In the past ten years I have spent a great deal of time looking at the skills and competencies required to create good quality web content, including four years participating in European projects and defining role profiles, competency frameworks and curricula for a mysterious new profession that we called ‘web content specialist’. Throughout these projects we never really came to terms with what a web content specialist did and the career path that might possibly lead them to this role. There was all this content out there, and yet the vast majority of people working in web design and development seemed to be concerned with far more technical and creative issues such as information architecture, graphic design, usability and software engineering. Somebody had to be writing this stuff.
The answer, of course, is that come 2010 almost everyone is a web content creator, even if their contribution is no more than status updates on Facebook. Everyone who posts to a forum, writes a blog, tweets or maintains an online profile is making a significant contribution to the body of online content. Those who do this well make a more useful contribution than those who do not. Quality does matter.
Luckily, the rules that underly good quality web content creation are well established. Those who are professional content creators – journalists, marketing copy writers, public relations experts and so on – have, by and large, taken the trouble to come to terms with these rules. But not everyone is a professional and many who rely on their web presence cannot afford – or choose not – to employ one. These people would do well to consult Ginny Redish’s excellent Letting Go of the Words: Writing Web Content that Works. It’s packed full of easy-to-grasp and well-explained guidelines, backed up with plenty of examples. There was little here that I haven’t encountered before, but that in no way reduces the value of this book to its target audience.
If you write content for the web and believe that you could do this more effectively, then you really should read it.