Want to Upgrade to a New CMS?



June 19, 2007

There are a lot of issues to consider when upgrading your website. Most often it seems the organization looking for the change focuses mostly on the new design of the site. Design is just one element and it usually isn't the most critical one to your new site's success.

It makes sense that when people want to launch a new site that they will also launch a new design. This is generally a good idea as often converting a design to a new content management system will be nearly as difficult as creating a new design in the first place. Remember that the design is just a presentation layer and although it is very important to your new site's success, it must be considered apart from the content layer. Your website should also match your organizations existing branding initiatives - consistency is good.

One of the biggest questions is what are you going to do with your existing content. Do you want it to be migrated for you or do you want to review the content and the site's hierarchy manually as you are creating a new site. For both static and dynamic sites there are going to be concepts which are not easily upgraded and which will need someone familiar with both sites to review. Don't expect complete automation! You will also have to consider how you deal with the old internal links, as the old CMS has a different format than the new one does. Issues like images and attachments will also likely be problematic.

What functional elements do you need to migrate over. It may be quite expensive to replicate the exact functionality from your old site, so it is important to be flexible unless you've got a large budget to customize the new code base. In setting up a new CMS, it is easy to get lost in the range of options that are out there. Remember to start small and expand as you have the resources to support your new site's functionality. Don't install all of the modules that could be useful, rather stick to those that you know will support your site.

It is useful to know how people are presently coming to your site and what you can do to optimize your search engine results so that your traffic increases after the upgrade. Watch the web stats/trafic before and after so that you can measure how people are coming to your website. You will want to optimize your site for search engines from the start and monitor changes in activity.

With a good Content Management System like Drupal you can also look at changing your work-flow within your organization. These tools can have a profound effect on your communications with and between members. Work-flow within an organization can be decentralized and formalized as the tools get easier to use. Electronic Newsletters can help bring your supporters back to your site. Student wings or regional volunteers could be allowed to post information right to the web site. Blogs are often a good place to do this as they are seen as being more informal and also help with search engine placement.

About The Author

Mike Gifford is the founder of OpenConcept Consulting Inc, which he started in 1999. Since then, he has been particularly active in developing and extending open source content management systems to allow people to get closer to their content. Before starting OpenConcept, Mike had worked for a number of national NGOs including Oxfam Canada and Friends of the Earth.