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This week we'll learn about the importance of end-user training. In February, I'll write about modules you can use to customize the editor user experience in Drupal, and some news about initiatives in Drupal to improve the content administrator experience.
Say you’ve built or purchased a flexible, extensible application with Drupal. Because Drupal is highly malleable, it’s likely a wholly unique custom system. A downside is that this leaves end users at a loss in terms of self-teaching. They may be inclined to simply search for “Drupal” tutorials, yielding an array of irrelevant information.
There's no doubt that Drupal 7 has greatly improved user experience, yet once you begin to customize it with new content types with multiple fields and custom workflows, it becomes another application altogether. You may hope if a site is well designed, that all of your end users will be able to use it instantly. However, if a "one day course about Twitter" exists for an application with one simple text field, then a reasonably robust Drupal site certainly can benefit from some end user training.
Prepare for the end-user at design time: Recommended modules and techniques
End-user experience is ideally taken into account at design time, yet too often site maintainers and content editors are not well-considered in the equation. Who is managing your site? Are they the same people managing the build of the project? If the site developers speak to or observe typical end-users, simple improvements can be found and implemented quickly. As well, there are several modules to help make content administration better if installed and configured properly. Here are some suggestions:
- Provide safe sandboxes to allow staff to learn, experiment and test content types as they learn.
- Make custom internal landing pages with Views and custom menus to help staff complete their important tasks.
- Use images in content editing screens to explain the final output of a node/add form.
- Export Views as modules allowing clients to edit or customize Views safely with a roll back option.
- Improve content moderation and workflows with tools such as Workbench Moderation or a content Scheduler.
- Add a simple Save Draft button to the content creation form.
- Help content and site managers deal with problem users with Flag and custom Views.
- Test either Administration menu, or Admin menu which might offer better controls than the default toolbar for your users.
Aidan Foster of Foster Interactive has a great presentation about Simplifying end-user experience, check it out for more ideas.
Leveraging the power of Drupal through Site Builder training
In certain situations, clients may need staff members with site-builder level abilities. Site building knowledge can allow staff to alter the layout of page layouts or to change the fields displayed in a content listing. Often, this indicates a shift in how the company manages development by putting some power in the hands of trusted managers who do not need to refer simple development tasks to an internal (IT) development team. In fact, to really leverage the full power of Drupal (and experience some related cost saving), they may well need full Drupal Site Builder training.
Adoption is key to success
To realize the full power of Drupal, cultural adoption becomes as important as teaching technical procedures. Staff transitioning from a previous system may bring unique cultural challenges to the switch to Drupal. In some ways the design of the project can make the transition smoother using some suggestions mentioned above. However, even for the simplest of implementations, a training program that provides clear guidance and explains the benefits of the new system can make or break the new project.
Taking into account staff turnover and incremental site changes, training should be done with an eye towards on-going delivery. This can be made easier by starting with solid documentation and supplementary self-paced training materials accessible by end-users.
How we can help with end-user training to ensure the success of your project
For many web development agencies, packaging sites and applications with useful end user documentation may require time consuming preparation of materials (think "screenshotting"). Rushing this process may result in inadequate details provided about the site for staff. End user training needs to clearly match the real goals of end-users and the overall usage of the site. It's really a bespoke service.
Acquia offers customizable end-user training packages to ensure project success post-delivery. We base these training packages on selections of tutorials for typical site administration procedures from our Content administration in Drupal course. We combine it with our tested Drupal curriculum to provide training adapted for your needs.
For example, tutorials may be selected depending on what permissions are available to each user role. We can deliver a tailored resource customized with the your site's terminology and screenshots; as well as adding documentation of any additional procedures not covered in the standard set of tools.
Courses can be delivered on-site (in person training), or as online training (live or asyncronous). Clients are left with a set of useful end-user training manuals and other resources.
To find out more, please see our Customized end user training and Content administration in Drupal course.
In February, I'll write about the modules you can use to improve the content manager experience, what we can learn from other systems, along with some good news about initiatives in Drupal to improve the content administration.