Having spent most of my life writing and editing for print, the move to editing online content was a gradual one and my skills seemed to transfer seamlessly. However, when I landed a contract as a content editor for a 45 000 page intranet replacement project at a significant government department, I knew I needed a better understanding of the online environment.
The Web Content Strategist’s Bible is a great book for a beginner to learn more about the planning and design of a large-scale website. The author, Richard Sheffield, admits that he stumbled into content strategy and at the time the book was written was Managing Editor for a Fortune 50 corporation’s website and had worked as a Senior Content Strategist in IBM’s Interactive Design Studio.
As the title suggests, the book focuses on a content strategist’s role including, the job, the skills required to do it and concludes with how to find a job as a content strategist. While this might not be everyone’s aim, the book is still a useful tool for anyone who finds themselves as part of a team tasked with redesigning or developing a massive website.
This book has a strong focus on the process or the project plan and Sheffield divides the development of a website into five distinct phases and dedicates a chapter to each. The phases cover understanding the organisation’s needs; analysing existing content; writing, editing and approving content; and concludes with the all important task of ongoing maintenance of a website.
Particularly useful in the book are samples of spreadsheets and tables which I easily adapted for my own project. The book also includes a guide on how to build a content matrix and a sample style guide and chapters on search engine optimisation and web content management systems.
The author identifies that there are fewer new websites being created and that redesign and rewriting or editing of existing websites to make the information useful and easy to find is becoming increasingly important.
This book is easy to read and coupled with practical tips and sample spreadsheets it’s useful for both beginners and seasoned web content strategists, information architects, designers, editors and writers. I refer to it regularly and I’m sure you will too.
Sheffield R, The Web Content Strategist’s Bible, Atlanta GA: CLUEfox Publishing, 2009. ISBN:978-1441482624