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Content Migration: The Ins and Outs of Populating Your New Website

A website is like a placemat. Content is the meal you place upon it. And when you embark on redesigning your website, you’re going to need to decide what kind of food you’re going to serve.

Our recommendation: Tackle your website content sooner than later because content is the most debatable, creative, subjective, and time-consuming portion of any website redesign project.

If you don’t start making (strategic) decisions about what you have to say and how it should be said early, your redesign will either be delayed or—worse—launched with incomplete or ineffective content. We try to get our clients working on content ASAP because it always takes more time than you’d guess, and it’s too critical to leave to the last moment.

And once your content is ready to go, you’ve got to figure out how you’re going to get it onto the new site.

Two Ways to Populate Content

Generally, we use the term “content migration” to mean any manner of getting content onto a website. Under that umbrella are two discrete tactics:

1. Manual Content Entry

Just what it sounds like. With manual content entry, you’ll literally be typing and cutting-and-pasting content into your content management system (CMS).

This is usually the slower of the two tactics because not only are you manually entering content, you’re having to format and organize it as you go—checking your work along the way to ensure things display correctly on the front end. We’re not just talking about text; there are also images, graphical elements, and interactions that have to be accounted for.

Tackle your website content sooner than later because content is the most debatable, creative, subjective, and time-consuming portion of any website redesign project.

When we manually enter content for our clients, we usually estimate 15 minutes per page. Which means we can knock out about 32-35 pages per day. For a website that has, say, 500 pages, manual content entry can easily take 2-3 weeks. (And that’s assuming that all of the content is ready to be entered.)

Luckily, there are tools that make things easier. Right now, we’re fans of Gather Content—a tool specifically designed to help clients enter content and their agencies (i.e., us) ensure it’s built, formatted, and entered correctly. Gather Content is an online tool that works simply enough: We “recreate” each unique webpage layout within Gather Content, ensuring that each section of content on the page is in order, properly sized, and meets character-count requirements.

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The client, at their ongoing convenience, logs in and enters content for a specific page—e.g., the “About Us” page, which might use the “General” layout. Once the content is finalized and approved by the client within Gather Content, we do one of two things. Either we start up an automatic integration (depending on which CMS the client has chosen) or else our project managers and project coordinators manually pull content from Gather Content into the CMS. It’s a big time-saver and headache-avoider, and it helps us think about content both in a vacuum (within Gather Content) and in context (within the CMS).

2. Bulk Content Import

Just because you’re redesigning your website doesn’t mean all—or even most—of your existing content has to be tossed in the bin. In fact, existing content can be a great starting place and can save a ton of time later, even if it’s largely edited or re-formatted.

But what do you do if you have a massive amount of content to move from your old CMS to the new one? We could be dealing with thousands of pages, after all. This is why we try to think of content in terms of types instead of simply pages.

For example: A big government agency may have thousands of press releases in an archive. In this case, “press release” becomes a content type that can be imported to a new site. This is where Bulk Content Import comes into play. And it’s one of our specialties.

Here’s how it works, generally:

  • Our client downloads all content types from their current CMS—usually in the form of an XML, CSV, or JSON file. If they don’t know what any of this means, we make it clear before they get started.
  • In collaboration with our architects and designers, the client decides what, of that content, they want to upload to their new website’s CMS. If necessary, they’ll also bundle up associated files—e.g., images, PDFs, etc.
  • We’ll create an automated import process whereby the “old” content is moved into the new site.
  • We go into the CMS and clean up any mistakes—e.g., broken links.

The need for bulk import has implications for website design, too: If we need to move thousands of press releases from one site to another, the new site’s “press release design” should align with the old site’s. This doesn’t mean they have to look or even behave exactly the same on the new site; it simply means that deviating too wildly from the old design might make bulk import too complex or even technically impossible.

Which is Right for You?

The truth is that most of the time, the new websites we build use a combination of manual entry and bulk import. Each client’s content needs are unique, and the back-end technical requirements need to be customized. But whatever approach we use, we end up with a gorgeous new website that is filled with the thing people most care about: deliciously rich content, ready to be devoured by your users.

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