Last month, we discussed the problems that we see all too often when a business decides on a new website. We identified 6 website migration areas where businesses fall down when they switch off the old website and transition to the new design. So how do we plan for a smooth transition.
Have a clear website strategy for the new site with properly articulated and defined objectives. A good start is to articulate the business reasons why you are making the change at all.
For example you might have found that the old site had a design that wasn’t able to covert visitors to take action. Or you might have a new product area that cannot be shoe-horned into the existing structure, or the old site might use a technology that is too difficult to edit easily, or you might want to split the site into 2 separate businesses.
Having a strategy will not only help drive the design process properly, but most importantly the anticipated outcomes will be key ingredients of the migration timing plan.
While it might seem a relatively simple task, there are a number of key elements that need to happen in sequence – its not about switching off one site and then switching on the new one.
Build a plan around the migration pathway detailing tasks and stakeholders and allow enough time for it all to happen to a realistic deadline.
Once the site has been completed on the developers test server with new images and all the copy input, time needs to be set aside for testing.
The new site, if its more than moving it to a new server migration (even those can cause problems), will have a different set of URLs for the pages and linking structures, downloads, carts etc. Each page needs to be checked, links checked in a number of browsers – we suggest Chrome, Edge, IE, Safari and Firefox. And this needs time planned in to do properly.
The new site probably needs new tracking code for Google Analytics so you can see how its performing against the old one.
The old URLs need redirecting to the new ones so that in-bound links from articles, directories, industry organisations aren’t broken. This needs time to analyse and set up or the new site will disappear off the search engines. The website developer can do this, all all they need is a list of old URLS and the relevant new URL in an excel spreadsheet.
SEO expertise needs to be onboard from the beginning of the project – ideally before the new website structure is determined and definitely before a single line of code is laid down. In the absence of a marketing team, the SEO guy is probably the best guy to take ownership of the migration plan.
Building a new website means that changes will be made, it’s the the whole point of undertaking the project. These changes can affect a number of pages and in most circumstances, the website structure. This means that some pages may have simply cease to exist causing 404 errors.These ghost pages need to be cleaned up.
If you can address these issues during your website migration, and capture it in a plan that is properly resource and executed, you will should end up with a substantially better site than you started with and a positive effect on your business.
While taking the migration seriously will add time to your project, a successful migration provides a seamless user experience for your visitors, and will ensure stability in key website metrics.