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Why SharePoint WCM Contributor Adoption Matters

By | September 4th, 2012

The proliferation of web content management platforms promises to put content creation rightfully into the hands of subject matter experts, but the editing experiences of many of these platforms remains a mixed bag. Microsoft’s SharePoint platform, which is becoming a major player in the WCM arena since its release of SharePoint 2010, provides seemingly endless opportunity for creating and publishing content.  However, it still presents some significant adoption obstacles to content contributors.

Most interface designers do an excellent job creating a terrific user experience for site visitors.  But the user experience for content contributors is often neglected, usually because out-of-the box editing experiences are deemed “satisfactory” and budget and/or time constraints are limited for “special” customizations.

SharePoint has out-of-the-box editing tools – so what’s the problem?

Well…eventually it’s time for content contributors – the subject matter experts – to provide the content of the new site.  But they often dislike using unfamiliar tools, especially if they perceive them as technically complex.  While SharePoint might actually allow them to edit just about anything on any given page, the presence of unlimited editing options do not necessarily make for a good editing experience. The myriad choices available in SharePoint is one of many legitimate reasons why “out of the box” SharePoint WCM often confuses and frustrates contributors, causing many to simply give up.  When that happens, the shiny new web project is in suddenly in big trouble.

So, how do we steer clear of these adoption issues?

There’s actually a lot that can be done to improve adoption of SharePoint as a WCM solution – both during and after development. Content contributors just need a little structure, some simplified experiences, and appropriate guidance to transform that overwhelming sensation into something clearer and focused.

  • Design for both contributors and visitors from the start: Know who comprises your audience of contributors and plan experience customizations accordingly.
  • Customize contribution experiences: SharePoint provides many options for customizing and simplifying the out-of-the-box contribution experience, which can have an enormous positive effect on adoption.
  • Remove extraneous options where possible: Too many page layouts, site actions, ribbon options, etc. often leads to confusion and indecision.  Simple configurations within SharePoint for context appropriate restrictions can reduce both.
  • Plan a clear content reuse strategy: Content reuse can make small contributions go a long way, decreasing tedious updates and allowing your site maintain itself.
  • Provide on-page guidance: Often content contributors just need a little nudge or reminder while they’re in the editing environment.
  • Use homegrown training materials: Simple tutorials or screencasts that can be referred to for self-help can have a powerful effect on content contributor adoption.

Stay tuned for an upcoming article in which each of these concepts is explored in more detail.  In the meantime, simply be aware that content contributors are an important audience that can and should be considered in the user experience design of a WCM project.  A little help goes a long way.

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