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 In Web Design

You’ve decided it’s time for a new website. Your organization has outgrown the current website and making changes requires an advanced programming degree, it seems.

Everyone is on board when it comes to upgrading your website but just thinking about moving your current website to a new platform probably has your head spinning. You’re hiring professionals to deliver a great looking website with an easy to use CMS, but that’s just the beginning.

Website owners often underestimate the importance and complexity of migrating their site to a new platform. There are some critical questions that need to be asked. For example, who will take part in the content migration? What happens to the content currently on the site? How long will all of this take? Where would you even begin to start? Creating the migration plan and proper preparation will answer all of those questions and take the scare factor out of the process. The best and perhaps easiest place to start is with a comprehensive migration plan.

Preventing migration problems is far easier than fixing them, which is why planning is so important.

Your Website Migration in Five “Easy” Steps

1. Vision

What are you trying to achieve? This is an incredibly important question, especially before you start the design and development process – why are you redesigning/migrating your website? Moving large amounts of content from one system to another can be complex and confusing, so a simple statement explaining how the migration will result in an improved site is essential. This statement will serve to remind everyone involved why the migration is necessary, and will help with decision making further down the road.

2. Prepare

Delve into the content that currently exists. You will need to know what has to be done with each page and where it will live on the new site. Conduct a content audit to assess what you have. Some of that content may not be helping you and should be shown the door while other content may need to be beefed up so that it can better serve you.

I’m sure you’re wondering how to do this. The audit can be done by hand using a simple Excel spreadsheet, but for larger more complex sites, it would be best to use a tool like the content analysis tool provided by Content Insight; it can quickly gather information about all of the pages within the site which will save lots of time.

3. Pilot

The new website has been constructed and is ready to be tested. At this point, it is the perfect time to test a small amount of content to get an idea of how easy it will be to migrate the entire website. We want to make sure there aren’t any huge issues by testing test all aspects of the migration including imports, manual content entry, forms and layout.

4. Implement

With the feedback received from testing the pilot, the remaining content can be moved over using manual or automated processes. Unique content will likely need to be entered manually but other standard content will be imported into the CMS. Those who will be working in the CMS will be trained. Testing will continue during this phase. Once all content has been moved over, it should be checked with a fine toothed comb. Even though the content manager has already checked it, the content should be proofed by another team member to reduce errors or omissions.

With all tests done and the content firmly in place, the site should be ready to make its debut. Hooray! You are now able to confidently launch your new site.

5. Maintain

You thought we were done, didn’t you? Yes, the site has been launched and is working quite well, but there is more to do. Maintenance isn’t actually part of the migration, but the hard work of the previous steps would be wasted if the new website isn’t properly maintained.

Check Google Analytics often to see what users are doing and adjust your content as needed. Once a year or so, revisit your site and check for content ROT.

Online Stores

While we’ve seen a lot of complicated sites, few rival migrations of online stores. We’ll go into more detail about stores in a later point, but I can share some tips that were reinforced when we did a migration for our friends at Production Case.

  1. Before the migration starts, ensure the clients have deleted any products they will no longer be offering.
  2. Find out if any categories are being changed. Keep careful track in Excel, showing both old and new categories.
  3. Find out if any new products are going to be added, and if there are many you’ll need to get the images and information from the client beforehand. If there are only one or two, save them for a training exercise.
  4. Make sure you understand how shipping works for all product types. Find out if there are different shipping rules for different types of products. For example, Production Case was able to offer free shipping on its Canadian-made products. Digital downloads are another example of an exception – obviously there would be no shipping on those. Some organizations need to charge different shipping rates to other countries or to provinces far away from their brick and mortar location.

There’s obviously a lot more to know about migrating content for an online store, so as mentioned we’ll be doing a whole separate post on that in the future.

Common Issues

Even with a plan in place, you may encounter some issues during the website migration. Here are just a few things of which you should be aware:

  • Missing Content: Content can go missing if it isn’t properly catalogued before the move. This can be avoided by assessing and cataloguing your current content with a content audit and ensure that you have a back-up of your old site that you can easily navigate – just in case.
  • Broken Links: If page address (URL) on the previous site are not directed to pages on the new site, traffic will be lost. This is known as a 301 redirect, and if it is done correctly, it will ensure that search engines and users are directed to the correct page.

Yes, the migration will not exactly be smooth and will probably take quite a bit of time, but hopefully this guide will open your world to new ideas.

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