Wednesday 2 November 2011

Managing contributors in a devolved content management system

One of the toughest parts of a web manager’s job is dealing with the groups of authors who have access to your content management system (CMS).

Not every organisation has a CMS, and the question of whether or not to devolve any element of editing in the first place is quite another blog post. But if you use any kind of devolved system you will probably have come across some or all of these challenges:
  • People who insist on access ‘just in case’ but actually never use it
  • Regular users who simply can’t – or won’t – take on board house style, web best practice, or anything else you regularly end up correcting
  • Managers who want to have final sign-off and don’t understand why communications / the web team want to check their work
  • Profligate uploaders who have no idea about version control, putting on multiple versions of the same document
  • Tweakers who just want to play with the code or use every colour and heading and clip art image they can find

And there are plenty more. But rather than make this post a moan, here are my top tips for reducing the pain. 
In fact, you might even reap some benefits and save some time and energy.
  • Make it a prerequisite that editors must use the CMS regularly. It is the once-a-year users, and those who try to use it for the first time six months after their training, who cause the most problems. It will usually be genuinely quicker and easier for them, and you, if they simply email you their updates.
  • Provide more than just technical training, whether that is running workshops, a blog or providing one-to-one support. Help editors understand style, accessibility, writing for the web; share your expertise. Make sure they know how to get help.
  • Keep editors informed of changes and ask their opinions – making them feel valued and part of a community will help your relationship with them.
  • If you can, adjust CMS settings to restrict the amount of freedom your editors have. If possible, prevent them from being able to get into the code, or make simple changes such as removing the ‘italicize’ button from the style options in your WYSIWYG editor.
  • Don’t just rely on your CMS though - use a workflow to approve or reject content centrally. This enables you to ensure consistency and uphold standards. There will always be someone who uses bold instead of an H2 style, or insists in writing all in caps.
  • For those who oppose you approving their pages:
    • Demonstrate the value your editorial hand can add, for example by re-working a section of their content and providing evidence of improved usability.
    • Suggest a trial period to allay their fears.
    • Ensure you really are adding value; you may have no need to approve committee papers, policies, financial statements or press releases. Considering allowing this kind of content to bypass the workflow.
  • When rejecting items, explain what the editor has done wrong and why and ask them to make corrections. If you always do it yourself you can’t expect them to learn.
  • Regularly review the list of CMS users and don’t be afraid to disable accounts of those who haven’t used it recently or who are unresponsive to training.
  • Work with key stakeholders to enshrine your principles in formal policy.
Do you disagree with my list? What rules work for you? 

1 comment:

  1. Spot on, I agree with all of the above. We were going to go down a fully devolved route but would have needed many contributors who would only use the CMS infrequently. Instead we've kept most of it central. The one contributor still invents new styles and needs reining in but a good relationship with them goes a long way.

    The extra time and effort to talk contributors through your edits and show them the end result with improved usability is well worth it.