A content management system is a pretty important part of a modern business website. Long gone are the days when a brand could just sling up raw HTML pages and rely on a developer with a copy of Dreamweaver to just update anything that needed a change. Modern sites are dynamic, responsive, content-hungry platforms and need content management to match.
Whatever your preference (or poison), migrating from one CMS to another is something that does tend to crop up periodically over the lifetime of a website. The reasons can be varied – lack of flexibility on the current platform, a need to grow, a new product or service offering, or just a redesign and site relaunch, which can often seem like a good idea to start afresh. What does matter, though, is the need to manage this CMS change process. It may be part of a wider site launch with implications to the bigger picture in terms of your search visibility, but if you’re literally just moving platforms there are some core considerations you need to take into account.
Who is going to do it, and how? Some developers will be able to play musical databases for you and save a bit of effort but this could be a good opportunity to take a fresh look at your content anyway, and check your analytics – what should you keep, what is of no value so should be culled, what needs an update or refresh?
Will it change? This is the most often neglected aspect of a CMS move – “oh, but it is just a content management system” – but make sure you check, and don’t neglect a 301 plan if you need one or your site’s traffic will tank.
Existing vs New Functionality
Really you should be looking at this before you make the decision to switch but it is amazing how often people buy into a new technology without properly comparing it to the one they are currently using. Don’t forget to check expansion capabilities vs what the CMS can do “out of the box” – WordPress is a classic example of a CMS that off the shelf isn’t actually all that great for much apart from basic blogging, but with the right extensions can blow the functionality of many custom-built solutions clear out of the water.
Once the usual logistical things are covered (especially if you’re integrating with any sort of fulfilment or booking system behind the scenes) make sure you pay special attention to search-based functionality. There are, amazingly, still commercial content management systems out there that don’t handle things like meta data without extensions. A lot of them make it difficult to add image alts or semantic markup (some will actually strip such things out of the code if you try to add them manually via a code editing view) and many will also cause all kinds of fun-filled problems by handling a sensible request for clean URLs in a manner that can be politely described as “fruity.”
At the end of the day you’ll choose your CMS (and have to live with it) but a little forethought when you make your selection can save a lot of headaches in the long term. Don’t just think function and price – also think search, because no matter how lovely your content looks in its new home there’s absolutely no point in the exercise if nobody apart from you can find it.