How Long Should it Take?

This weekend, on the other side of the globe, a few colleagues debated how long it should take for a new editor to be ready to create content.

I received a text suggesting I blog about it, not realizing there was a bet on whether I would. Of course I'd blog about it, maybe not right then and there since it was the weekend and the laptop wasn't nearby (in the bathroom) at the time (too much info), but sure!

So here's the post, "Simple Content Update Instructions [for SDL Tridion authors]" written almost exactly a year ago.


Okay, well it doesn't exactly answer "How Long Should it Take," but that's the process that I've used to help new authors understand their way around Tridion. It happens to be follow much of the same approach that SiteEdit or Experience Manager (XPM) uses, basically we simplify the author creation process be providing choices in context and letting authors work from what's there, rather than giving them the burden to make the right choices among literally millions of options .

Authors, with any content management system (CMS) should be able to:

  • Log in to the CMS the first time and maybe set some preferences and settings.
  • Navigate to their sections of the site or maybe have shortcuts to their sets of content.
  • Open some type of "content" form which has fields or maybe even an inline editing interface.
  • Make changes, see what the changes are like, and then commit or Publish the changes.
Ideally, the whole process for an author with some basic content should take a day or two to train on. It could theoretically be as simple as writing a blog post.

Where this process slows down is in design choices, especially in new implementations since there are a lot of activities and high-priority tasks happening at once.

I've seen the following make it harder on especially new authors.
  • Naming conventions that make it hard to detect relationships or see things in an order authors expect
  • Too much choice:
    • Authorization settings that shows authors too many publications
    • Large selections of folders
    • Unnecessary or unclear fields
    • No linked schema on folders, authors have to choose a schema each time
    • No authorization on schema folders, authors have to choose from many schemas
    • Too many templates, authors struggle to make the content type they want
    • Lack of explanation for field or metadata options, no use of Custom Url, Custom Pages, or other instructions
    • Wide-open text fields that could have been simplified with some type of selection
  • No examples so the author has to really understand Tridion, rather than seeing good defaults or working from an example they can copy, paste, and update.
Of course we can't implement all of these for every single customer and author group. Power users and content management organizations really need to understand their CMS and pay the ultimate price for ultimate flexibility (which is the burden of too much choice!).

But don't make it harder on authors by assuming they automatically know how their previous, future, or revised content model works in SDL Tridion. No need for extremes if you can avoid it.
Save a few weeks in training and meetings and rework by spending a few minutes with your authors up front. See what they think of the entry forms (schemas in Tridion), feel free to experiment, and don't hesitate to change it especially up front.
 Consider the following well before training:

  • Introduce the setup to a few power users early on, get feedback, and update your implementation if you have time. If you're doing agile, you need their input sooner rather than later.
  • Make sure your trainer is familiar with your content model.
Limit as much as possible for training. Ideally an author would:
    • See one or two publications at most
    • See a Training folder under Building Blocks, System is hidden, and maybe even Building Blocks is renamed
    • Otherwise get a link directly to their training folder
    • Get their login information and clear instructions on how the training environment differs from production (maybe even make that training instance unavailable after training)
    • Create a component and have the schema chosen automatically (in folder's linked schema)
    • Have an example component and page to follow
    • Have clear instructions for fields
    • Have limited choices for fields
You know the Page Types and Content Types you created up front as part of your Information Architecture Analysis? Now that you have a working system, it's a great time to update the diagrams.

So how long should it take for authors to create content with SDL Tridion? As fast as a blog post for sites that are as simple as blogs. Otherwise it depends on what you expect them to know and how much help you give them in the actual implementation.

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