Book Review and Giveaway: Content Strategy for the Web

Disclosure: I was provided a copy of Content Strategy for the Web by New Riders publishing. This review has not been altered in any way as a result of that circumstance, and as always contains my honest opinion.

I’ve been a member of the ‘content is king’ camp for many years now. Although I’m primarily a designer and developer, I quickly realized that without content strategy, your project is just going to be another project. The other edge of the sword, however, is that no one knows about content strategy. Content is always a complete afterthought because the only target on radar is something that looks awesome. It’s extremely troublesome to try explaining that a site design is nothing if it serves no purpose.

Content should be the focal point, starting gate, and mission statement for every project. I don’t mean content in the sense of what text is going to be on each page. I’m talking about asset allocation, page organization, and a plan regarding what to do with it all. It seems like that’s finally taking a grip in 2010 which is a good thing.

Why, as designers, do we need to worry about such things? To be blunt: so we can produce better websites as a whole.

Content Strategy for the Web

Kristina Halvorson gets it. I’ve just finished reading Content Strategy for the Web and I’m glad I did. She recognizes that content should be a top priority before a pencil touches paper for a wireframe. She also understands that content isn’t easy. It’s not. Content is troublesome from the first steps of the project. Even working on an in house project you’re jumping into a deep end full of orphan pages with little to no purpose, and a mountain of organizational work to be done. Switch that to a one off client project and you’re in even deeper.

Content Strategy for the Web book cover

Kristina aims to put a strategy behind your content strategy. She applies a process to it. Everything needs a process. Without process your ship is running rudderless, reacting to anything and everything that happens along the way. Projects quickly spin out of control and to not end up in the red, eating hours, is a rarity.

While I don’t have much one-on-one experience with content strategy, I like the looks of what Kristina has put together.

Content, IA, UX

Perhaps what I like most about Content Strategy for the Web is the global recognition of the need to work amongst a team. Kristina recognizes that a single person can wear multiple hats per project of course, but in an ideal world responsibilities are delegated amongst a cooperative team.

The separation explained between a content strategist, information architect, and user experience director is inspiring. The book discusses the separation between each position as well as how collaboration works.

Closing thoughts

Overall, even though content strategy is not my forte, I really enjoyed reading this book. It confirmed a lot of personal theories I’ve come up with over time and I plan on recommending the book to the marketing department, the sales department, and the SEO division of my company over the coming weeks. I really think it will help everyone get up to speed and on the same page very quickly in an effort to prime ourselves for some major improvements to our content strategy, both internal as well as on client projects.

I truly think that other Web designers will be interested in reading the book as well, especially freelancers. Freelancers should have a content strategy in place for every project, even if it involves outsourcing to a specialist of some sort. Your work as a designer closely ties itself with a content strategist, and if solid communication is not in place, a content strategy will no longer be effective.

Giveaway details

With this review I’ll be giving away three copies of Content Strategy for the Web. If you’re interested in reading the book, leave a comment explaining what your current content strategy involves (at a high level) and how it’s helped or hurt you on past projects. Entires will be open until 11:59pm EST Sunday March 7, 2010.