Asad Ali, Negosentro | When it comes to website redesign typically business owners face a hard time deciding how to proceed – whether to only change the visual look and feel of the site or migrate to a new Content Management System (CMS). The method of choice can be more easily identified by breaking up the requirements of the site redesign. For instance, if the redesign involves adding a compatible skin to seamlessly control specific elements or quickly modifying the content, then there is no need for CMS upgrade. However, if the redesign that asks for playing around with graphical elements that are not supported by your CMS and available themes, or if there are constant obstacles in the way of the redesign, then it’s time to make the big switch.
Why Switch to A New CMS?
To make the picture clearer, following are some of the top reasons why website owners usually opt to go with a new CMS during the redesign phase:
- Previously, everything was being run manually due to which it was time-consuming to implement the modification and difficult to manage the workflow.
- The current CMS cannot support the projected redesign.
- Due to software limitations implementing the new layout, with the necessary redesign requirements, to the current CMS could turn into a massive custom web development task.
- The current CMS is costing too much and it is generating speed issues. Or there are other complications – such as the system is not scalable, it requires significant effort to find content/individual elements and the customer experience is not satisfactory.
- If site owner feels the need to switch from a hosted platform to a self-hosted CMS.
If the above stated scenarios don’t apply, that means it’s a simple redesign job. However, if site owners are able to identify with even a single case, then means it’s time to analyze the redesign needs, audit the site content, and develop a digital strategy for bringing a new CMS solution into play.
Evaluate Scope of Current CMS and identify the objectives of redesign to determine its overall impact of new CMS, based on the following considerations:
- What are the best aspects of the current CMS/website?
- What functionalities would you like to retain or lose?
- Highlight strengths and weak spots of current CMS.
- Problems with user experience and how to overcome them.
With further research of the current environment, site owners can collect valuable analytics and insights for answering unresolved questions and defining the architecture of the required CMS of choice.
- Develop site map of current environment.
- Make a list of the forms and custom codes that are relevant to the current platform.
- Lay out a detailed plan highlighting the architectural requirements and customizations needed in the new model.
- Isolate the features as well as modules that are working well for the current system, and compare them to the new platform.
- Lookup GIT, a software version control system, which can aid in the developmental process and supports option to revert changes.
Determine the type of content being used on the current CMS, to develop a clear picture of the content and features that should be renewed during the transition. This can also help site owners save up valuable resources and time by disposing unnecessary load.
The main objective of a CMS is to make content management easier. It is highly important to bring that into factor while developing a digital strategy; for which site owners can utilize:
- The data collected from content audit and analytics.
- Statistics from digital trends relevant to your niche.
- Professional third-party services.
- Or, if a firm has been hired to manage the CMS, they can organize stakeholder meetings to get feedback from the technical and marketing departments.
This approach can help site owners develop a digital roadmap that can streamline their site redesign and development process.
Architecture of New System
A CMS can generate simple pages to feature all content, regardless of its type. However, most site owners prefer a more structured site; which is why all content should be appropriately mapped out. Start by defining an architectural plan that identifies the different types of content (e.g. news, events blog posts, etc.), field displays, labels and the procedure for adding new content. Moreover, make sure to compare and confirm that the content is displayed in proper grids/lists and that its relevant fields actually exist.
UX/UI and Design
The design process will determine the style and requirements of the system. Building blocks based on grid system or frameworks such as bootstrap can be used to scale and align the content. It depends on the site owner whether they chose to design individual pages for different types of content, grids, displays and form and search pages, or they develop a general layout.
This is the most important step, as it will decide whether your projected requirements and relevant modules are matched by the platform capabilities. Site owners will not always find the same functionalities being supported by the new platform. Make a list of required features, and if they don’t exist in the current platform then search for downloadable/purchasable modules that can fill that gap.
Content Management Systems usually have marked out regions where blocks of similar content can be added and a common center area that determines a downward flow of content in the CMS.
Self-hosted or Service Provider
Site owners need to factor in the requirements of the chosen platform, the amount of support required and their preference when deciding whether to self-host or hand over the responsibility to a professional provider. With a self-hosted CMS, site owners will have full control over the platform which will be directly installed on a server that they own or have individually rented. These usually have more usability, flexibility and additional options, at the cost of being too complicated for the average user. Meanwhile, a hosted CMS will be provided on a company owned server by the service provider. This is a more common option for ecommerce platforms and beginners, as there is not much need for modifications and site owners can benefit from the 24-hour support of experienced staff.
Planning CMS Migration
Once the CMS has been finalized, it’s time to start thinking about backing up the current site data and migrating to the new platform. Save everything that needs to be reproduced on the new system. Map out the content types and consider redirects from the current URL to the new content, for the chosen CMS. Also consider: how images and downloadable files will be transferred, the content types to be retained and whether the content URL’s need to be altered.
Before going live, it should be confirmed that the servers correspond to the right domain, all the integrated features are supported by the web host, and that the test launch generated positive feedback from different visitor types. Launching the website typically involves transferring the domain by updating its DNS to the IP address of its hosting server, i.e. where the new platform is located. If during this process, the site owners or web development team decides on at new suitable design ideas and features, they should be addressed in development post-launch.
Asad Ali is digital marketing professional with experience of over 7 years. Currently, he is working as senior executive for GO-Gulf – a Dubai based company providing custom web development services for numerous clients worldwide. You can reach him on LinkedIn.