Managing eZ Publish Web Content Management Projects – A Review

Packt Publishing have just released a new eZ Publish related book titled, Managing eZ Publish Web Content Management Projects written by Martin Bauer.

Firstly I must state that in the past I worked with the author of this book for a number of years at designIT. I've been involved in many of the projects mentioned in the book as well as discussed and work-shopped many of the techniques both with and with out the assistance of a cold frothy beer or two.

This book isn't as much a step by step technical guide to creating an eZ Publish site but a series of observations and techniques that can help in specifying, delivering and managing medium to large web based content management projects. While the title and some of the content imply an eZ publish focus, most of the advice could be applied to web content management in general regardless of the platform.

The tone of the book is quite informal which makes it easy to read. The book takes the reader through the stages of the Software Development Life Cycle via 13 chapters (300 pages) that are a mix of real life examples, experiences and antidotes intermixed with easy to follow techniques.

The first two chapters (Understanding Web Content Management and Information Architecture and Design) set up the concepts web content management, discusses the differences between traditional development projects and content management projects and provide an excellent introduction for the latter chapters.

The third chapter is an overview of the eZ Publish content management system. This section strays too deep into the technical details and which makes it appear out of place in comparison to the rest of the book.

Chapters 4 to 6 (Defining an eZ publish Project, How to Write a Specification & Content Modeling) deal with processes and interactions that happen before a project starts production.

Chapter 4 provides practicable examples and techniques in to assist the the first meetings with clients and detail gathering the project brief, defining success and early estimates. Chapter 5 provides guidelines on producing a functional specification and creative briefs while Chapter 6 examines content modeling.

Chapters 7, 8 and 9 (Planning and Pricing, Risk Management & Open Project Management) focus of techniques dealing with clients once the details of “what” have been established and the project is under way. These chapter have the least eZ Publish focus but for me provide the most value.

Chapter 10, Implementation is about putting it all together and includes good sections on content gathering and population, and managing development, staging and production environments . The subsection on styling strays too far into the technical and is unlikely to be relevant for most implementations.

The last three chapters, 11 to 13 (Testing, Training, and Maintenance and Support) deal with project components that are often neglected or approached as an after thought - what happens after a project has been built. The testing chapter while focusing on infrastructure, performance and eZ Publish debugging techniques seems to be missing a section on functional testing. The training chapter gives some examples and techniques of handing off a project and dealing with a third party taking over responsibility for the project. Chapter 13 details how to deal with patches and planing for future upgrades and enhancements.

One of my biggest gripes with this book in not so much in the content but the formatting. There are a lot of titles used throughout this book and a greater difference in the sizes of fonts for the major and sub headings would greatly improve readability. This issue is especially evident where sub-heading “lose” their main heading after crossing pages.

Another formatting issue is that examples aren't adequately visually differentiated from the content. In some cases they seem to merge into the commentary and this effects the flow and understandably of the concepts being explained.

There are a number of real life example projects referenced through out the book with a example functional specification presented as an Appendix. Throughout the book some examples seem to be introduced out of the blue and without context while others seem to surface a number of times. I feel that the reader would have been better served if the number of example projects was limited to two or three and that these projects were used through out the book to help explain the various concepts.

Essentially this is a book about project management, specifically web content management projects. It distills the authors experience and captures techniques and lessons learnt that have been refined over many years and projects.

While Managing eZ Publish Web Content Management Projects is written with an eZ Publish focus I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to users of other Web Content Management Systems. Because of relaxed tone and style of writing it should appeal to anyone working with Web Content Management Systems, from Business Analysts, Project Mangers to Developers, Testers and Trainers.

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