Tips for Training Your Clients to Use WordPress

As WordPress continues to power more and more websites, it stands to reason that many site owners will want to learn how to use it. One of the strengths of any CMS is the ability to login remotely and add/edit content or perform other maintenance tasks. WordPress especially excels in this area and includes some built-in functionality to simplify the process.

Still, with so many available themes, plugins and customization possibilities, each website has its own quirks.

So while most basic tasks in a default WordPress install can be easily learned, every item we add something new creates that much more for clients to study up on. What starts out as a fairly simple process can become a bit overwhelming to the non-designer if you’re not careful.

But never fear – there are things you can do to make the training process go more smoothly. Check out our tips below for training clients to use WordPress:

Make it Personal

Make it Personal

Just as you may create goodies such as custom fields or custom post types to make updating a website more straightforward, you should also customize training to suit your client. That means taking into account what types of tasks they’ll handle. You should also think about their personality in general.

For example, if someone mentions that they really aren’t very comfortable with technology, you won’t want to make them feel overwhelmed by the whole experience. That might mean splitting training up into multiple sessions or setting them up with a more limited user account (we’ll get to that later on).

While there are certain tidbits of knowledge you’ll want to share with everyone (like how to upload an image, for instance), tailoring your training to suit a specific person can go a long way towards getting positive results. Some people just want to know a few basics and they’re good to go, while others need a bit more hand holding to get it right. Your training should reflect that.

If you’re training several people at once, then it’s probably best to err on the side of caution. Explain things slowly and always ask if anyone has a question. Regardless of their previous skill level, the goal is to help everyone achieve a measure of confidence in what they’re doing.

Limit Access Where Appropriate

Limit Access Where Appropriate

In some ways, this is a companion to #1 – in some ways, not. Hiding aspects of WordPress that a particular user won’t need access to is both great for training new users and for long-term security.

Once you start installing plugins on a site, the WordPress navigation menu can get exceedingly long. Just the mere sight of it can overwhelm some users. So, rather than telling a client to simply ignore the 20-odd items on the menu that they won’t need to touch – what if you could easily take away the ones they won’t need?

On the security side of things, hiding or limiting access to non-essential areas of the CMS just makes sense. Maybe no one touches anything they shouldn’t. But, do you really want to take that chance?

Taking advantage of the built-in WordPress User Roles and Capabilities is a simple step you can take to ensure that clients won’t have access to things they don’t need.

Just by changing a user’s role from Administrator to Editor will cut down on the number of menu items and restrict permissions to change settings. Plus it will help them focus on just the things they need to.

It also removes the temptation to play around with potentially harmful settings or even install plugins. If you want to go even further, a plugin like Adminimize provides a way to customize what users see based on their role.

This doesn’t mean that a client, or someone knowledgeable within their organization, shouldn’t still have access to an administrator account – they should. But it’s worth noting that an administrator account is powerful and should only be used when needed.

Show Patience

Show Patience

A few years ago, I saw a great WordCamp presentation by Joe Casabona, who stressed the need for empathy when teaching others.

To paraphrase one example, he spoke about someone who had never seen Star Wars. Rather than being incredulous and a bit condescending to that person who wasn’t familiar with the movie, it’s better to instead offer to take them to see the movie. Show them the wonders of Star Wars instead of treating them as an outcast for not having seen it. This is exactly how you should treat the people you’re training.

Displaying patience with a client will make the training experience better for everyone involved. Your client will feel more comfortable and ask more questions. That, in turn, will lead to them having a better understanding of WordPress. In the end, that means fewer panicked calls for help down the road.

How do you display patience and empathy? A good start is to mention that it’s okay to ask questions – even the most basic ones. From there, it’s about working at a pace that suits the person you’re training. Going too fast may cause confusion, while an arduously slow pace will bore them. Look at how they are grasping the concepts and ideas you’re putting forth. That will help you determine the right pace.

Tone also plays a big part in conveying patience. If you’re acting as if everything should be self-explanatory, that can have a negative effect. Again, this is where knowing the skill level of your client means a lot.

It Takes Practice

It Takes Practice

For many of us, training others does not come naturally. But that doesn’t mean you can’t become good at it. One of the best things you can do is to prepare for a training session.

Make an outline of the various topics you want to cover and think about any potential sticking points. You might be surprised at how much more smoothly things go when you have an idea of what you’re doing ahead of time.

And, as you gain experience, you’ll find that clients will help you to improve. Seeing how they react to different things you’re doing will provide you with invaluable feedback. That will allow you to make adjustments based on what’s working and what’s not.

Empowering a client to manage various aspects of their website by themselves is a very rewarding experience. Seeing their confidence level rise as they learn will, in turn, raise your own confidence level in your ability to teach.

One of the beautiful aspects of WordPress is how it has helped to democratize publishing on the web. When you train someone to use it, you’re helping to pay it forward.

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