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Working within an organisation as part of the in-house site development team, a lot of my team's throughput is driven by the colouring-in (marketing) department. It is their responsibility to provide approved content and imagery for the features or enhancements that we include on each iteration of the company site.

One thing I've noticed in this job and several previous ones is that the Marketing department is extremely particular about wording and presentation, but has little to no understanding of the actual medium with which they're working - the web.

I find that my team is constantly making best guesses for various HTML attributes like image alt text, titles, rel tags, blockquote cite attributes and the like. How reasonable is it to expect that marketing departments have a strong understanding of the purpose of HTML metadata? Should it be the developer's job to remind and inform each time or are marketing departments falling behind the technology they're working with?

What could I reasonably expect our marketing department to understand and provide every time with each new work request?

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Just to clarify - I'm curious to know how other peoples' experiences compare to my situation and what people think would be a reasonable line for me to take with our own department on future jobs. –  Phil.Wheeler Oct 22 '09 at 3:14
    
I've been to LUGs where some didn't know HTML - last place I'd expect it would from the marketing dept... –  OMG Ponies Oct 22 '09 at 3:33
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6 Answers

They need to provide everything you need, but you need to ask for it in their language, like you would with any other customer.

As a web designer for a client, you wouldn't ask the client to take an HTML class first, would you?

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Quite right - and just to clarify (further): I'm not suggesting marketing departments become HTML professionals, but I do think there needs to be a better understanding of what some selected attributes do on a page. –  Phil.Wheeler Oct 22 '09 at 5:59
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It would be nice if they have HTML experience, but more often than not, they don't seem to. Is there anyone at the company that could be officialy designated as a part-time HTML assistant for marketing, so it's an allocated part of their time on their timesheets?

Another option would be to give them access to the content directly (but not in production, only in a test environment) through some kind of managed CMS. Many CMSs have HTML editors that don't require the user to actually know HTML, only click on buttons for bold, italic, etc., just like in Word. Problem is that the CMS may be too restrictive for the Marketing types, who have a very specific vision of what they want. I've seen the CMS route work in some very corporate environments, where they wanted all the content to be similar and conform closely to their standards.

EDIT: If the term is new to you, CMS == Content Management System.

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Marketing should not necessarily understand HTML to specify web content, just like they don't have to understand typography to specify printed brochures, cinematic techniques to specify video ads, photography technique to specify image ads, etc. SOMEbody (ideally a person or two on each side) must be willing to make a substantial effort to understand the other side's techniques, limitations, desires, etc, learn their language, grasp where they're coming from -- such "bridge builders" are always precious resources in any of the many, many situations in business where very disparate teams must cooperate smoothly and effectively.

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The way I look at it, the web is a fairly specialized field to work in. Anybody who's in this field should have a basic understanding of HTML and how the presentation layer works, whether they're in marketing, middle management, or executive level. That said...

There's definitely something to be said about the skills of a dedicated frontend developer versus those of someone who does the task in a much smaller scope. Anything intensive should be handed off to someone who actually knows what they're doing; small text changes and such, on the other hand? Provided people know what they're doing, and respect the position of frontend development, it's fine to run with.

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I am not sure about other companies, but in my company some employees are required to unstand the basic meanings of some tags, like meta, tile, strong, etc.

The reason is very simply, we are doing marketing on line, and most of information is presented through HTML. If they do not grasp the basic HTML, it is hard for them to do some marketing campaigns like SEO, blog. And even worse, like you asked, the cooperation between marketing Dept and Tech Dept is in server situation.

In the standpoint of tech Dept, you can tell them how important those things are, or sometimes they knew this already. If they reach this level, they will study HTML by themselves. Anyway it is not so difficult for them to learn the basics.

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The sales model could affect the answer to this question. For 'high velocity', inside sales, high distribution models (open source, trial download, free) where driving mass adoption is the key, marketing teams in these models are responsible for driving targeted, relevant communications to prospects to turn adoption into revenue. This popular model has created the need for marketing automation programs like Eloqua, Marketo, etc., which all have email marketing as a big component of their value add. This means marketing managers should be comfortable in both WYSIWYG editors, as well as Source HTML (making sure styles don't get messed up by the WYSIWYG editor). Beyond HTML, CSS is also something that new marketing managers should be comfortable/familiar with. It's a new world out there.

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