Cloud Four Blog

Technical notes, War stories and anecdotes

Content Everywhere by Sara Wachter-Boettcher

Earlier this year Sara Wachter-Boettcher asked me to do a technical review of her upcoming book Content Everywhere. It was a tremendous honor. I’m pleased to see the book hits the shelves tomorrow. You can order it on Amazon today.

I was also asked to write a blurb for the book. I’ve never done something like that before. What I wrote probably wasn’t what the publisher was looking for, but it did capture accurately a moment I had while reading the book. Here’s the blurb:

OMG, so that’s what I’ve been doing these years! You know that unexplainable part where I divine order from the chaos of an existing site? Well, Sara makes it systematic, repeatable, and frankly better than anything I ever did. And if I didn’t find this book so damn useful, I’m pretty sure I’d hate her for it.

And that is exactly how I felt when I read what turns out to be pages 57 through 60 in the final book.

One of the things I have often done on projects is make decisions about what types of content warrant their own structure in the content management system and how they relate to one another.

The way I approached this problem was to spend a lot of time with the content of a site to understand how it is being used, how frequently different sections update, and how we might want them to work in the future.

Then after sufficiently marinating my brain in the content, I would propose what content needed their own records and what fields we were going to track for each.

What I was doing worked, but don’t ask me to explain it or worse, teach it to someone else.

That’s where Content Everywhere comes in. Sara distilled it to four key questions:

  • Will this element be used for searching or sorting?
  • Will it be used to relate this content to other content?
  • Does it need to be extracted and displayed alongside other content?
  • Does it need to shift, resize, or be removed altogether for some displays?

There’s more to it than that. Sara provides examples, interviews people who develop content models, and provides details on what you should do with the model. And that’s just one chapter in the book.

But for me, reading that section was an eureka moment. Sara had put in words what I had done on so many projects but had never been able to describe to anyone else. And it was so simple. So clear. I will be using these questions on future projects.

And yes, I kind of hate her for that. But please don’t let my jealousy stop you from checking the book out.