Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Migrating to a new CMS: don't redesign at the same time

Migrating content from one content management system (CMS) to another? Here's a new approach suggested recently by a business analyst friend who works in the newspaper industry.

"If you're migrating existing content into a new content management system and you're trying to redesign your website at the same time, don't!" he warned.

"Migrating and redesigning templates means you're trying to do 2 big things in one go. It's too much change at one time. It makes it hard to project manage, as it radically increases the number of  things that can go wrong.

"Much better to recreate your existing web design in the new CMS and transfer all the content over as is. You can redesign the website after you've migrated all the content over."

Recreate the old site 

Recreating your clunky old website design in a brand new CMS is hard advice to stomach, though, as you're probably itching to launch revamped content in a brand new design.

After all, many migrations to new CMSs are prompted by a redesign: your design agency creates snazzy new page designs that are not supported by your existing CMS.

And you're probably thinking it's double the workload: you have to create 2 sets of templates in a short space of time - the clunky old ones, then the sparkly new ones.

Migration and redesign = separate

"Resist the temptation to introduce a new CMS and a new design at the same time," advises the business analyst, "You wouldn't start designing the curtains and wallpaper before you'd built a house.

"You first need to get the new CMS plumbed in and stable. Then you can start redesigning. Migration and redesign are 2 separate projects.

"Another issue with doing the redesign and content migration together is that you end up with the editorial team having to use 2 CMSs for a period of time. Harder on them."

Tidy up first

That's not to say that you should migrate out-of-date content. It's best to always spring clean your website before you migrate your content.

So, according to my business analyst friend, ideally the approach would be:

  1. Clean up the content in the old system
  2. Migrate the existing content to the new system and add synchronisation so that new content created in the old system gets automatically copied to the new system
  3. Redesign and launch in the new system - this can either be 'big bang' or section by section


  1. It's important for web design professionals and their customers to know which way to use in which situation. After all, while html to cms might have all the extra features and be excellent for use in some circumstances, it'll be a useless and money on another website. Concern to this kind of problem is very important.

  2. Truer words have not been spoken. While it may seem like you’ll spend less time by doing it all in one go, the headaches and frustrations that may follow afterwards might end up costing you more time that doing them separately. At least if you go ahead and migrate the old site first before redesigning it, it’ll be easier to pin-point problems with the code and not have to think whether it’s due to the migration or a mistake in the website design itself.