5 Tips to Help Content Contributors Be Better CMS Users

By Laura Rives — Thursday, October 22nd, 2015 at 2:00pm
5 Tips to Help Content Contributors Be Better Content Management System Users

You’ve invested a significant portion of your budget into a content management system. You know that maintaining an up-to-date web presence is crucial to meet strategic goals and help reach the widest possible audience. Your organization has dozens (or even hundreds!) of content contributors, most non-technical and all with specific content that they need access to - and plenty that they don’t.

With such a complex set up, how do you set up your content contributors for the best and most effective use of your CMS? Let’s take a look at five quick tips.

Tip 1: Offer training sessions

No matter how intuitive your CMS is, you never want to leave your end users up to their own devices. While Hannon Hill’s Professional Services team is happy to provide end user training, the vast majority of our customers find Cascade Server so easy to use that they perform training in-house. Usually, it takes only 30 to 60 minutes to get content contributors up to speed. No matter which CMS you’re using, be sure to offer training either ad hoc or on a scheduled cadence.

Tip 2: Consider different learning styles

Remember, everyone has their own approach to learning. While some prefer hands-on training, others learn best through demonstrations and training videos. Alternatively, you might have users who need step-by-step written instructions, while others might do best with a simple cheat sheet.

Tip 3: Use in-line instructions

No matter how thoroughly you train end users, chances are that they won’t remember everything you taught them. That’s especially true if they only update their content sporadically. It’s also possible that they don’t have time to review the training materials you provided, so get ahead of the problem and make use of tooltips or in-line instructions inside of your CMS.

Tip 4: Use progressive disclosure of content entry fields

You want it to be as easy as possible for your end users to enter content, so don’t present them with fields that may not be applicable. Make the display of form fields dependent upon the value of other fields.

Here’s a simple example: your user wants to enter a new event to the calendar on your website. If it’s a one-time event, users shouldn’t see fields asking how often and when the event will reoccur. Instead, let the user indicate whether it is a recurring event and adjust the content entry fields based on whether the user chooses “Daily”, “Weekly”, “Monthly” or “Yearly”.

Similarly, let users select the layout of their page from within the content entry form. If they select a two column layout with a banner image on top, show them exactly the types of content entry fields for that layout (“Left column content”, “Right column content”, “Banner Image”). If they choose a different layout, the content entry fields should adjust automatically.

Tip 5: Educate them on COPE

It’s tempting for end users to want one big WYSIWYG editor because it seems easy to use. But do you and your content contributors know the price of this type of set-up? Make no mistake: the viability of the “dumb blob”, as content guru Karen McGrane calls it, is soon going to be over. “We are faced with “an onslaught of new mobile devices, platforms, and screen sizes, hordes of them descending every day”, McGrane says. “We’re outmatched. There aren’t enough designers and developers to battle every platform. There aren’t enough editors and writers to populate every screen size.”

McGrane is absolutely right - and it’s why taking a COPE (create once, publish everywhere) approach will soon be standard. So what does that mean to your content contributors?

  1. Content must be separated from design. It’ll be a bit of a paradigm shift since contributors often get fixated on the way their content looks, but the end result will be well worth it. Don’t put design QA on them by encouraging end users to focus on how their content is being presented. Instead, let them concentrate on the content itself.
  2. Embrace content chunking. Implement a true COPE architecture by moving past that “dumb blob” (aka: your familiar monolithic WYSIWYG editor), and enable end users to make updates in smaller, segmented content chunks. By mixing and matching content chunks, segments can be easily reused and distributed to different platforms in a variety of different ways. Same content, unlimited output.

For more information on COPE, feel free to download our FREE whitepaper.

What about you? How do you ensure your content contributors are the best CMS users they can be?

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