someone is problematic and hopeless (designer that refuses to learn HTML), then address it as a deficiency with HR.

If HR and management don�t want to commit, stick with technical fixes such as less-sucky editors.
posted by benzenedream at 5:06 PM on April 20, 2011

I used HTML to fix the stupid CMS quite a bit at my last job, and I am totally the sort of person who would rather look stuff up and learn to do it myself, but I still had to look up tags constantly.

Seriously, if you want your colleagues to to even consider learning basic HTML, just banish from your thoughts any assertions that it's "easy" or that it "takes five minutes." Surely there are things that you have difficulty memorizing, that other people find supremely easy to recall in depth?
posted by desuetude at 10:38 PM on April 20, 2011

My take on it is similar to a lot above. If they are knowledge workers with understanding that html is a part of the job, then no I dont think it's unreasonable to know it.

If on the other hand, their position is one that hasn't used HTML before at a different employer but with a similar job title, then yeah I wouldn't think most people would know html in that case. Let's face it - many people aren't going to just sit down and learn html (or CSS, JS, etc) unless there is a particular reason for knowing it.
posted by gregjunior at 10:21 AM on April 23, 2011

You're apparently training people on a case by case basis, out of 276 possible employees, and this is taking up a lot of your time.

Well, yeah.

What you need to do is a 1 hour tutorial, to at least 20-30 people, each Friday afternoon or whenever, til you've hit a majority of the organisation. How to link. How to copy from word. Etc etc.
This is how I taught everyone else in my team to use Dreamweaver templates, then css, then - well, whatever else needed to be done at a time. 30 minutes, first show them the problem that it solves and Why it is cool, and then show them the How.
Teaching 1 by 1 is inefficient. Bonus, even if a bunch of people in your class don't 'get it', they'll know which of their coworkers did the 'class' too, and preferentially bug them to ask how to do the things they've forgotten from their session.
posted by Elysum at 3:37 PM on April 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

What you need to do is a 1 hour tutorial, to at least 20-30 people, each Friday afternoon or whenever, til you've hit a majority of the organisation. How to link. How to copy from word. Etc etc.

- Elysum

Perfect idea! Setting up a tutorial via screencast with Captivate or other software sounds like a resonable approcah that would save you time.
posted by gregjunior at 8:55 AM on April 25, 2011

I just stumbled across this question, but my first thought is that your CMS likely has a confusing, non-intuitive user interface; it doesn't seem that way because you know how to use it, and because you're a tech person, but it is that way to people whose computer knowledge gets up to Microsoft Word and then dies.

In many of my jobs, I've been the "tech person" in the non-tech role, and I've increasingly taken it upon myself to run interference between the tech people and the people who have to use the system. No one knows what/how the other side is thinking unless it's explained to them. I explain to the non-tech people, "I know you're comfortable creating the document in word, so don't listen to the web guy who says you shouldn't. The only thing you should do differently is paste your document into notepad after you create it, and then copy it from notepad and paste it into the web editor." And I go talk to the web guy and say, "for the people who make documents in word, is there any way the system could have an optional step that strips out everything except plaintext? And on the backend can you make it so that p tags are automatically added as appropriate? (Or maybe even just br tags because that is simpler?)" Because, in this case, both sides just need to "get" that no amount of training is going to change the core behavior of people who've been working in Word for 20 years.

You need to find someone at your organization who thinks like you, but is also able to think like a naive user and can 'translate' between the two parties. Is there anyone at your organization you could find who currently informally runs interference? Anyone who never asks you for help, and whose department or close co-workers don't seem to have any questions unless that person's not in for the day?
posted by lesli212 at 7:32 PM on May 17, 2011

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