The website owners manual by Paul Boag, published by Manning Publications
The website owners manual by Paul Boag is targeted to help those who own, run or manage web sites make them more successful. A quiet and humble man Paul has attempted to deliver all the lessons learned through more than 10 years of experience, at all stages of a site lifecycle, into a single resource. The result is a book that will help those responsible for websites be as successful as they can.
Covering topics ranging from selecting the right web agency all the way through to planning for the future, not all content might be appropriate for all website owners, but if the desired audience pick up this book, I don’t think there a single reader that will not learn something and become more successful in their role because of this book.
The book contains succinct well considered advice, which will not overwhelm any reader. I thought there might not be quite enough in depth information, or further resources, provided some sections to really make a difference, like reviewing site analytics. The book could have also better proofed, but this is a matter for the publishers. Not to mention one of the images depicting a developer in a tie.
The website owners manual is divided into standalone chapters that each covers a different stage or process involved in running a website. The 12 chapters cover:
The secret to a successful website
Stress free planning
The perfect team
Differences over design
Creating killer content
User centric design
Ensuring access for all
And finally, Planning for the future
Although not all chapters will be relevant to all website owners, and any experienced website owner will probably have a lot of the advice and recommendations in place, there is still an awful lot to either learn, or be reminded of while running your website.
The topics covered in the book do a good job of providing a feel for the requirements of each stage in the web site process. Some really useful content includes stress free planning, the perfect team, decoding technobabble and becoming number 1 on google.
firstly, Stress free planning, where in the “picture your users” section, Paul explains how you can research properly, prioritize your users and use fictional personas to better understand and relate to your target audience.
The Perfect team does an excellent job of explaining why a brief is so vital, even for small changes. Including an annotated example brief for fictional client “The Joke Factory” to explain why each part of a brief is so important.
Selecting the right people to work on your website might be the most important (and expensive) decision you make in the whole life of your website so it was good to see the steps Assessing proposals, interviewing the short list and evaluating agencies (especially with advice on talking to references).
Decoding technobabble is a problem for all us developers, so despite Paul claiming web developers are going to hate this chapter, I know my clients won’t hate me reading it. Not using simple terms to explain how a website works and introducing concepts like hosting is something I know I frustrate people with, but not for much longer.
Whilst reading the becoming number 1 on google section in the chapter driving traffic I was very pleased to read Paul explains about Black hat search marketing methods and why site owners should steer well clear of these underhand techniques.
In Planning for the future, I can take a lot from concepts such as Microformats, APIs and alternative devices concisely explained direct to my clients.
I really think this book is a must for any person responsible for a website, due to the wide range of topics covered. Although as I said, not all chapters will be relevant to all website owners, there will be more than enough for the book to be a real valuable resource. I like to think of it as a fully fledged consultant sitting on my bookshelf.
There were real moments of enlightenment about how I can help clients really grasp the requirements behind an effective site. I hope this will dramatically improve my client communication using Paul’s thorough but clear explanations of the concepts required for a successful website.
So that’s what I thought about the website owners manual, but its only the tip of the iceberg, and each person that reads the book will take learn something different, so I urge you to buy it and see what it can do for you.