Well-organized web development projects follow sequential stages: discovery & research, design, development, testing, launch.
But there’s a step that occurs before a new site launch that deserves it’s own attention — and that’s training.
Training clients to use their website is an incredibly important project stage. Here’s why.
We could build the most beautiful website in the world. We could build the most functional site in the world.
But if the people who need to use it on a daily basis don’t know how things work, or if they don’t know how to make things do what they want them to do, then that project is still going to be considered a failure.
That’s not something that anyone wants.
In order to make sure that a project is successful, we must make sure that all the people who will work with that website are properly trained.
Why Is Web Training Ever Neglected?
I’ll be blunt. Web design folks sometimes believe that our work is technology-based. But I believe our work is still primarily people-based.
We are always out to make sure a project is a success. Whether that means more efficiency, more revenue, saved time or money, or improved workflow. Training will always be a large part of determining that success.
Making A Plan For Client Website Training
There are questions that have to be considered at the beginning of the project. Getting answers to these questions helps us prepare for pre-launch training.
- Who within the client organization will be using the site?
- What tasks will they be using it for?
- What ind of familiarity do they have with WordPress?
- Will anyone need special training on adding, editing, or maintaining information? (Tip: I always presume the answer will be Yes).
- If anyone (usually in the client Marketing team) has had experience with a platform besides WordPress, what platform did they use before?
- Who needs to be trained? How many people need to be trained?
- Are there people above or below them that need training as well?
- Are there different departments that will have different tasks? Or is it only one department that will need training?
- Who are the backup people who will edit site content when client team members go on vacation?
Scheduling Client Training
Generally speaking most projects have a training module scheduled before the new site goes into a hard launch. This is to get all the employees in the organization up to speed.
One thing I’ve learned is to always leave this training open-ended and give it as much time as necessary.
There’s always at least one question that comes up that isn’t included in the training material.
This is the point of researching the client organization. We want to anticipate every possible question and use case, but there will invariably be insightful questions that arise.
Depending on the particular project, client training may even have to start at the beginning by showing them how to use WordPress as a CMS. This can be done through video courses, screen sharing, or hands-on training. Find out what works best for each particular client.
Projects with many layers of functionality may require extra staff training time. Be sure to add time for each person who is being trained, so everyone has ample time to get their questions answered, and to make sure they can perform their necessary tasks easily.
During training, it’s good to have each staff member do the tasks themselves. This ensures that they have complete understanding of how to perform necessary tasks. It’s also good practice.
Marketing team members may already have experience with a content management system, but because each WordPress site is slightly different, they may need to be trained for site specific-tasks.
Different people have different levels of experience with managing websites, so keep this in consideration as well.
Site training is in the pre-launch part of most web projects, but it is integral to the overall site success. It deserves to have it’s own dedicated planning.
Preparing Supplemental Training Materials
I find it useful to put together a personalized site manual for each website launch, with each task that will need to be done explained in step-by-step detail. This includes having screenshots of how to go through each step. We distribute these as PDFs and printed copies to each client staff member.
Make sure that each employee that needs to work with the system can complete each task and that you’ve answered all their questions by the end of training. Also anticipate answering questions via email after the actual site launch.
The most important thing is not make anyone feel intimidated by technology. There are no dumb questions. Ever.
Remember, if people can’t use what you’ve built, it is useless. A beautiful website means nothing if it is too difficult for your clients to use.