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As the 1990s came to a close, thousands of companies had invested hundreds of millions of dollars in Web sites that were essentially glorified electronic brochures. Professionally designed but unrelentingly static, these first-generation sites sat gathering dust as history’s greatest communication medium grew digital moss.
Enter the new Web generation – fast, up-to-the-minute, database-enabled and content-rich sites, not just from companies providing web services, but from any organization looking to use the Web as a timely communication tool.
In Web Content Management: A Collaborative Approach, Russell Nakano lays out the challenges and processes for companies looking to create these new dynamic sites that draw content from multiple asset providers. While the book has some clunky writing and never quite gets past the theory into specific applications and tools, it provides a good introduction to the discipline of large Web site content management.
Nakano is a co-founder of Interwoven, Inc., a major provider of Web content management software solutions, and from his experience working with large corporate clients he’s clearly recognized that the challenges involved in managing content are as much about people and personalities as they are about technical issues. A large part of the book is devoted towards designing systems that give every party – from programmers and designers to writers and managers – a comfortable and consistent role in the process.
The book opens with an introduction to why content management is important on today’s Web and provides a basic overview of the process. This is a good tour of the pleasures and pitfalls of content management and Nakano livens it up with some “real life” scenarios that show the process in action.
In Part Two, Nakano launches into the principles of successful content management, including versioning, collaboration, templating, workflow processes and deployment. This is the most in-depth part of the book and it provides clear, well-described theory. Readers looking for specific tools or applications, however, will be disappointed that there aren’t more suggestions for real-life ways to put these principles to use.
The final section of the book deals with globalization (including sites built for multiple countries and languages) and wraps up with a summary chapter. Four appendices cover versioning file systems and workflow designs.
In keeping the book at a theoretical level, Nakano has ensured that this reference will not become outdated in six months. While the tools may change, the principles behind Web content management should remain constant in the near future. The book should help those approaching a content management solution understand the choices and challenges that lie ahead.
Readers of the book will still need to invest time in researching the tools available for putting this theory into practice, but for those considering the purchase or development of content management systems, this book does a good job of laying a groundwork for what is a complex and expensive process.
Andrew Berkowitz is Senior Web Developer for Sparkplug, a leading interactive design firm, and Director of Web Services for Eye Cue Productions, an advertising and media firm. He has never met an ocelot he didn’t like.