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?
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 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?
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.
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.