Content Critical: Gaining Competitive Advantage Through High-Quality Web Content Paperback – 15 Oct 2001
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"Content Critical is highly recommended. It belongs in every design library. It should be on the reading list of every course in Web design. Any Web designer who plans to be in business five years from now should read this book."
Ken Friedman, Design Research News
"Content Critical is amply provided with reality checks, examples, and practical ideas and suggestions ... The authors have succeeded in writing a book that will appeal to both beginners and experts."
Geert Jan Kraan, Net Professional magazine
"Content Critical is another good example of a book that can make a difference. The book is well written and full of useful insights on web publishing. And, as such, the book is a very useful tool for everybody who is in charge of a commercial website."
Gert Birnbacher, chairman of DEBA, Scandinavia's largest network of e-business companies
"Content Critical is the best non-technical book on the subject of web content that I have come across to date ... For those interested in the 'change management' dimension of content and knowledge management, Content Critical may well become the standard text."
Andy Harrisson, Content Management Focus magazine
"Content Critical is an excellent book for academics and practitioners alike ... It should be read by anyone involved in Web content management, of course, but it should also be required reading for those with responsibilities including internal or external communication (and what academic or executive does not?)"
Colin Jevons, Journal of Consumer Marketing
"The term "bible" is now highly over-used in reference to tech books but if it weren't, that's how I would categorize Content Critical."
Rowan Wilson, Knowledge Management Review
"In this wonderfully straightforward book, Gerry McGovern and Rob Norton show why the success of your business depends, more and more, on getting 'the right content to the right person at the right time'."
Jonathan Price, author of Hot Text: Web Writing that Works
"In two books about the Web (Content Critical and The Web Content Style Guide), Gerry McGovern and his co-authors have made the subject as easily understandable as it is disorganized in reality."
Robin Sherman, American Society of Business Publication Editors
"Students and practitioners alike will benefit greatly from Gerry's book and I have made it a core 'must have' text for my undergraduate new media studies courses."
Andy Price, University of Teesside
"I can't think of anyone more clearly focused on the issue of good site content than Gerry McGovern, and I found myself nodding in agreement on every page,"
"For me, it was an important book to read, because, as a copywriter myself, I find the line between 'content' and 'copy' is very hard to discern sometimes. I think it's important for online copywriters to understand the work of content creators, and vice versa."
"Best of all, you get the sense with Content Critical that McGovern has a deep, deep knowledge of the subject. And he writes in a way that makes his knowledge accessible to others. Absolutely THE book on creating and managing content online."
- Nick Usborne, author of Net Words: Creating High-Impact Online Copy
"In this wonderfully straightforward book, Gerry McGovern and Rob Norton show why the success of your business depends, more and more, on getting "the right content to the right person at the right time."
"Their book cuts through the dot com hyperbole to show why your content is critical to profit. On the Web, therefore, we are all becoming publishers."
"With common sense, good humor, and sharp focus, McGovern and Norton give practical step-by-step advice on creating and managing content. I think you'll laugh out loud, as you mark passages to quote to your boss and your team."
- Jonathan Price, author of Hot Text
"Everyone involved in the Web should read this book; it is Tom Paine's Common Sense for a wired world. Buy it now or watch your empire fall."
- Rob Benson, TrainingZONE
"Content Critical does a terrific job of laying out the reasons why content itself must take priority and then, even more importantly, the reader is the number one priority. The book has been of great value in getting this vital rule across to the students."
- Diana Botsford, Director of Information Services, Drury University, USA
"Every serious webmaster, web designer, online editor, web developer or student-in-training will find Content Critical will make them stop and critically think about their web design work. My students are now required to read it."
- Curt Schroeder, University Regina, Canada
From the Back Cover
In the age of information overload and content glut, how do you get people to read what's on your website?
The modern world runs on content. And the Web is fast becoming the medium of choice for content delivery. Increasingly business is about getting the right content to the right person at the right time - and making a profit out of it. Content is critical.
Content Critical will change the way you think about the Web. If part of your job involves writing original content to be placed on the Web - product support material, a marketing pitch, or internal communication - you're part of a publishing process. Think of your website as a publication and it all begins to make a lot of sense. Think of the person who visits your website as a reader and your objectives become clearer.
