Content Strategy for the Web

Author: Kristina Halvorson
Publisher: New Riders, 2009
Pages: 192
ISBN: 978-0321620064
Aimed at: Those responsible for an organisation's website, writers and designers
Rating: 4
Pros: Makes some well argued points that may provide useful ammunition 
Cons: Makes a few arguments go a long way
Reviewed by: Sue Gee

I have to admit that I had not come across the discipline of web content strategy before reading this book but Kristina Halvorsen not only claims to be "one of the world's leading content strategists" she also cites other authorities on this topic. Thinking about it however I have to concede that it probably is a topic that is worthy of attention since there is a far too much low-quality content on the web and far too many websites that fail to communicate adequately.

Halvorsen's initial message is that web content deserves more attention than simply being treated as a last-minute element of a website that simply replaces the lorem ipsum used as placeholder during the design phase.  She also argues at the outset for less content rather than more and at frequent intervals suggests that you pause to ask "why"? Fairly often she proceeds by asking a series of questions and this book is never prescriptive or specific.

Part of the problem, according to Halvorsen is that those in charge of organisation's websites are not and never intended to be publishers. Moreover web content is something that organizations tend not to budget for and often have no clear conception of whose responsibility it should be. Among the important points made in this book are that "content isn't easy" and that it requires input of time and money.

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The definition of "content strategy" provided is "the practice for the creation, delivery and governance of useful usable content" but this is expanded on to occupy over a hundred pages. While finding the argument largely convincing they are possibly over-extended!

Prior to getting down to creating any new content there is the three-step process of audit (discover what content you already have and assess its usefulness), analysis (define to objectives, assumptions, risks and success factors of the project), strategy (making actionable, achievable recommendations informed by the project's goals). Each of these three steps has an entire chapter devoted to it in the book's Plan section.

The next three chapters are grouped under the section headed Create. First comes a chapter on workflow - yet more planning, this time including who is to do what. The roles mentioned in addition to creators are requesters, providers, reviewers and approvers and publishers and there are long lists of questions to ask all of them and one point that is emphasised is to make people feel included. Other points are that the process needs time and that someone need to oversee the process - and  that this person (or team) needs to exercise editorial oversight. Now that's a point of view that I can agree with.

I am also in heartfelt agreement with points made in the next chapter on writing where the main point is that content is a complex undertaking - and being able to write well is just one of the attributes that the role requires. The next chapter on Delivery mentions both CMS and Social Media, but without going into specific of either.

The final section, Govern, starts with a chapter on measurement which makes passing reference to web analytics but mainly argues that you need to be clear about what you want to measure. There is than a chapter on the importance of website maintenance and a final chapter with the title Paradigm that emphasises yet again the importance of content and that you need to build a business case for content strategy to ensure your organisation takes it seriously. This book should provide the ammunition you need.

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TypeScript Revealed

Author: Dan Maharry
Publisher: Apress
Pages: 83
ISBN: 978-1430257253
Audience: .NET developers
Rating: 3
Reviewer: Mike James

TypeScript is a relatively small modification to JavaScript rather than being a complete language, so can a book with only 75 pages cover it?



Fast ASP.NET Websites

Author: Dean Alan Hume
Publisher: Manning
Pages: 208
ISBN: 978-1617291258
Audience: ASP.NET devs
Rating: 3.5
Reviewer: Ian Elliot

What could be wrong with wanting to make ASP.NET websites go faster?


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