Website Owner's Manual The Secret to a Successful Website
I’m afraid I can’t be an entirely impartial judge of The Website Owner’s Manual. Having listened to author Paul Boag’s Boagworld podcast from episode one, and having become quite fond of the British banter and good advice he delivers with his co-host, Marcus Lillington, I am predisposed to give the book a favorable review. That disclosure made, I really believe this is a solid addition to your library.
Aimed at “Website Owners”
As stated in the title, this manual is aimed at website owners—those people within an organization that are responsible for maintaining its website—rather than website designers or developers. In a perfect world, clients would read this book before even seeking the help of a web designer. It would give them a better understanding of:
- the planning process (Chapter 2)
- their responsibilities regarding content development for the site (Chapter 5)
- the importance of an ongoing commitment to the site (Chapter 12)
- some of the technologies and problems they may encounter
Helpful for designers/developers too
Having read this book and followed through with its recommendations, a client would arrive at a designer’s door with a competitive analysis, a description of their target audience, and the site’s content in hand. Alas, according to the latest figures, the world still is not perfect. My clients are generally small business owners, writers, artists, or other busy individuals, and I imagine they would be somewhat incredulous if I handed them a 300-page book to read before moving forward with their website projects. However, that doesn’t mean a designer can’t utilize some of the straightforward, non-technical language from the book when trying to explain certain concepts; referencing the book could also give her point the added authority of the written word.
Advocating a different client/designer relationship
The most valuable part of this manual comes in the last chapter, “Planning for the Future”. Here, Boag makes the case (which he expanded on in a recent podcast), that a website should be an ongoing project—continually evolving rather than occasionally overhauled:
“For your website to have a long-term future, you need to stop periodic redesigns and embrace continual development”
What follows from this is that the client/designer relationship should also be ongoing:
“If the future lies in the continual evolution of your site, then you must break down the barriers between client and agency. You and your [web development] team need to really engage in order to move your site forward.”
His supporting arguments (for example, less wasted effort, time, and money) make a lot of sense and reinforce my experience as a web designer. I hope I can find ways to make this type of consistent, long-term relationship appealing and affordable to my clients.
A couple of minor complaints
There are a few typos and odd line breaks in the book which are a bit distracting (one ironic one in the second paragraph of “Creating Killer Content”: “Only rarely have I come across a website owner with the budget to employee a professional copywriter or editor.”) Also, while I appreciate the extra effort that went into having custom illustrations, they struck me as strangely hyper-masculine.
Though this isn’t the most polished book (more the editor and publisher’s fault than the author’s), it packs a lot of information into easily-digestible portions. I highly recommend it to anyone working with a web designer to develop a site, or whose job it is to grow and maintain a site. For designers and developers, reading this book can improve your understanding of and communication with clients.
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