Content Critical explains the theory and practice of producing reader-focussed, compelling content. It includes highly detailed, practical advice about what it takes to build a professional, content-oriented website, including classification, navigation, search and content layout. It shows you how to organize a publishing team and how to create a web publishing strategy.
Discover what high-quality content really is, and learn how to create it.
Having a Web presence that people want to use and keep coming back to is increasingly a vital source of competitive advantage. And that means content is critical. How good is yours?
Content publishing expertise is the vital skillset in the information age. Content Critical will help you:
- discover the key skills required to write compelling content for the Web
- understand the rules of publishing content online
- know how to appeal to your online readers
- develop an effective Internet communications strategy
- build publishing skills within your organization.
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Top customer reviews
The early chapters are quite promising, if a bit over-blown, and the general theme of the book - that content is a valuable commodity and needs careful planning and a multidisciplinary team - is introduced quite clearly.
But the authors don't expand on this, preferring to repeat themselves with job descriptions of the links in the publishing chain, and branching out into territory covered much more effectively by other books such as usability and navigation design.
What's really lacking are more juicy examples, tips on how web writing is different from other forms in practical terms, or examples of how to present numbers, images or diagrams. They also assume a large organisation with the resources for a multidisplinary team - where's the shoestring option for small businesses or public sector organisations on a budget? As the book descends in its later chapters into a plethora of general checklists, it's harder and harder to keep interested and focussed, since it seems so far removed from practical applications.
Beyond the initial chapters which argue strongly that poor content is a real business problem, the book doesn't present much that's new - which seems ironic given the title.
He talks sense here at greater length and the money was well spent.
The very first of mcgovern's arguments is that almost everywhere but T&A sites (he doesn't say that) people come to the web and read. Calling them users is kind of stupidly non-specific. People use toasters and bicycles and cheese-graters. It is a useless description.
He calls them readers. Once you accept that, all kinnds of mysteries of web-design become clear. All the pop-ups, and funny colours and distracting gee-gaws become an obscruction to the purpose of the site - they distract readers from what they are there to read.
Even ads - if they bring in the money to keep the site going, but then stop people from reading it - then what was the point?
McGovern and Norton lay out how you should create a site that has effective content nice and simply.
They don't pretend to be high priests who hold the secret, just people who've looked at what works and they can help you do it too. I made just a couple of changes after reading the first couple of chapters and I could feel the difference.
Like a lot of plain good sense, once you've read it, it all seems perfectly obvious - it is hard to believe you didn't know that all along. But if it was so obvious, how come you kept littering your site with pop-ups and flash. After all, if they're such a good idea, how come turn-the-pages books outsell pop-ups by about ten million to one.
Go on, buy it, it'll improve your site, and it is a tax deductible after all.
It deals with the fundamentals of web site content; its purpose, its design, its creation. Readers of McGovern's weekly newsletter won't be surprised by the content, themes or style of the book. It is direct, business-like, sometimes humorous and always well argued.
Content Critical is the best non-technical book on the subject of web content that I have come across to date. It is comprehensive and well structured. It demonstrates the authors' long fascination with the Internet as a publishing medium as well as their advocacy of information architecture as a professional discipline.
Content Critical has an important message and presents it according to its own rules and guidelines.
Content Critical analyses the benefits and costs of content with a model for comparing the cost of content to its reach and value.
It is easy to forget when we are surrounded by technological marvels that great content is still difficult and expensive to produce. The proliferation of television channels offering cheap to produce content is clear evidence of that.
The central chapters provide checklists and examples for the principles on which the majority of content rests. Topics include:
•Creating content and the importance of editorial (since 'even the best writer needs an editor')
•Information architecture as the foundation upon which a web site is built and developed
•Principles for good navigation design
•Content layout and design.
Content Critical is particularly scathing about headlines and summaries: 'Most headings and summaries on the Internet are poor. Headings often give you very little clue as to what the document is actually about.' Nor does it pull its punches when it comes to common stupidities: 'At all costs avoid "intro" or "splash" pages. They are a total waste of time.'
The final chapters cover building a web site production team and the publishing strategies required if an organisation is to treat content as a high-value asset rather than as a commodity.
Content Critical can be summed up by a recent Gerry McGovern newsletter: 'Time is our scarcest resource. The less time we have the more our attention span contracts. Write simply. Keep headings, summaries, sentences, paragraphs and documents short. Get to the point. Then stop.'
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