Book review: Website Owner's Manual by Paul Boag

Website Owner's Manual by Paul Boag

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book instructs website owners in using their website(s) to engage customers and build their brand. I’ve read several technical web design books lately, but wanted to read this one to see things from the site owner’s perspective, in preparation for working with OptimWise clients on web design projects.

I first learned about the author, Paul Boag, when I was looking for web design podcasts and found his Boagworld podcast (currently on hiatus) and Boagworld Audioboos. In this book, Boag does a great job explaining website management in a non-technical way to website owners, using business terms and analogies. I liked the humorous cartoons illustrating website owners talking to web designers.

Boag made a good point that not many website owners understand: a website is a long-term, ongoing investment, not a periodic project with a capital expense. It must be continually maintained.

Notes
Design the site for the site’s users, not for yourself or the client (site owner).
Clearly define the success criteria with specific, measurable goals.
Use both qualitative analysis (user surveys and feedback) and quantitative analysis (site analytics).
Use Browsershots.org to test the site in multiple browsers.
Measure online visibility with popuri.us and GoogleRankings.com.
Design for simplicity; the more elements you add to a page, the less importance each element has.

Content
Meets business objectives.
Contributes toward success criteria.
Writes/shows what users want to read.
Copy should be in first person, informal, simple, and scannable (small paragraphs, bullet points, bolded words, etc.)
Keep copy concise; ruthlessly eliminate unnecessary copy and pages.

Offline promotion
Put your URL wherever your logo appears.
Reach your target audience on social sites (Facebook, etc.) and by writing for blogs or other editorial sites.

Track links by postpending URLs with a question mark, followed by a tag. Your site will ignore the part of the URL after the question mark, but your analytics will record the hit.
How regularly you publish your blog posts and newsletters is more important than how frequently you publish them.
Be personal; sound like a real person.
Don’t add community tools (newsletter, comments, forums, etc.) unless there’s demand and enough users to keep them busy.

Paul Boag's recommended resources
Gerry McGovern's New Thinking
A List Apart
Boagworld
.net Magazine
Boagworld Podcast
SitePoint Forums
Don't Make Me Think! A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability, by Steve Krug
local web design networking events
web design conferences, such as the Carsonified “Future Of” events

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