church web design

Church Web Design Part 8: Hands-On Training – a Critical Key to Success

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In part 7 of this series about the redesign of my church’s website, we left off with Mike (OCC’s website developer on this project) having added a limited amount of content to the new website.  The next step in the development process is training the client (me) on how to use the content management system (CMS) and all the components installed.  This is one of the most important aspects of getting a new website, yet it’s usually overlooked.  Do you know why?

Current Content is Critical
The factor that has the biggest impact on whether the people in a church use the church’s website is the degree to which the information on the website is kept up to date.  If information on the website does not get updated, people simply stop checking it.  All it takes is a person going to the website once or twice and not being able to find information about an upcoming event, and they realize it’s a waste of their time.  Instead of the website being the first place they look for information, perhaps they will call the church office or even worse simply not participate.

Because keeping the website up to date is HUGE, learning how to keep the website up to date is HUGE.

Training is Key
I have seen lots of churches go through the time and expense of developing a great new website only to see that website go unchanged for months afterwards.  Sometimes the problem is they don’t have an upkeep plan in place defining the processes and assigning responsibilities for updating the site.  (I’ll talk more about that in a future article in this series.)  But often the problem is the developer turns over the keys to the brand new website and never shows them how to drive it.

The website administrator is often given a manual or directed to help pages and told to fend for him or herself.

Not Just Any Training… Hands-on Training
The problem with reading manuals and even lecture training is that during the training we translate what we hear or read into images in our mind, and when we go out into the “real world” and try to use what we’ve learned, we often find that those images don’t match up with reality.  We find ourselves confused and frustrated.  This can happen no matter how good the trainer or manual may be and how smart or tech-savy the trainee is.

OurChurch.Com understands this and empowers its clients through hands-on training that includes 3 important elements:

  1. Explain how to use the CMS in layman’s terms.
  2. Walk the client through each step so the client is actually updating the site during the training.
  3. Provide manuals that the client can refer to later if necessary.

Why Omit Training?
So, you’re probably asking yourself now… if good training is so critical, why is it usually overlooked?

The answer is probably no surprise…

Money.

Take a look at the training for my church’s new website, which includes training on all the functionality included in the website.

  • CMS core (managing pages, images, users, ) – 4 hours
  • Media gallery – 0.5 hrs
  • Staff directory – 0.5 hrs
  • Dynamic menus w/sub-menus – 0.5 hrs
  • Blog & blog sidebar – 1 hr
  • Event registration – 1 hr
  • Podcast – 0.5 hr
  • Document manager – 0.25 hrs
  • Assigning access to edit or view individual pages and components – 0.5 hrs
  • Newsletter – 1 hr
  • Forms Generator – 1 hr

Total training 12.25 hours.

Training is very labor-intensive.  Website developers can reduce costs by making more efficient many aspects of the design process, but there’s no way to automate one-on-one training.

While costs vary from one company to the next, your average website development company needs to bill at around $75/hr to cover salary, benefits, and overhead.  At that rate, the cost of 12 ¼ hours of training comes in at a whopping $920!

If you recall from part 4, Getting a Proposal, the total cost of this project is about $3,000.  So, training increased the cost of the project by almost 50%!  Yikes!

Competition Drives Out Training
Website design is a competitive industry.  An organization can choose from thousands of companies and freelancer developers all around the world.  If you received two similar proposals for a web design project, but one had no training while the other included training but cost 50% more which would you go with?

Well, most organizations (and churches in particular) are inclined to go with the cheaper proposal, so most web design companies leave training out of their base proposals.  Many offer training as an a la carte option, but because they also tend to hype how easy their CMS is to use, when training is made optional most organizations opt against it.

(Taking my customer hat off and put on my OurChurch.Com hat on for a moment, I want to say that OCC operates with very efficient processes and low overhead so that it can be competitive on price while still including training because we believe hands-on training is so critical to the long term success of an organization’s website.)

My Training
Mike did an excellent job training me on the parts of the Custom CMS Express I was not familiar with.  The training time flew by, and when it was complete I was ready to begin using the CMS to add more content to our site.

OCC’s strategy is to train the primary web administrator on all the CMS functionality.  Then it’s the web administrator’s responsibility to train other staff and volunteers as upkeep of certain parts of the site is delegated to others.  I’ll talk about my training of the staff and volunteers at my church in a future article.

Do you agree that training is a critical part of getting a new CMS-based website?  Have you ever been in an organization that got a great new website only to struggle with keeping it up to date?

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About the author

Paul Steinbrueck

Paul Steinbrueck is co-founder and CEO of OurChurch.Com, husband, father of 3, blogger. You can follow him on Twitter at @PaulSteinbrueck.

4 Comments

  • I’m not sure this is an accurate real-world representation. Who is training the church staff? Why are you the one being trained? Don’t you already know how to use the CMS for the most part? Are the church secretary and other staff going to catch on as quickly as you did?

  • His Child, thanks for your comment. You’ve asked some great questions. In fact those issues are critical enough that I’ve added a paragraph to the article:

    OCC’s strategy is to train the primary web administrator on all the CMS functionality. Then it’s the web administrator’s responsibility to train other staff and volunteers as upkeep of certain parts of the site is delegated to others. I’ll talk about my training of the staff and volunteers at my church in a future article.

  • […] Last week, in part 8 of this series about the redesign of my church’s website, we talked about the importance of training to the long-term success of a website and why it is often neglected.  With my training complete and OCC having added content to the site there were only two steps remaining before the site could go live: review the site to be sure everything included in the contract had been done and add the rest of the content to the site.  But when we started adding the rest of the content we realized there was a big unresolved issue – how do we organize all these pages?  How many main menu items should we have?  What should they be named? […]

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