Opinion 5 step guide to migrating a website

By Tim McQueen Published on 21 Nov 2017

The five best steps to take before migrating your website

  • Read time: 4 mins
  • Tech level: low
  • Key point: a website migration is a bit like a road trip, the better the planning the smoother the ride
Professionals in Sydney office discussing a business case
By following this checklist, your migration will save you time and money

A guide to planning for a smooth content migration project

While this article refers to Adobe Business Catalyst, the fundamental steps listed here can be applied more widely to other website rebuild projects.

Why is Business Catalyst used as an example?

In March 2018, Adobe announced that it will shut down Business Catalyst has in 2021. This means a website built using the Business Catalyst CMS will need to be rebuilt in another CMS and content migrated. 

Now for the pre-migration steps

Step one: back-up everything

Make sure your web content is all backed up. This is an easy step to do, but also an easy step to forget about. Backing up your current website is really important because you may want to go back and refer to your website at one point, and if it's not backed up, then it makes referring to that past content very difficult or not possible.

There are programs and services that will back up your website for you from the front-end point of view. Plus, Adobe Business Catalyst has a number of export features that allow you to do export CSV versions of your web content. In addition to that, you or your website agency could download all the images to folders on a computer and then back those up on Dropbox or Google Drive.

Step two: make the CMS decision process easier for yourself

Students looking at a university website
Establish quality relationships with customers with a CMS that acknowledges their unique wants and needs.

Make a list of what's most important to you in a CMS. Even if you're taking advice from website professionals on which CMS to choose, your website agency will still need to know what's important to you in a CMS. 

When making a list of features and functionality that are important to you in a CMS, don't just think about your current website. Think about what you may want in the near future. In some ways, it's not possible to know what the future holds. However, if you think of what you'll likely want to do with your website in the next year or two, then add that to your list of important CMS features.

Categorise your list into priorities of from critical through to 'nice-to-have'. Some website features and functionality will be deal breakers, whereas you may not have a need for other CMS features and functionality. For example, you may have 'An excellent internal search out-of-the-box' in your list of critical features but no need for a blog feature. You may review a CMS that does blog posts really well - but if you're not planning to use a blog on your website then that feature is irrelevant do you.

There are a number of web CMS platforms out there and each of them has their own pros and cons. The aim is to pick a CMS that has all your critical requirements in their list of pros. Similarly, none of your critical website CMS requirements should be in the list of cons for the CMS that you select. Don't forget to review the cons of each CMS you're considering and make sure there's nothing in there that's important to you. This way, you can ensure that the new CMS matches you and your business.

Here is an example of a table you may want to create in preparation for selecting a new CMS. A table like the below makes the decision process much easier.

<Name of CMS option1>
<Name of CMS option 2>
<Name of CMS option 3>
Licence costs

Hosting costs

24/7 hosting support?

Local support available (phone, e-mail, face-to-face)?

<Key requirements 1>

<Key requirements 2>

<Key requirements 3>

<Key requirements 4>


There is no "perfect CMS". The trick in finding a CMS that suits you is making sure that the critical features and functionality are at least covered off in your new CMS. By "covered off," I don't just mean that the CMS lists that item in a long list of features, because sometimes a CMS is technically capable of performing a task - but in real life, it does it very badly and that feature may require a large amount of time consuming set-up and configuration. You need to make sure that the most critical features and functionality align with what your new CMS does really well...out-of-the box.

Step three: a hands-on trial

Try out the new CMS before you commit. Think about all the tasks that you or your team most commonly do with your CMS. Now, it may be that you only do a few things and the rest is done by your digital agency. In this case all you need to do is think about those tasks that you often do, or you will often do, and then actually try to do them in a trial mode of that CMS. You could also task one of your team members to actually try out the CMS and make sure that the CMS can do those things well, quickly and intuitively.

Everything works well when presented by an expert in that product. Make sure you use your own hands and your own computer to perform common tasks on that CMS.

Step four: website design

Students looking at a university website
Encourage loyalty by building a user-friendly site for your customers.

