The ability for clients to update their websites has become a common project requirement. Thanks to content management systems (CMS) such as WordPress, this functionality is now well within reach. In its most basic form, a user needs only an account and a web browser to get started.
But while the technology is in place, a streamlined experience for clients isn’t guaranteed. Depending on what types of content they’ll need to add or edit, the process can become overly complex. The result could be anything from a broken layout to desperate calls (or emails) asking for help.
Therefore, web designers must carefully consider how we implement certain features. It’s one thing to build a UI that a seasoned developer can manage. Crafting something easy for a non-coder to work with is quite another.
The answer is in making things as simple and intuitive as possible. Here are a few things to keep in mind when setting your clients up for content management success.
Consider What Could Go Wrong
A little planning now can save a lot of pain in the future. Especially when it comes to the portions of a website that will be maintained by your client.
Much can change between the time a website launches and when a client needs to make a change. Needs may have evolved. And clients may not be aware of the limitations of what you’ve built.
That’s why it’s important to think ahead. Not only should you consider the expected usage of a feature, but also how it will react to the unexpected.
Think of an area that is comprised of text. What happens if your client decides to add an image to the mix? How will that impact the integrity of the layout? Will it continue to work across mobile and desktop devices?
While you might not be able to prepare for every scenario, you can build a great deal of resiliency into a site’s design. This will keep things looking good – even when a client goes rogue with content. Plus, your clients won’t have to face the trauma associated with a broken website.
Don’t Assume Clients Are Tech Savvy
In situations where you’re implementing a UI, simple is always better. And it’s crucial to remember your intended audience.
Sometimes, it’s difficult to place ourselves in the shoes of a user. Not everyone lives and breathes code or high-tech tools. Thus, don’t make assumptions as to how tech-savvy the person using your creation is. If anything, start from ground zero.
Language is a prime example. Use terminology that anyone can understand. Avoid buzzwords and complex explanations. Instead, opt for content that is short, succinct, and easy to read.
Visual indicators can also be of help. The use of icons, animations, and quick tutorial videos makes for a more intuitive onboarding experience. And they can also serve as a handy reference if a client isn’t sure of how to perform a task.
By designing the simplest UI possible, you’ll empower clients while saving yourself future support requests.
Take Complex Processes Out of a User’s Hands
The more tasks we ask a user to complete, the more opportunities there are for mistakes to be made. This rule of thumb applies just as much on the back end as it does on the front.
For example, consider a feature that allows a client to swap out an image. Perhaps that image needs to be cropped to a specific size to keep the layout intact. Or it might need to be in a particular format to maintain a transparent background.
That’s fine – as long as the client is adept at using a photo editor such as Photoshop. And they also need to remember to crop and save the image to match the website’s requirements.
Still, there’s always a chance they’ll forget one or more of these steps. It’s also possible that a new team member isn’t aware of the process you have put into place. This could produce undesired results.
This type of scenario might be avoided by employing the help of some tools. In the case of WordPress, the software is capable of automatically cropping an uploaded image to a predetermined size. And using a plugin such as Advanced Custom Fields allows us to limit what types of files are uploaded to a particular feature.
By automating these processes, we’re removing multiple layers of complexity. As such, our client won’t need to remember these steps. Instead, they’re taken care of in the background. And if the client does make a mistake, we can build in a failsafe to check and remind them of what needs to be done.
If a Task Is Too Complex, Tell Your Client
Despite our best efforts, some tasks may require a high level of technical knowledge. This might be a tricky design feature your client insisted on or a bit of custom code that powers crucial functionality.
This introduces some additional risks in terms of maintenance. As we noted above, multistep processes leave more room for user error. And anything left out in the open is fair game for breakage.
Rather than leaving a gaping hole in your client-proofing efforts, discuss the situation with your client. Explain the risks involved and offer ways to avoid issues. And if a feature is simply too difficult, perhaps it’s best left in your capable hands.
Regardless of how you manage the task, having an open dialogue is the best place to start. When clients understand the limitations, they’re more likely to help you arrive at the best solution.
Show Clients the Best Side of Technology
There are plenty of reasons why a client would want to manage their website updates. And web designers have a variety of ways to provide the required functionality. But, as they say, the devil is in the details.
The challenge is in making the process accessible to all users with basic skills. That means building intuitive features that can withstand unexpected usage. Users can also greatly benefit from automating complicated tasks when possible. And if a task can’t be simplified, it may be worth managing yourself.
It all starts with creating a plan. Think about how things should work and what might go wrong. Communicate with your clients and help them set up a workflow that eases their burden.
Yes, it’s a lot of work. But the end goal is helping clients to help themselves. When they can do their work efficiently and without problems, that benefits everyone – including you!
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