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University Web Developers

CMS training materials -- are printed manuals worth it?

I've seen a few examples of printed, bound training books -- some with tabs.  In the long-term I'd love to grow our training materials into something that's a combination of how-to, style guidelines, and related policies.  I think then it would be worth the effort.

It'll be a while before I have all the content together, so for now I'm curious -- is a training book that is printed and bound effective?

I'm investing quite a bit of time developing "Help" pages for each site -- a page with links to guides, related blog posts, and videos, plus anything specific to their site.  But I'm wondering if folks just like that paper stuff they can hold in their hand.  I want people to be comfortable.

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My (totally anecdotal) perception is that printed manuals are not particularly useful to most users these days. When you factor in maintenance and updating of the manual, they are really not worth the effort. Contextual online help, along with a FAQ, screencasts, and some key procedures posted online seem to work for almost all users.

The exception I run into in CMS and LMS training is that some users like to write down procedures as they learn them. For these users, a short printed manual with room for handwritten notes allows them to work in a comfortable and familiar way.

These users are almost always also the ones that want to learn just enough to get by in the new system – rather than diving deep into advanced features – so the basics of logging in, editing content, and creating and publishing pages are usually the topics that can use this kind of workbook treatment. The advanced stuff can be omitted, to keep it short and simple and relatively easy to update as the UI changes.

I like the idea of giving them something they can take notes with.  I am not a fan of printing things that go obsolete quickly.  Our old docs held up for 3 years, and I'm crafting the replacements to hold as long as possible -- to cover beginner basics, then anything that more advanced is a blog post I can send them a link to (when it pertains to their site.)

If I had the time I would love to create a "Help" page in each site, with dynamic hooks to topics on the CMS Users blog I update.  So, if their site has our News script in it, I could feed in recent posts with tips and tricks for that.  I'm experimenting with a few Google docs to get started -- they can edit the doc so if anything doesn't make sense they can change it.  But I expect 99%+ of users wouldn't edit what I provide.

Your blog and feed approach to CMS training and support sounds like it will be very efficient... We are going to be rolling out a new WordPress multisite network, and that is definitely something I'll adopt as well. Thanks for the tip!

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