On Certification and Web Development

May 26, 2006

Topics: Search Marketing.

Verifying qualifications is a subject that comes up from time to time in every field of internet activity. Web development, applications programming, internet marketing, you name it. Various companies offer some kind of certification – Zend offers certification
in PHP programming
, Google offers their own Google Advertising Professionals program, SEOtoolset offers a certification program for their tool set. All of these programs have a similar goal – provide professionals with a way of demonstrating to potential employers that they are accomplished and competent.

None of these programs are all that widely recognized or necessarily meaningful. Unlike certification in law practice (being admitted to the bar), certification in psychological therapy practices, or any of the many mainstream certification programs, there is no web certification program that requires continuing education in order to maintain their certification status.

Certification for SEO comes up from time to time in conversations, and earlier this year two separate companies began offering certification programs. The two programs are offered by the Society for Internet Professionals and by SEO Pros. Both of these programs are fairly rigorous, requiring study, courses, and examinations to achieve accreditation. Only one of them, from the SIP, requires any kind of continuing education for accreditation. I feel that this element is absolutely critical in order to give any certification validity.

Specifically, the SIP requires that you renew your certification once every three years. This is, I think, respectable. It is unrealistic to expect a renewal as frequently as the "game" actually changes, but every three years should be sufficient to maintain a valid connection with best practices.

It is my feeling that every area of web development could stand to have such a certification – something where you can achieve some kind of validation of your skills which would require first that you meet a particular standard but second, and most importantly, would require that you continue to further your understanding of the discipline in order to maintain your standing.

It is easy for somebody to accomplish a certification; it is a different matter to keep up with the rapid changes in a technological discipline. It is also a different matter to consistently apply those best practices in your work.

There is a secondary issue surrounding the significance of the accrediting body. An organization needs to have a strong degree of national or international acknowledgement in order to provide a strong certificate – and, I’m afraid, there simply aren’t many web organizations which have that kind of a reputation. Most professional associations in the web world have only minimal representation, or have significant politics surrounding their organizations. Even something as significant in name as the HTML Writer’s Guild is in fact merely a decorative label.

It would be nice, perhaps, if an organization as well respected as the W3C would offer certification programs – this would be one of the few organizations with a high enough name recognition to offer a
truly meaningful accreditation. Of course, then one might find oneself obligated to attempt to meet the requirements of WCAG 2.0.

Other than demonstrated accomplishments (the best recommendation of all), what would
you consider to be a valid indicator of web competence?

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