How to Make Things Easier on Your Content Contributors

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By Kat Liendgens — Apr 5, 2022 11:00 AM


Picture this. You have dozens, if not hundreds of subject matter experts at your organization who can contribute valuable, informative, inspiring, and diverse content in many unique voices. You have the perfect prerequisites to having an exceptional web presence, right? You invest in a CMS to make sure that there are no bottlenecks to content creation and updates. Fast forward a year or two, and you’re just not seeing the expected results. Adoption of the CMS is not as high as expected, and, as a result, your content is not as fresh as it should be.

While there are some factors that you can’t control (such as the number of hours in a day), there are indeed several things that you can do through your choice of CMS and its implementation that make things easier on your content contributors. Let’s take a look.

Prevent Decision Fatigue

All too often, we think that giving people lots of choices is a good thing. We want our website visitors to have all the options, right? However, the data doesn’t support this strategy, as too many choices can actually hurt your conversion rates, because it can result in decision fatigue. This applies to your content contributors as well.

Unlimited flexibility can lead to paralysis by analysis. You may have been there yourself. Having to choose between 20 different page types and another 20 different component options on each page may work for a small section of your users, but certainly not for the majority. Progressive disclosure of content entry fields may help, but is not a silver bullet to prevent decision fatigue. The kitchen sink template may be popular among power users, but it can be quite overwhelming for contributors who do not want or need to think about selecting and arranging content blocks, accordions, tabbed panes, images, videos, RSS feeds, events, spotlights stories, and calls to action.

Be sure to accommodate users who want to be in and out of the CMS and focus on content. Provide them page types that make sense and don’t require countless choices for an unlimited number of rows.

Help Them Focus on Content

Speaking of focusing on content, while you want to give your marketing team the power to make choices about the presentation layer, don’t overwhelm your other contributors with design choices. In fact, you may even consider narrowing down choices in the WYSIWYG editor, as controversial as this may sound. It’s one of the best things you can do to improve content quality and accessibility, because it prevents contributors from using styling in order to convey meaning.

When designing the user interface for different contributors, eliminate distractions and confusion. Not every user needs to check what each page will look like in every available browser. Have your designers and developers test your templates, not your contributors, who will not be able to fix an alignment issue in Firefox. Similarly, not every user needs to see every YouTube video in your organization’s channel to link to from the pages that they’re managing, or certain SEO issues that they really can’t do anything about.

Finally, there’s a time and place for drag and drop, but don’t make it the be the end all for content contributors, because you want to preserve an on-brand and consistent experience for your website visitors, and to make the process of contributing content as inclusive and accessible as possible.

Put Guardrails in Place

Creating, updating and publishing content should not cause anxiety for your content contributors. Yet, it often is one of their least favorite things to do, because any mistake they make is for the general public to see. They don’t want to “mess up”. And you certainly don’t want to have any pages on your live site that contain accessibility issues, misspelled words, broken links, blurry images, or readability levels that are not appropriate for the intended audience.

In order to reduce stress for your contributors, educate them about the guardrails that you have put in place in your CMS, such as approval workflows or access to certain content entry fields. This is where your choice of CMS is crucial. You’ll want to be able to create custom groups and roles instead of being constricted to just predefined ones, as this could result in certain users getting more options and more access to certain pages, region, and content entry fields than they should have, and other users lacking some of the access and permissions that they need.

Be careful when it comes to workflows, though. Don’t overdo them, as they can result in unnecessary bottlenecks and ensuing frustration. Sometimes it’s easier to just put other collaboration tools in place, depending on the type of contributor and the type of content. You also want to be able to assign different roles and permissions to users in different sites. The key here is to be as mindful as possible in order to optimize the experience for each type of contributor.

Keep Them Engaged

Give them action items: One of the most overlooked factors when it comes to a perceived lack of interest is that a lot of CMS vendors seem to forget that content management is not the number one priority for many of your contributors. They don’t wake up and think about what they’ll do in their CMS today. Hopefully, you will leverage the tools of your content management system in order to keep your users interested and engaged. This may include using different channels to get your users into the CMS by showing them very specific action items, such as stale content, pages with issues, workflows needing attention, or even specific tasks assigned to them.

Foster collaboration: Another aspect affecting CMS use and, consequently, content freshness, is how much your CMS allows you to foster collaboration. Make sure that your contributors know that they’re not on their own. Allow users to tag others on comments on their content assets, to request help, and to assign and collaborate on specific tasks, which could range from small, simple ones like “find a higher resolution image for this banner image” to large, complex ones such as “do a content audit of the admissions section”.

Show them the outcomes of their efforts: As we discussed, you want to show your users what they can do to stay on top of their content and make it easier to consume, more accurate, and more effective. So how about taking the next step by making them see the outcomes of their contributions? The low hanging fruit here would be to include pertinent analytics in your CMS’s communication with your contributors.

The best thing you can do to help your content contributors is to provide them with an environment that enhances focus, and ensure that they focus on the right thing: quality content.

By reducing analysis paralysis and decision fatigue, making the content management process (and content consummation process for that matter) inclusive and accessible, preventing contributors from using styling as a crutch to convey meaning, customizing the experience for different types of users, and implementing ways to keep them engaged and invested in their content (and in the CMS itself), you are setting the right conditions for better CMS adoption and better results.

What about you? How do you make things easier on your content contributors?