Mapping a CMS Migration Plan [Practical Guide]

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CMS migration is definitely not something you do on a daily basis (if you don’t specialise in the field). And this is a serious undertaking, too, somehow similar to moving to a new place to live and work. You don’t just go away on the spot, taking some of the belongings and with no prior arrangements, do you? That’s the way it should be with your online home. A frequent reason to CMS data migration is poor preparation and no proper planning.

No matter what your source and target platforms are, this post should help you get ready for the great and, most importantly, successful and swift move to a new website CMS. So, let’s find out what are the best practices for this matter.

Prepare for the Move

Get a clear vision of the migration result

You are going to change the CMS for a solid reason, that’s for sure. So, make sure you know what you want to get as the result of the change. Imagine and note down what your new website should look like, what it has to be able to do, what functionality is unnecessary or vice versa – of primary importance, and so on.

Make an inventory

Further on, with the picture of the new site in mind, go through your current website and make an inventory of its “items”. This helps to discover the details of your website that might need taking care of. Here’s a list of possible features and entities to pay attention to:

  • Menu and sidebars
  • Content types
  • Links structure
  • Images
  • Attachments
  • Comments
  • Plugins/modules

Clean up

CMS migration is a great opportunity to get rid of outdated content and irrelevant features, so be thorough.

Decide on the migration method

The ways of carrying out the data migration to a new CMS are numerous. To find the most suitable one, answer the following questions:

How much content is there to move? A couple of posts and pages can be easily copy/pasted into the new platform without any fuss. However, manual migration is out of the question in case of a big volume of data.

Are there any custom post types? Typically, plugins for data migration don’t handle this type of information, so you might need professional help (aisite techs are there to deal with it, too).

Define how to deal with other website elements

Plugins

There is no such notion as migration of plugins, since they are different for different CMS platforms (unless you’re migrating between major Joomla versions). So, in order to preserve the functionality you’re used to on your new site, you will have to find alternatives to the modules on your current platform.

Note. With aisite, it is possible to migrate data between certain popular plugins. For example, SEO data can be moved from sh404SEF module for Joomla to WordPress SEO by Yoast. But such ability depends on the source and target platforms.  

Links structure

If you’re not planning on changing the domain name, you can customize the way your new platform builds permalinks to correspond to the previous ones. This is the best scenario for the sake of preserving the SEO juice. Otherwise, it will be necessary to set up permanent 301 redirects to point to the new website URLs.

It’s important to stay at the top after the big change. Get to know how to preserve SEO Rankings after the migration process.

Users

For websites with multiple users, you need to deal with their accounts and personal information. Basically, you can have each user sign up for a new account once the migration is over (which is highly undesirable). Another variant is to move all the users’ data without compromising their security (for instance, aisite offers the opportunity to preserve user passwords after migration, but they aren’t revealed at any point of the move).

Install the target CMS platform

Once you’ve decided on the details, time to knuckle down to the migration itself. So, you will need a fresh installation of the new CMS. It doesn’t have to be installed on your domain there and then. You can use an offline server or a subdirectory of your current domain for this purpose. After the website is ready, you will either have to move it to the live server or point to the sub-directory. Such approach will let you keep your current website functional while the work on the new one is in progress.

Can’t decide which CMS to choose? Get to know stats and facts there: ‘Trending in CMS: Where to Move in 2017? [Provocative Analysis]’.

Make the necessary settings

After installation, don’t forget to configure the permalinks structure – this will be the way they are built during the move.

Also, if you’re planning data exchange between the plugins, install them now. You can also choose the preferred theme, but it should better be done after the migration.

Tip. It would do you good to get the hang of the new platform before moving all your data into it. Try performing the typical tasks to get better acquainted with it and prepare for any issues with no risk to ruin the site.

Proper Migration 

Schedule the conversion

After you’ve gone over all the previous steps, you can schedule the migration itself. Why schedule? Because this is a serious process and you’d better not be pressed for time. Moreover, it is advisable to refrain from adding new content to the website before and during the migration. Plus, you might like to inform all users and possibly visitors about the expected change, which will prepare them for possible technical issues and (possibly) changed look of the website.

Back up the source website

Without a doubt, you pay the proper attention to backups, but it doesn’t hurt to do it again, just in case.

Import content to the target CMS

Now, the key stage of the CMS migration – moving content. Unless you’ve chosen to do it manually, the process should not be lengthy or strenuous with the right tools.

Note. Be ready to meet the totally new look and feel of your website. Even when your data will be migrated into it, everything will look different, some content elements might be missing in the front-end and visible in the backend only at first. This is ok and after proper configuration your website will be just what you need it to be.

Adjust the design

Now, the pleasant part. You can play around with the theme settings, pick the background, adjust header, footer, sidebars, menus etc to make your site look as desired. It is unlikely that you will be able to completely recreate the previous look, unless you have a theme created for you. But it is a great chance to refresh it, while still letting your visitors recognize the website with the logo, slogan, colours etc.

Note. Read more on what happens to your design in ‘Migrating With aisite. How My Migration Will Proceed, And What Will Happen With My Template’.

Test everything

When you’re done with configuring and your site looks ready to go, make sure it is really so by testing every functionality, looking at it in different browsers etc. Only when each issue that arose is fixed, can you make it go live and consider your migration finished.

Interested in ‘how much’ numbers? You can find the current prices of a website/CMS migration here: ‘How Much Does the CMS Migration Cost in 2017? Best of Services & Pricings Reviewed’.

Wrapping up

No matter whether you’re moving a simple blog or a complex extensive website, it’s all about planning and preparation. The tips above will (hopefully) help create a sort of map of your CMS migration, which will be easy to follow and lead you to the website you’ve been dreaming about. Happy journey!

What are your migration experiences – typical pitfalls, tools, helpful recommendations? Do share your insights in the comments below!

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