Making the Most of CMS Content Author Training

When you’re conducting Content Management System training on a new site experience, whether it’s an entirely new CMS or one your content authors have worked with previously, it’s going to include a learning curve. Not all CMS platforms are created equal and some are inherently more useable than others.  In fact, Primacy designed its own CMS, ZenSource, for the purpose of being incredibly easy to use and quick to onboard for content authors; however, with any system proper onboarding is essential. With a new implementation, there are new modules, templates, ways to setup menus, etc. that will present new concepts of some kind for any CMS user.  At Primacy, we’ve been through quite a few of these across numerous CMS platforms from site experiences small to large, and conducted training sessions ranging from a few content authors to hundreds, and here are some common themes and tips that can help ease onboarding and set your content authors up for success.

Conduct initial white label CMS trainings

Make the investment in building out a foundational, white-label demo site your authors or trainees can get access to early in the project, accompanied with some how-to documentation. Ideally, right around the time requirement gathering starts for your new site. Doing this allows your content authors to get a sense of what the new CMS will feel like and give them a chance to give early feedback.  Minimally it will save time down the road when you conduct your new implementation training because the basic concepts will feel familiar but it can also help with user experience design and CMS architecture.  We’ve found when content authors are familiar with the CMS and, the way you implement it, the feedback on how the experience is designed becomes more detailed. When authors are making site experience decisions with their ability to manage it in mind, what is imagined and what is built are much more inline.

Provide detailed CMS specifications

When walking content authors through functional specifications for how a module will look and function, it’s equally important to detail CMS specs in parallel.  What are the fields I’ll see? Is this content dynamically pulled in from somewhere, manually populated or both? What is taxonomy driven? Answering these types of questions and walking authors through their new structure is another way to prep authors for what to expect while also allowing them to inform the CMS experience as it’s being built.

Provide step-by-step reference guides

As the new CMS features are complete, it’s important to provide detailed end-user documentation.  Providing clear and concise step-by-step visual guides with everything from how to build each page type and module to setting up taxonomy and menus is critical – not only for authors to retain information early on, but also to train content authors in the future. Additionally, organizing the reference guides the way in which your authors will approach their CMS pages is important.  For example, start with the basics like creating a new page and adding it to a menu and progress with how to set up simple to more complex widgets.

Create a prioritized release and training plan

When it comes time to train authors on their new implementation it’s best to release a few new pieces at a time.  For example, prioritize high-value pages that cover the most amount of ground and some corresponding modules first, before diving into more obscure or rarely used modules and components. This allows content authors to get familiar with the new features a little bit at a time vs. all at once, and also allows them to give early feedback that can be incorporated in the next releases. Furthermore, this approach allows authors to gain access to the system earlier than when the entire build is complete which means they essentially have more time to breathe, and start building their pages sooner.

Prioritize who is trained, where and when

Whether you need to train 10 authors or 100, the same rules apply. The first training should consist of a smaller group of core team members who will be responsible for the most amount of content. Schedule follow ups either remote or in-person where possible for authors who have more specific needs. For example, a training session specific to authors who will only need to create press releases or update profile pages might be appropriate to schedule after the core group has gone through a more in-depth training. More focused and iterative training plans allow attendees to get the most one on one attention and focused time building content for their specific needs.

Work the room and build real content together

Bringing multiple trainers who know the implementation on training day can be key.  It’s best to have one person present and walk through the agenda while multiple trainers walk around the room to assist individuals one on one.  Encouraging the authors to bring real content is ideal because it gives authors real-world examples to learn the system and it also encourages them to ask questions and really deep dive into understanding the system.

Factor in ongoing and post-launch support

Make sure to scope some level of ongoing support for content authors.  Giving authors an expert to call and be able to walk through their content and CMS needs is always a good idea and helps ensure forward momentum. Factoring post-launch support time is also advantageous because authors will always have real-world feedback and want to make tweaks to the system just after go live.

Align on expectations early

Whether you’re training new users, or being trained yourself, thinking about your content authors early and often is critical to successful CMS training sessions and platform acceptance. Planning ahead and accounting for users with different levels of comfort with content authoring, and with different modules or sections of the site in their purview will make for both a more thorough and streamlined training. Trainees should be prepared to speak to or have a list of updates they most frequently make, and trainers can accommodate different learning styles by structuring the training as both a presentation and a hands-on workshop. To learn more about how ZenSource was created with content authors in mind, click here