If you're planning to use a pre-designed theme for your visual website design, then make sure that the new CMS has plenty themes available. A number of enterprise CMSs (what is an enterprise CMS) won't have pre-designed themes because most medium to large sized businesses would not use a pre-designed website template. This is because a number of companies and organisations use their own unique website design that's been created to specifically match their unique brand values.

If you are planning to use your own website design that's been specifically designed for your brand, which is recommended, then just make sure that the new CMS supports setting up your own design. Perhaps even talk to others similar to you - that have already been through the process and ask them how easy or hard it was to set up a unique design in the new CMS. The CMS named Squiz CMS is an excellent example of an enterprise class CMS, that allows a custom website design to be implemented. If a website has been set up correctly in Squiz CMS, then the code that the CMS renders can be of excellent quality.

New web design and content

When your website is rebuilt, it will likely be using a new website design. Therefore, you have to remember that the new design will have its own set of image sizes, and each area of the new design will have a new set of character counts. This means that all your images will likely need to be resized to match the new website design and a lot of your content will need to be massaged to fit within the restraints of your new website design.

Now, depending on the volume of content you've got, this could be a really large job, or a really small job or somewhere in between, so it really depends on the size and volume of your website content.

A new website build offers you a great opportunity to revitalise your web content. Review your web statistics to see what content was popular and expand on that type of content. Give your visitors more of what they want and reduce the content that's not interesting or valuable to them.

Step five: choose a digital partner that matches your working style

Finally, probably the most important step is to pick the right website experts to support you when you're rebuilding your website. The reason is building, or rebuilding a website is a bit like a road trip. In a way, you'll need to work closely with the people that you choose for at least six months. This means that styles of working and personality enters the equation. It's important that you and your digital partner are a good match so that you can build a productive relationship. They may be an agency that are very technically competent, but if their style of working isn't a good match to the way you like to work, then the road trip might end up taking a few detours along the way - rather than making a direct route. 

This, of course, is difficult to predict unless you've already worked with them before, so getting recommendations is helpful. Since you'll be working closely with your selected agency, pick a digital agency that's in the same city as you. This is because face-to-face meetings are always easier than having to set up technology and meet virtually or remotely. Even better is if your agency team members could work out of your office for a few days a week so that you can actually tap each other on the shoulder and work collaboratively. There's also a separate article on some of the benefits of choosing an agency that's in the same city as you.

Think about the size of the digital agency you'd like to engage. There are many advantages of working with a large agency. Some benefits are that you usually have access to:

  • more services within the one agency (this can streamline projects)
  • out of hours support
  • more team members.

Larger agencies also have less chance of going out of business part way through your project.

Alternatively, there are also many advantages to working with a boutique sized digital agency. Some benefits are that you usually receive:

  • more personal attention
  • prompt service 
  • more value for money. 

Wrap up

A well-planned road trip usually results in a faster and more enjoyable journey for you and all involved. Well planned road trip often results in more road trips in the future with the same group of people.

If you only do five things in preparation for your website rebuild project, make sure it's the five steps detailed in this article. 

Hopefully, you found these steps helpful. Good luck in selecting a new CMS and finding a helpful digital partner who can improve your business via a new website. 

More information

About Business Catalyst

The popularity of CMSs fluctuates over time. At one point in time (around 2009), Business Catalyst (BC) was an excellent CMS choice for a small to medium sized business. This was because it was a secure and low maintenance, all in one CMS solution. BC offered all the most popular website features that a business would want but all the functionality was already integrated from day one of setting up the new website. There was no need to install and configure add-ons. Hosting and upgrades were included in the paid plan. Unfortunately, over time the system was not continuously improved and now it's being shut down all together. 

Other comparable CMSs to BC

Polished Pixels can set up a new shop for you in Shopify using one of the many quality Shopify templates (see the costs of hosting your shop through Shopify).

Another paid solution, or Software as a Solution (SAAS) that is very similar to Adobe Business Catalyst in many ways is Kentico. Like Business Catalyst, the features or components of Kentico are very well integrated with each other out-of-the-box, and this is important for:

  • speed of set up
  • ongoing management and
  • ease of use.

Client feedback

Video length: 2 mins, 30 seconds
What you'll see: Project owners talking about the customer service they received.

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See how we implement Enterprise CMS platforms and case studies from past projects.

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