Does WordPress Scare Your Clients?

37 Comments

WordPress is one of the most popular content management systems web developers use with clients. Devlounge recently published a great article with some things to consider when using WordPress as a CMS. One of the biggest deciding points is functionality – will WordPress be able to do everything you need it to for your client’s site? And if not, are there plugins that will make it work? In most cases, the answer is yes, and that’s why WordPress is so great. But is it too complex?

Those of you that follow me on Twitter may have seen this tweet that I posted about a week ago:

Isn’t the whole reason I charge you to install a CMS for your site so you can make the text changes yourself? Sheesh.

This is a situation I find myself in often with my clients. They pay me to install a CMS with their site – a common occurrence for many web developers – but half the time, they never use it. Instead, they send me an e-mail when they need something done – usually a small task, like editing a page, that can be done with from within the CMS the site runs on.

…Why?

Why is this? I think the biggest reason is because most clients simply aren’t comfortable with the WordPress interface. The Write pages – posts and pages – are what they usually need to use the most. But these pages are so complex, I honestly think they scare clients away.

As I write this post in the standard WordPress Write screen, I can certainly see why clients might not want to venture into this area. Trackbacks, comments, password protection – why would most clients even care about those? And WordPress has no easy way to get rid of these boxes for any level of user, and you can’t easily add boxes either. Custom fields are becoming a popular thing to use for many functions on a site, but the box is buried down at the bottom and is a bit challenging for the non-technical user to understand.

So, what’s the solution to this problem? A plugin is probably the first idea that comes to mind, and that will be discussed later. But for now, what can you do to make your clients more comfortable with WordPress?

Solutions

Hands-on training. Raise your fee for installing a CMS and, if possible, give them hands-on training for common tasks they’ll need to perform. Actions such as submitting news posts, editing pages, and adding custom fields are all things that are best explained in person. If you aren’t able to meet with the client, buy some screencasting software and make an easy-to-follow video tutorial. You can probably make a few of these and use them for multiple clients, and create custom ones later if needed.

Edit the backend. If you aren’t concerned about keeping the WordPress installation up to date, and you know what you’re doing, you can always head into the wp-admin file and start cleaning up. Add some conditionals to determine user levels, and comment out anything that won’t be used. Just make sure you don’t go upgrading the installation anytime soon…

Write a plugin. It doesn’t have to be really complex, but plugins will usually protect the modifications from WordPress upgrades. Use some simple CSS to hide or move a few boxes on the Write page and you’re set.

Can WordPress Help?

Is there anything WordPress could do to help developers out with this dilemma? I think one of the best solutions is a simple API for the write pages, sort of like what they’re doing with the comments for 2.7. All we’d need is a simple toolkit that would let us build custom write pages for our clients, and easily add text fields to replace the custom field system.

Even adding the option of adding and deleting fields on the write pages would be great. Maybe administrators see everything, but authors only see the boxes they’ll ever need to use. By doing this, it would eliminate the need to manually edit the write pages, and simply let you customize the page to fulfill the needed functionality.

Community Discussion

What do you do to make your clients more comfortable with WordPress? Sound off in the comments below – we’d love to hear your tips.

37 thoughts on “Does WordPress Scare Your Clients?

  1. I have an installation of wordpress set up on my site for clients to test. Surprisingly most are trilled to have something installed where they don’t need to ‘understand code’ to use it. I just set them up with a user id and password, and walk them through on the dummy install.

  2. Right now I offer hands-on training, but eventually I’m going to produce a series of online screencasts that I can refer my clients, as well as some additional pdfs.

    I have a couple clients who have truly embraced WP and love it. They still can’t do things like upgrade or install plugins on their own yet though.

  3. Typically on any setup I will sit down with the client and do a walk thru like Nouman, but when a lot of people are going to need to use it I get them all in a room and do a day’s training on everything WordPress, including Windows Live Writer. Responses to that are all very enthousiastic.

    I must say though.. in a couple of cases I have used a trimmed down version of the WordPress backend via a cms plugin that stripped away pretty much anything extra. But when the client really wants to stay a n00b, which is fine by me just as well, I have arranged for them to pay me a certain fee per month to do it for them..

  4. I have been printing out cheat sheets for common tasks on nice stock photo paper. I have a higher end hp photo printer that works perfectly. I tend to print a dozen or so copies depending on the amount of users that will have access to the back end, and then I also email the contact with a .pdf of the same cheat sheet. It eliminates obvious questions, but has yet to be the end all solution. Screen Casts seem like a logical approach as well, but for someone like me, I end up starting over too often because I choose the wrong vocabulary or get tongue tied and blurt out fowl language…lol

    I feel like at some point the crew at wordpress might choose to branch off in two directions with the future of wordpress, i.e, one download for blog users and a completely separate download for those interested in a CMS. I feel like using the same product for both is a bit disheartening to both types of users. A blogger who just wants a blog, doesn’t need all the sick functionality of where wordpress has headed in recent upgrades. The developer who builds CMS driven sites on a regular basis struggles with the old features that cling to a blog driven software, and the fact that every install requires a decent list of plugins to get going. But at the end of the day, I am much happier using wordpress than any other platform. I’ve reached the point where I tend to defend wordpress as if it were running for president.

