So, you’re thinking about, or have already decided it’s time to migrate your existing site to a newer platform. Well, you’re not alone; thousands of companies are expected to pursue this undertaking in 2011. There are a few prerequisites you should consider before you begin the “deep dive”. This post focuses on determining how structured your old and new content is, and some tips to consider to help position you for success.
Structured vs. Un-Structured Content
More times than not, the existing site will contain un-structured content. Conversely, most newly planned sites will be architected to leverage structured content (for a number of beneficial reasons). Un-structured content means that a lot of potential “separate fields of content” have been combined into a large “block” of content. Does this sound familiar? When you create a new page on your current site, are there very few fields of content to populate? If so, your site probably contains un-structured content.
A site with structured content on the other hand has broken out all of the logical fields of a content item into their own separate fields. Here’s an example of the differences:
An un-structured Article Content Item may only have two fields: Article Title and Article Body. The Structured Article Content Item however may have several: Article Title, Article Author, Publication Date, Article Abstract, Article Body, etc.
The challenge in migration lies within taking this one “block” of content, and separating it out into each smaller field. The determination of how much can be programmatically-done (through programming tasks) vs. manual will depend on several factors – this being the largest factor.
Here are some tips to consider if your migration resembles moving from an un-structured to structured content object model architecture.
- Inventory your existing content, and document: how many different content types exist, and how many fields are defined for each respective content type.
- Determine how much content should be cut (old or no longer relevant).
- Review the HTML structure of the pages in your current site. Is all content contained within the <body> tags? Are there <h1> tags? Etc.
- Define your new content types and associated fields for each content type.
- Start mapping the old to new.
- Tools like spreadsheets can be very helpful to survey the landscape and to help determine how much can be automated vs. manual.
- Migration tools, like one from Kapow Software (website), can help with the actual migration.
Aside from content structure, there are other factors to consider prior to performing your content migration.
- Links and associated URLs – your current content probably has embedded link to other areas of your site and/or external sites. The new system may or may not create links in the same manner as your current site. Plan out how these links can most easily be preserved.
- Links to embedded Media Items – just like links to other URLs, your content will also contain links to media items: images, videos, audio file, documents, etc. The storage location of these media items may not be in the same location as your existing site. These items may also be stored as assets in a database requiring a special, optimized method to access them. Review how your new Web CMS stores media items, and determine if relative or absolute links will work, or if some other method is required to access them.
- Related Items and Content Relationship – most un-structured site will not have much, if any, content relationships (like related content). Your new site, most likely will. Be careful to not underestimate the effort required to build these relationships in the new system.
- Content freeze – at some point, you’ll need to stop adding new content to your old site. Be sure to plan the amount of downtime that is required to “move things over” so that it can coordinated to occur during the best possible time.
- Workflow – two parts here: a) if your current site has a content workflow, you’ll need to determine how different workflow states may affect what is migrated over, and b) if your adding content workflow to the new site, be sure to turn it off during the migration as to avoid content bottlenecks and unnecessary manual tasks.
For any additional questions or comments, don’t hesitate to contact me.