The participants in this study are webmasters, civilian and military, in
DoD military organizations. Webmasters were selected using a convenient
sample technique. Webmasters from the continental United States (CONUS)
and outside the continental United States (OCONUS) as well as both active
and reserve component were eligible to be selected.
A total of 85 web sites from across each component of the DoD (Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps) were selected to participate. Twenty-five web sites each were selected from the Army, Navy and Air Force. Because of its size in relation to the other armed services, only 10 Marine Corps web sites were selected. Individual webmaster addresses were obtained from actual web pages.
Of the 85 webmasters targeted to participate in the pilot survey, 33 responded (response rate = 38.8%). Nearly three-quarters of respondents were male (73%) with almost 70 percent (69.7%) reporting at least two years of college experience. A large majority (69.7%) did not volunteer to be a webmaster. More than 60 percent (60.7%) indicated they worked alone as webmaster and are self-taught in their duties.
The research team visited the service component home pages and then used
the available hyperlinks to other military organizations and headquarters
from which to draw their sample. All links were considered for inclusion
in the study.
To answer the research questions, the research team’s intent was to obtain a clear description of web page webmasters, the actual duties required of a webmaster, the level of training webmasters currently have, and the type of training webmasters view as necessary to fulfill their duties.
A pilot survey (Appendix A) developed by the research team consisting of 16 basic questions addressed general demographic information (gender, age, education, career field, experience) and specific responsibilities of the webmaster. Respondents were questioned about the types of duties they performed and number of hours required each week the webmaster served in that capacity.
A closed-ended question was asked to determine whether the webmaster feels a need for formalized training to fulfill the duties would be beneficial. The open-ended question approach was used in the pilot study in an attempt to ascertain solely whether there was a perceived need for formalized training.
Webmasters listed on the website were sent the survey via e-mail with instructions to complete the survey and respond similarly. Based on the results from the pilot survey, a more in-depth and expanded survey was developed by the research team to address the actual type of training webmasters see as most useful. The survey in its final form (Appendix B) will be targeted to a wider, more random sample of webmasters throughout the DoD.
The pilot study generated a 38.8 percent response rate (33 of 85 surveys
returned) from the population sample. The return rate by service was U.S.
Army (24%), U.S. Navy (48%), U.S. Air Force (44%), and U.S. Marine Corps
The typical DoD webmaster is an enlisted male approximately 30 years old with at least two years of college education and just over 12 years of government service. A majority of webmasters are self-taught (60.7%) and have been webmasters for only 1.6 years. A large majority (69.7%) was directed to be the webmaster for their organization. The remainder (30.3%) reported they had volunteered or actively sought out the position of webmaster. Despite DoD and service component guidance delegating webmaster responsibilities to staff Public Affairs personnel, only half (51%) reported being in the PA career field of their respective service. The majority of the remainder (49%) reported serving in the computer specialist or communications career field.
The sample was asked to report which policy guidance they were familiar with and used while performing their webmaster duties. Overall, 97 percent reported using the DoD guidance. Approximately 79 percent report using service specific guidance. Over half the respondents report using higher headquarters directives (60.6%) and unit level guidance (54.5%). Clearly, policy guidance for webmasters diminishes at the lowest levels of use.
The sample was asked if webmaster duties were a team effort in their organizations or whether they worked alone. A majority of the webmasters (60.7%) works alone. Those working in a group usually shared webmaster responsibilities with either one or two other people.
In response to a question regarding web page maintenance, a majority (60.7 %) reported updating their web page on a weekly basis. Thirty-six percent of those responding to the pilot survey reported making daily updates to their web page. A small minority (3.3%) updated on a monthly basis.
The final two questions of the pilot study addressed webmaster training and the value of a web page to the organization. An overwhelming majority (93.9%) of webmasters favored some type of formalized military training for web page design, operation, and maintenance. Although the training question was closed-ended by survey design, five (15%) of the respondents added a comment that there is a need for technology training in web page design.
The resounding response from the webmasters was that web pages were a valuable product that provided timely, up-to-date information about the military to web site visitors. Respondents commented that web pages had the potential to assist in recruiting and maintaining a positive public image within the local community. General information contained on web pages was deemed useful for the general public as well. Several webmasters reported a decrease in processing paperwork and providing general information over the phone because of the public access to requested information.
The pilot survey provided researchers with a demographic profile of the individuals currently performing webmaster duties within the DoD and each of the service components (see Table 1).
|PA Career Field (Y/N)||17/16||3/3||636||5/6||3/1|
|Government Service (Yrs)||12.67||19.3||12.91||10.05||9.25|
|Web Experience (Yrs)||1.61||1.5||1.41||2.03||1.25|
|Web Page Hours||14.3||10.5||11.29||19||16.13|
The use of web sites to disseminate information is an innovation that is
still being diffused throughout the DoD. As this pilot study demonstrates,
there are numerous variations in webmaster selection, experience and qualifications.
Webmasters often must train themselves due to the lack of an available
formal training program.
The World Wide Web is a powerful, dynamic conduit of communication that the Public Affairs community should look to exploit. It has the capability to instantaneously reach audiences from a local to global perspective. Trained webmasters with Public Affairs skills permits us to better harness this powerful communication channel.
The pilot study identified several key aspects of web page use that is inconsistent with current DoD and service component policies. The observations uncovered by the research team demonstrate a need to further explore these conditions. A second, more extensive survey that targets a broader sample of the webmaster population must be conducted.