Web publishing has become more institutionalized at many organizations. One factor that elevates a mature web team from one that is less so is their commitment to a web training program. Does your organization have a formal training program for the Web team? How is it working for you? This 10-point checklist will help you know whether your organization’s web training program is achieving its full potential.
EVALUATE YOUR PROGRAM
These are the 10 points I press on when I do a web management audit and look under the hood at how they conduct training…
- Formal training program for web managers. This is simple. Is training ad hoc, funding conference attendance or programs that individuals opt-in themselves? Or has the organization stepped up to the need for more formal training that equips their people to better serve the organizations’ objectives and strategy?
- Recruitment for classes includes targeted outreach. Sometimes I observe large organizations where individuals self-select to attend classes. This often leaves those most in need of training outside the classroom, not inside, where they belong. This often occurs when the business unit doesn’t consider it a priority, or the person in charge is not interested. Whatever the reason, if key people are missing from the class you are not likely to reach all the parts of the organization that you need to.
- Training documentation published. Take a look at the format you use to publish training documentation. One emerging trend is to put user interface specs in a Wiki and allow a community to support it. However, more controlled environments would want to publish it as online manuals in html and offline manuals and quick tip brochures in PDF.
- Computer based training (CBT). Does your organization’s training approach leverage CBT and inline instructions? Consider inline instructions as part of the CMS publishing tool interface, under a help or tips button. Distance learning with Webinars and self-paced online courses for key audiences (internal users and stakeholders, managers, Webmasters) can help mitigate costs.
- Training Resources to include content publishing guidelines, to document standards for content packaging and presentation, issued to follow actionable instructions format for key tasks. I am aghast at how many organizations put all their training dollars on helping people understand the technology and little to no training dollars on the all-important rules for packaging your content to make it friendly and readable.
- Standards checklists. When an organization tells me that they want their site to follow best practice standards, I ask if they offer a class on writing for the web and standards compliance. Coordination between the office in charge of measuring standards and the training instructors help. Easy to follow checklists put in the classroom will also increase compliance. Without the tools to make it happen your desires are aspirational.
- Page weight and layout rules are part of training. If you want your pages no heavier than 100K, you need to help your people understand common mistakes that will force them to miss the mark. The most common culprit are pictures that are not optimized for the Web, so be sure to include image optimization rules, dos and don’ts. The dependency for including this training is selecting a photo authoring tool to train on. You can provide image training without purchasing expensive software tools. Many organizations have Microsoft Office Picture Manager software already on desktop. Other organizations choose freeware such as GIMP. And do try Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool for overall page weight issues. Select the product you wish to train people on and limit your training to this software to save money.
- Logistics. When you organize your class, be sure you set and adhere to an ideal class size, facility and documentation needs. If you include hands-on demos, it is a far better experience for participants when each desk has work stations. Class sizes greater than 20 may be too large for the best interaction with the trainer. Hand-outs are a must, in my book, to enable those being trained to jot down notes and follow along with the discussion.
- Evaluation documented from all participants and put up management chain for continuous improvements. Every training session should have a short one-page evaluation handed out or sent via email immediately after the class to get feedback about what people liked and where the class fell short. Report back to all relevant managers on the feedback you get to grade the instructor’s performance. Here’s a copy of the evaluation form I like to use.
- Bug fixes and Upgrades. The training director should receive real-time information on upgrades and bug fixes to ease their ability to create new and accurate versions of training documentation. On large enterprise sites especially, the training department is often the last to know about changes developers and engineers make that may influence how the website operates or displays information. When it impacts publishing standards, web authoring or other elements of your training program it is vital that this division be in the loop.
Finally, one community building item I look: is there an annual summit to bring together Web producers for strategic planning and skill building? The larger the organization, the more impactful such a gathering will be. When this peer group gets together, expect a joyous and spontaneous combustion of sharing lessons and ideas with each other.
So how does your organization measure up when it comes to web training? If you’re flying colors on all ten best practices – and host an annual summit to boot – congratulations. You are aces.
But if you find yourself under-performing, perhaps it is time to breathe new life into your training program. Isn’t it time to give it the attention and overhaul it deserves? Remember: at the end of the day the measure of a high-performing web site is less about the technology and more about your care for the people on your team.