Getting the keys to your shiny new website and content management system (CMS) feels a bit like driving a new car off the lot. But like a new car, there’s a lot to learn before you’re completely comfortable behind the wheel. Familiarity with the CMS is absolutely critical to a successful hand-off between the team designing the CMS and the team that will be using it.
Basic CMS training is a great first step. But there is still the potential for a significant knowledge gap when your authoring team actually uses the new CMS for the first time. Even authors who have experience using a different CMS—or an earlier configuration of the new CMS—are likely to need an orientation to the way the new CMS has been configured.
That’s why most content proposals and SOWs document the assumption that the client will complete a vendor-approved CMS training program prior to the agency handing over the keys. This common-sense requirement is one of three content assumptions that can make or break your website launch. And it should be part of any agreement that involves designing and implementing a new content management system (CMS) or significant CMS upgrade.
Off-the-shelf CMS training is usually based on a generic curriculum and provides a basic understanding of the authoring experience, including fundamentals such as:
- Checking out and checking into the system
- How to use different editing tools like text fields, rich text, and in-line editors
- Methods for organizing and searching for content
- Uploading files and managing media libraries
- Workflow and publishing tools and routines
Customized CMS training provides experience ‘behind the wheel’
To take the “driving the family car” analogy a bit further: basic CMS training is like the classroom portion of drivers’ education. But only a customized training program gives your team experience “behind the wheel,” working with the actual templates and components and using real-world content in real-world workflows.
A customized training program should include instructor-led training as well as documentation that provides post-training reference and reinforcement. A comprehensive training program aligns topics and activities with holistic, high-level task groupings.
Folders & libraries
Drag-and-drop page composition and dynamic, rule-driven content display is making organizing content more complicated. Orderly, hierarchical folder structures are giving way to shared folders, content “buckets,” and sub-content folders within a page (where the page itself becomes the repository of shared content). Today’s CMS technology relies more and more on SEARCH to locate content, so how authors name files and content items is a key element of customized CMS training.
Components & page building
Content authoring has become a multi-step process of creating shared components like charts and calls to action; uploading images and documents; and creating alternative, conditional content for personalization and A/B testing. All before the author actually creates a page. Unlike generic training using generic page examples, a customized training program uses the actual layout requirements and options that an author will need to understand in order to assemble a page.
Workflow & order of operations
Creating components and uploading content assets are part of a larger workflow that includes page authoring; review and approval; versioning (and translation workflows if needed); publishing; revising; and archiving. These processes should be worked out, tested and documented before the CMS is delivered. During training, the workflows are demonstrated before authors experience them in a hands-on, supervised session.
Finally, a customized training program can demonstrate typical mistakes and help authors to identify and correct errors. For example, a missing element may be a result of skipping a step in an earlier subroutine. The trainer can show authors how to “walk back” their work and find the source of the error. Documentation can also capture common errors and remedies in an indexed troubleshooting section.
Customized CMS training empowers your whole team
A customized CMS training session represents a relatively small portion of the overall development effort, but it yields big dividends: more confident authors, easier hand-offs, fewer delays, and a better return on your CMS investment.
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