    Rich

    Rich

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  6. I do think that more and more the content of WordPress is aimed at owner-users rather than client sites. There is certainly a market for a plugin to remove most of the options, change the manus around and make sure there are no out of date notifications.

  7. Perhaps this proves that WP is not the jack-of-all-trades solution people want it to be. Sure, it’s terrific, but it’s impossible for any piece of software to be good at so many different.

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  9. I’ve been lucky enough that even the most none technical clients are brave enough to follow a “cook book” guide, or try things on their own. Most of the time I find that when they venture on their own they pick things up better.

    Out of curiosity how do you handle clients that you’ve setup a CMS for that still contact you for small changes? Do you charge? Do you try to deter this? I don’t want to run off business but like you tweeted…”don’t we install CMS to avoid this..”

  10. Gabe got here before I could… The codex is great but like Tommy, my partner and I recognized a need to offer screencasts to our clients. And we figured if we thought it was useful for us, then the wp community would probably think so too. So wpscreencasts.com was born. Even with this we still do hands-on training. It unavoidable. All clients learn differently.

    I also do my best to simplify the admin panel for the users. That usually means stripping the admin panel or creating more defined user roles. I do all that with with plugins, like role manager and tdo mini forms. I try my best not hack wp-admin, because 1) that’s a project in itself and 2) its just too hard to maintain. From what I heard at WordCamp SF this weekend, customization of the write panel is looking good for 2.7. It has been proposed (http://weblogtoolscollection.com/archives/2008/07/31/features-plannwordpress-27/) so cross you fingers!

  11. It looks like hands-on training seems to work for most people, and video walkthroughs are another popular option too. It looks like there is a lot of interest for a plugin to dumb down things a bit, though. I’ll see what I can do. No promises, though… 😉

  12. This is not a problem unique to WordPress, and my personal experience is that clients are thrilled with how easy WordPress is to use compared to other systems they’ve tried out. In fact during training many of them anticipate where and when to click before I prompt them – it’s very intuitive. I’ve worked with a lot of different CMS system over the years (13 + in the web biz) and trained clients in these as well. Generally no matter how well they pick up a CMS they just don’t use it after a few months tops and revert back to asking for help.

    I actually had this conversation with another web consultant and they had come to the same conclusion that I had – the vast majority of business clients just don’t have the time nor the inclination to become competent in any CMS, and generally they come unstuck with what web pros find basic – uploading images, placing them on a page, cropping images before upload, page layouts etc. And, at the end of the day, many business people are being coached to ‘do what they do do well’ and leave the rest to the professionals.

  13. I definitely relate to this post. It’s “funny” how clients specify wanting to be able to update their sites themselves, but when it comes down to it, that’s not their forte.

    I don’t want to be turning my clients away as Bo mentioned, so if I have a light load then I may do the updates myself, but more and more I am finding that outsourcing these small updates to a VA is a good solution.
    As to the question of whether to charge – I say go with your gut – it will be different for each client. Offering a monthly maintenance package is a good option.

  14. I’ve got a number of clients using WP and others using EE. I find http://www.crossloop.com is a great way to do hands-on training with clients who aren’t in the same community. Usually I walk them through how it works by showing them. And then I have them do it a couple of times while I watch.

    For the next couple of weeks there will be a few phone calls and emails for help – but in two weeks time, most clients get the hang of it.

  15. Indeed, WP could use a permissions setting page, that would allow you to switch off alot of the things you wouldn’t want a client to see, such as trackbacks, password protection etc.

    For Custom Fields, I’ve found this plugin to be great. You can even drop it in your functions.php file and the conf.ini in your theme directory, and have it automagically integrated into your write page.

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  17. I have never ventured into the realms of offering WordPress to our clients (yet) but I can totally see your point here. We use WP for our blog and the user interface is not very friendly. I am sure I have seen a plugin the streamlines the interface but I can’t seem to find it know? Anyone else seen this?

  18. hmmm why dont you use your own coded cms for the clients. wordpress is very bad, its only for people who have no idea about php, and if you dont have no idea about php you shouldnt use unsuspecting clients to pay you for doing something you don’t understand (even if it works, you cant say how long ect.)

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  20. @antpaw: It’s not that I have no idea about PHP, it’s that I don’t want to be pulling together something custom all the time (since I’m usually on a rush timeframe), and nor do I have the time/drive to make a moderately modular CMS (though, I do want to do that eventually).

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  22. True, I have been searching for the right plugin to help build a client ready CMS. I have come accross one from Skullbit where you can manage the admin text, so as to make the client think one way..

    I haven’t tried it out yet, but it looks pretty powerful..

    Frosty

  23. I use the wp-lite plugin and leave the option to write and manage posts. It makes the admin screen look like a webmail application, which is vaguely familiar. Clients still ask to write posts and pages for them, but then again they’ll also ask why their unspecific Google query doesn’t bring up their site one hour after its gone live.

    WP is still blogging software at heart, so stretching it to do more is bound to cause problems.

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