Helping someone learn to help themselves is an incredibly satisfying experience. And it is often part of a web designer’s job description. We build something for our clients and then teach them to how to use it.

A platform such as WordPress makes this possible. However, it’s not always easy. Clients can run the gamut in terms of technical knowledge. Therefore, we must be able to effectively communicate with people of all skill levels.

Plus, there really isn’t such a thing as a “standard” WordPress website. There are plenty of shared traits. But the endless combinations of themes, plugins and customization make every site unique.

How, then, do we go about training our clients to use WordPress? Let’s explore some best practices for passing on our knowledge.

Personalize the Experience

When you work with WordPress every day, it becomes like second nature. This is especially the case for designers and developers. Each website we build provides that much more insight into how WordPress works. As such, it can be difficult to remember that not everyone has this experience.

It’s important to realize that a client who hasn’t used WordPress before may not “get it” right away. Training may take a little longer and require a bit more patience than you expected.

One way to avoid mutual frustration is to think about training well before it’s time to get started. Throughout the build process, jot down some notes about the client’s technical skills. This will help you to better gauge their needs.

From there, you can adjust your training regimen accordingly. When you address a client’s specific blind spots, you’ll have a better chance at making progress.

People reviewing a document at a desk

Conduct a Live Training Session

I’ve found that the best way to train a client is by demonstrating the processes involved. This often comes in the form of an in-person session. If that’s not possible, a webinar can be just as effective. Services such as Skype, Zoom and join.me are great for sharing screens and holding live discussions. Plus, you can even record sessions for future reference.

Personally showing a client the tasks they’ll need to master has real benefits. For one, a visual experience often tends to calm any self-doubt. Seeing that there’s no high level of expertise required builds confidence.

It also provides an opportunity for asking questions. In turn, you can address any concerns right there and then. This reinforces concepts and can spark a productive dialogue.

The key things to remember are to take things slowly and avoid technical jargon. Skimming over items too quickly can be overwhelming. Speaking in terms a client doesn’t understand can cause confusion.

Be patient and routinely ask if your client has any questions. Allow them to learn at their own pace. Some people will pick up on things quickly, while others may need more repetition.

Man writing on a whiteboard

Utilize Reference Materials

Offering some form of reference material can be a huge time saver for everyone involved. Clients have something to refer to when they have questions. This could potentially save you a phone call or two.

You have a lot of options as to what to provide. It could be something as simple as a one-page PDF that covers the essentials. Or, you might go all-in and create a more in-depth manual. Even video tutorials can prove to be quite useful.

The decision on what exactly to offer clients can be difficult at first. In the end, it really should depend on:

  • The project’s cost;
  • The complexity of the site;
  • The number of different items your client will need to know;

Ideally, a lower-cost project won’t be overly complicated. Therefore, you shouldn’t have to provide as much documentation. The more there is for the client to know, the more thorough you should be.

Again, don’t be too technical. If you’re creating documentation, be sure to include lots of visuals. Screenshots will help familiarize users with their website. Using icons and illustrations can call attention to specific points of interest.

If you don’t have time to create these materials yourself, there are other options. Video User Manuals and WP101 offer regularly-updated WordPress tutorials. For a more traditional user manual, Easy WP Guide covers all the basics.

Paper notebook and laptop computer on a desk

Show Some Empathy

More than any technical approach, empathizing with clients will make for the most effective training. It’s important to see those you’re working with as humans first and foremost. Understand that they, like you, aren’t perfect.

How do you show empathy? It’s in your overall demeanor. Be professional, but don’t be afraid to (appropriately) show self-deprecating humor. Point out things that you had trouble learning. This demonstrates that you’re not placing yourself above anyone else. It also sets the expectation that clients don’t have to know everything.

And, if a concept isn’t quite sinking in, be encouraging. Whatever happens, don’t become agitated. If you display any signs of frustration, this can result in a demoralized trainee.

Think of yourself as a coach. It’s your job to help others be their very best. Use positive reinforcement, levity and share your own experiences. Try to make your student as comfortable as possible. This will help them overcome any stumbling blocks. In the end, they’re more likely gain a firm grasp of your lesson.

Men smiling and looking at a computer screen

Designer/Developer/Teacher

Training clients is one of the unique responsibilities of a web designer. We need to have great technical knowledge ourselves. At the same time, we often have to explain our work to non-technical users. It requires us to take a complicated subject and pare it down to the basics.

Creating a successful outcome requires that we listen more than we speak – at least in the beginning. Get to know your client and gain an understanding of who they are. Show them that you understand and that you’re there to help. Then, provide the resources they need in order to learn.

Just as websites aren’t one-size-fits-all, neither is training. Everyone has different skill levels and learning styles. It’s up to us to adjust our teaching methods to fit our clients – not the other way around.

The best part of the experience is seeing the end results. When a client is able to accomplish their goals, know that you played an important role in empowering them. It’s satisfying and humbling all at once.

How Do You Train Clients?

Do you have any tips for training clients to use WordPress? Leave a comment and let us know!

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Posted by Eric Karkovack

Eric is a freelance web designer and writer with over 20 years of experience. He works with a wide variety of clients and specializes in WordPress. Connect with him on Twitter.