Oneupweb : Don’t Forget the Training Wheels

Your client is ecstatic about their brand new site. Everything’s been optimized, your code is tight, and it’s a snap for the end user to interact with. The launch has gone off without a hitch, the keys have been handed over, and you’ve already congratulated yourself on a job well done. Just as you’re about to wrap the day up, your phone rings… It’s the client…

“How do I…”

Despite everything you’ve done right, you forgot one crucial piece of the equation: Training.

All too often in the world of web development, training is an afterthought. There are a fair number of businesses out there who have paid top dollar for exceptional websites, but have left them to languish, devoid of fresh content and regular updates. In order for your client to view their business investment as an asset, they need to see the value in what they’ve paid for. They need to be able to use their site.

On the positive side, training is a relatively painless endeavor, so long as you take the proper steps during the development process. It really boils down to making sure you hit three major points.

1) K.I.S.S.
Keep it simple, stupid. It’s important to streamline processes as much as possible. In order to minimize confusion, try to make it simple and efficient to do things like create a blog post, upload a PDF, and swap out images.

Before you even begin installing the content management system, make sure to consider the needs of whomever will be maintaining the site. Do they have experience with HTML, or will they be relying on a WYSIWYG editor to make copy changes? Do they need to have full admin privileges? Or is it better to make their primary user account restricted to prevent the possibility of them “accidentally” deleting an essential template file or the home page?

2) Documentation
When developing the actual site, make sure to keep notes on how the client will actually use the site. By constantly keeping notes as you implement the initial design and integrate features, you’ll essentially end up with a rough draft of the site’s documentation by the time you’re done. With these notes to work from, and a few choice screen shots, you can put together a comprehensive guide to the basics of the website in a very short time.

Actually having documentation for a site is a huge boon to both you and your client. They have a handy reference to review whenever they need it, and it minimizes the amount of “little questions” they have to ask you if they forget how to do something.

3) Hands on training

Despite the fact that you’ve provided your client with a useful reference for their new site, and made it as simple as possible to interact with, it’s still necessary to provide some one-on-one training as well. In the real world, people have different learning styles, and many individuals find it easier to “learn by doing” rather than reading. This is also a great time to go over any more nuanced details the site may have, as well as a chance to really “showcase” the work you’ve poured into a project.

So the next time you’re working on a website for a client, don’t forget the training wheels.