CIW: Web Design and the 21st Century Workplace

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In today’s workforce, the most valued workers must focus on adding value to their companies, not just on fulfilling a job role. The economist Peter Drucker first introduced the terms “knowledge economy” and “knowledge worker” in his 1959 book “Landmarks of Tomorrow.” Drucker defined a knowledge worker as anyone who has a degree of autonomy in making decisions and who knows how to collaborate. These people work proactively, take risks and learn from their mistakes and those of others. They regard mistakes less as obstacles and more as evidence that they are learning and will eventually get things right. They also know that information has a short shelf life and that value always must be added in order for the information to remain relevant.

The knowledge worker is the opposite of the production worker. Although necessary, a production worker performs repetitive tasks within a narrowly defined field. When Drucker first coined the term “knowledge worker,” he defined it narrowly, applying it to lawyers, doctors, diplomats and marketing professionals. Over the past 30 years, however, this narrow definition has expanded due to necessity because many workers—including Web designers—need to adopt the same skills as knowledge workers to keep their jobs.

Challenges to Web Designers
I have seen how today’s workplace exerts unique pressures on Web designers. The most pressing challenges include:



  • Understanding project management: Web designers need to know how to lead and how to be led during complex design projects.
  • Interdiscipline communication: Web designers need to explain their needs to both technical and non-technical individuals. They also need to understand how their activities affect others. This means that as a knowledge worker, the Web designer needs to know more than just his or her own job description in order to remain competitive. Web designers also need to know how to manage expectations and explain the ramifications of their activities to marketing directors, public relations specialists, server administrators and security specialists.
  • Adapting to constantly changing technology: Knowledge workers need to know the underlying technologies and principles used by today’s applications to remain relevant.


While creating the Master CIW v5 Designer certification, we have kept these challenges in mind.

Master CIW v5 Designer: An Overview
The Master CIW v5 Designer certification is one of eight professional job-role certifications offered by CIW. You become a Master CIW v5 Designer by passing three exams: CIW v5 Foundations, CIW v5 Site Designer and CIW v5 E-Commerce Designer.

CIW v5 Foundations
Foundations is designed to be the first step in creating a knowledge worker. The exam verifies that workers understand how their work affects others, from non-technical marketers to networking professionals. In the Foundations curriculum, students learn about project management, Internet client configuration, XHTML and essential design and programming concepts and basic networking.

My experience has led me to see the value of Foundations. Even though 65 percent of all workers in North America and 50 percent of workers in the European Union use the Web every day on the job, few know how to troubleshoot common problems with the basic tools such as Web browsers and e-mail applications.

Recently, I worked with the owner of a bed and breakfast in England who uses his Web site to generate more than half of his business. He was frustrated by his e-mail application because he could not use it to communicate with 15 percent of the people who had visited his site. The application was automatically converting all attachments to an unreadable format that his customers couldn’t open. I helped him make a simple change to his client, and then I introduced him to an alternative open-source e-mail and news client. The B&B owner was quite grateful because now he could stop losing Web-based business. My point? If he had the CIW Foundations skills, he could have solved the problem quickly without frustrating his customers. His lack of knowledge directly affected his Web-based revenue.

CIW v5 Site Designer
For too long, certifications have focused on the latest features rather than on the essential product elements for the job. Web professionals can waste enormous amounts of time wandering the deserts of XHTML and the ever-multiplying features of popular development applications and thus lose focus on their jobs. At CIW, we have found ways to drill down to the essential skills that can be applied in various development applications, from Macromedia Flash to the GIMP to Microsoft FrontPage. These skills include determining the intended audience, creating industry-standard code and ensuring that Web pages are accessible by all visitors. The CIW v5 Site Designer exam validates these essential skills.

CIW is vendor-neutral, but that does not mean that it is vendor-absent. For example, we offer training in open-source editors and applications, but we also provide instruction using the latest versions of popular vendor tools.

I recently spoke with a friend who supervises a Web design team. One of his newest team members had trouble publishing a Web page to the staging server, for which his excuse was: “I don’t know much about that stuff. I’m a design person.” He was indeed a very good designer. However, he was not as effective an employee because he had a very narrow definition of his job role—one that his employer did not share. CIW helps candidates prepare for the expectations of today’s business environment.

CIW v5 E-Commerce Designer
The E-Commerce Designer exam measures an individual’s ability to generate revenue on the Web. Candidates must demonstrate essential business-to-consumer (B2C) knowledge and skills, including creating payment gateways, marketing products and selecting the right product mix. They also must grasp key business-to-business (B2B) concepts, including supply-chain management, electronic data interchange (EDI) and localization issues.

Certification candidates must know how to analyze hit patterns and click-through patterns, as well as conduct site optimization. Aside from knowing how to secure transactions through Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), they need to know the steps to take when a security breach occurs. A person who has earned the E-Commerce Designer certification is amply prepared to become a Web entrepreneur or to collaborate with a team of experts to enable e-commerce.

Finally, CIW reflects the growth of e-learning in the e-commerce space by requiring knowledge of Sharable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM) and how to avoid common mistakes as you market and present e-learning. Once candidates show their knowledge of e-commerce by passing this third exam, they will be awarded the Master CIW v5 Designer certification.

A Master CIW Designer was once tasked with creating a self-study kit in e-learning format. She decided to use a virtual lab provider that made it possible for self-study students to log on and control remote computers as if they were sitting in front of them. She ran into a problem, however: Students wanted to save the pages they created for later use. The virtual lab provider had no real way to save the students’ data, which would be destroyed each time they logged out.

Always the proactive worker, the Master CIW Designer worked out a solution with the provider: The virtual lab provider would instruct students how to upload their completed pages to an FTP account.

But then, our Master CIW Designer took a step that transformed her into a knowledge worker: She realized that FTP in and of itself isn’t a very cool technology, but that blogging is. She decided to have students create an account with a well-known blogging site. The technology used (FTP) remained the same

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