Migrating your association's web content to a new site can be a painstaking and time-consuming process, but it is essential that the project is handled well to guarantee the success of your new site. The last thing you need is to spend dozens of hours transitioning to your new site, only to discover you've lost some essential content from your old one!
We have managed and worked through numerous content migrations of varying scopes, and we've turned our experience into a step-by-step guide to ensuring the smoothest transition possible. Here are some things to consider:
What is the overriding goal of your new site?
Before diving in to your content migration project, be sure that your team has a complete vision for how your new site will look and feel. Take time to consider what the ultimate goal of your website will be. Are you hoping to drive membership? Do you plan to focus more on the resources available to members? Is your aim to keep the website looking updated more regularly? Take all of this into account before planning how the content will be accessed on your new site. Write your mission statement down so that those working on the content migration can consult it when making tough decisions.
Step 1: Conduct a ‘content inventory’
This is an initial assessment of the content on your website, including all internal media files and external links. You will need to assess:
- Which pages/sections will need to be moved over in their exact current format
- Which pages/sections will be moved over but edited, restructured, or incorporated into other sections (ie you need to capture the information, but rework it before posting)
- Which pages/sections will be scrapped from your new site.
When making these decisions, you may want to consult your analytics to determine which pages are more successful than others. You should also look at the keywords that your users are searching when they arrive at your website. How can you improve accessibility to the information people are searching for?
At all stages, ask yourself ‘How does this content help us meet our objectives?’. If it does not, cut it from your consideration. Your time is best focused on the content that truly adds value.
Think about your time-sensitive content, such as news items or blog posts. How far back do you want to go when saving these?
Also take into consideration any media files currently included on your website, such as videos. Where are these hosted and how do you plan to host them on the new site? Do you need to note down their embed codes, or can they be easily accessed elsewhere?
Step 2: Saving and planning your content
Once you have a clearer idea of what you need to cut and what you need to keep, it’s time to start saving your content outside of your website. This can be done in a number of ways and it will depend on how your team prefer to work.
It may be simplest for you to copy and paste each page into a Word document and save it in folders corresponding to the site map of your new site. For example, create an ‘About us’ folder, and save each page under this folder in the order it will appear in this new section. The crucial thing is to ensure that every page is captured – pay special attention to pages that may be hidden from navigation but are linked to internally.
Make a note of pages that may require special coding, such as those with buttons, tables, or any other item that will need to be styled to fit the branding of your new website (font, colours etc).
Step 3: Moving media
The media (images, PDFs, other documents) file section of your website is likely jam-packed with files, some of which may be years out of date, others of which may be incorrectly organized. We recommend going through each of these files individually, determining which need to be saved and which do not, and saving them to your computer in the exact folder structure you would like them to appear on your website. For example, ‘AGM Minutes – 2015 – 2014 – 2013’, etc.
Keep things as structured as possible to allow for easy navigation. When you are confident you have captured everything, you can then begin moving your files into the media section of your new site, safe in the knowledge that anything you miss on the new website is stored on your computer drive.
Step 4: Restructuring and rewriting content
Once you are sure all of your text and media has been saved and archived, it’s time to start reworking any content that needs attention. Here are a few things to consider:
- How can you reduce the need for frequent updates to basic information pages on your website? For example, if you have an annual awards deadline of March 1st, remove any reference to the year on the page. That way, your team does not need to set a reminder to adjust the year on the page.
- What is the most logical way to present your information? Think about the questions you most commonly receive from members. Why are they not able to find this information easily on your current website? Is there something you can do to make it easier to navigate to essential information? Perhaps you have information buried in longer pages that, on reflection, is worthy of its own section. Consult your analytics to get a good idea of what information is most important to your members.
- How can you improve SEO? Refer back to your analytics – are there any search terms that are generating a lot of traffic to your website? You may want to rewrite pages, titles and subtitles to incorporate these keywords where appropriate.
- Is your content easy to read? Consider breaking longer pages down into sections and accordions. This is particularly important considering your new site is intended to be viewed on devices of all sizes.
- Do you have any pages that can be incorporated into others? Pages that are only a few sentences do not look good on your website, particularly if they are simply linking elsewhere. Are you able to incorporate information from two pages into one, without making it difficult to find?
Step 5: Moving the content into your new CMS
This stage should go smoothly provided you have followed the above steps. When copying your content into the new website, however, there are a few tips you can follow to ensure that your information is presented in the best way possible.
- Use ‘accordions’ for lengthy pages that require scrolling. These are particularly useful for FAQ pages, or other pages where the content can be easily split into sections.
- Consider mobile friendliness at all times. How will the page look at different sizes on different devices? Is there a better way to present the information?
- Avoid ‘click here’ links. When adding a link anywhere on your website, it is much better to hyperlink the title or a complete phrase rather than say ‘click here’. For example: ‘Read the latest Dash blog here’ is more easily read on first glance and creates a stronger urge for action than ‘Click here to read the latest Dash blog’.
- Avoid duplication. If information is listed on two different pages of your website, does it need to be? Remember that you can link people to the section they are looking for, rather than try to cover all bases in one place.
Step 5.1: Monitoring links
All internal links will be changed on your new site, so it is essential that you make a note of where links will need to be updated. When copying pages over to your staging site, make a clear note at the top that there are links to be updated on that page. Go through each page and ensure that the file links are going to your new Media section, not your old website.
Similarly, any images will need to be uploaded into your new site rather than copied and pasted over.
Final steps: Content review and testing
Phew! Now that all of your content has been moved over into your staging site, it’s time to conduct thorough checks.
- Go through each page of the website and ensure that each link is going to the correct place – be careful that there are no links to your old (existing) website
- Go through the content plan you establish in steps 1 and 2 – has everything been moved over from your old website that you wanted to keep? Have a third eye explore both your old (existing) site and the new staging site and identify any gaps.
- Ensure that pages intended to be members-only have been set as such.
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