The value of drop-in labs

Rolling out a new CMS is a challenging proposition. How you train and support your web authors can make or break the success of your CMS adoption and overall website.  Beyond training on new technology, each user brings a different level of technical experience, enthusiasm and available time.  Not to mention they all use the website in different ways.

Drop-in labs are a great way to make the rollout process smoother. A drop-in lab is simply a set time where you invite users to a working session with staff on hand to help. Not only will the labs help reduce support calls and e-mails, but they can foster community among your web authors and encourage peer support.

You’ll help end users with real questions in way that the curriculum-based classroom training can’t. Web authors will begin to support each other and feel less frustrated realizing they’re not in it alone. Plus it gives folks less of an excuse in complaining about difficulties with the CMS.

Here are a few tips we’ve learned from our drop-in labs:

  1. Encourage users to bring actual work so that way they leave the lab with something accomplished.
  2. Schedule the drop in labs soon after formal training sessions if possible, especially if your trainer will help out at the labs.
  3. Pay attention to common challenges and look for ways to address them for all groups.
  4. Make sure users are trained before attending a lab.
  5. Keep plenty of documentation and support materials on hand.
  6. Don’t get frustrated if all users don’t attend. It’s amazing the number of people that simply find comfort knowing they are available.
  7. Hold them at a regular time and place and make them well advertised.
  8. Consider having different staff on hand including designers, editors and developers.
About the Author

Jeni Cram is an interactive project manager with Massachusetts General Hospital and has more than a decade experience leading interactive teams and projects. Jeni is a frequent contributor to the CMS Myth on topics involving web strategy, CMS planning and governance.

More articles from Jeni Cram


4 responses… read them below or add one.

  1. David Hobbs says:

    This is a good idea, and I imagine #6 is true. I’ve never tried this approach but might in an upcoming project.

  2. Steph Wilson says:

    We’ve been doing workshops like this for a while, with programmers, designers, and content specialists, but the problem we run into is that every single attendee expects the workshop to be a 2-hour 1-on-1 just for them. Any tips on encouraging independence and confidence in our users?

  3. Nadine McMahon says:

    We’ve been running similar sessions as an ongoing part of our content author support, and open them up to everyone regardless of their experience. I don’t prepare anything in advance, so they have to either bring along their own work or questions.

    I like your idea of using them in conjunction with formal training , as well, as follow-up is definitely beneficial. Thanks for the suggestions Jeni!

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