Migrating your website from one content management system (CMS) to another can be challenging. It’s not a straightforward process. Each system has unique methods for storing data, theming, and adding functionality.
Thus, there are no apples-to-apples site moves. It’s more like apples-to-oranges, with a few pears and peaches thrown in to make it interesting.
If you’re preparing to migrate your site to WordPress, there can be several obstacles to navigate. And the core software is just the beginning. The larger and more specialized your site is, the more involved the move will be. For example, a plugin such as WooCommerce requires plenty of attention when importing eCommerce data.
Because every website is unique, there’s no singular way to migrate to WordPress from another CMS. There are some best practices when it comes to preparation and execution, however. And that’s our focus for today.
Let’s explore some tips for making your migration to WordPress as smooth as possible.
Assess Your Data Export Options
The first step is to assess your options for exporting data from your current CMS. Some apps make it fairly simple to export content as a CSV or XML file. Others may require a third-party tool to do so.
Depending on the types of data and how much there is, there could be several methods available. In general, you might find more options with an open-source CMS than with a proprietary one. But it can vary greatly from one system to another.
It’s also important to find out what data is exportable. Blog posts or page content could be readily available. However, specialty items such as membership data, eCommerce products/sales, and events may require a separate tool – or may not be available to export at all.
In addition, don’t expect themes or other design elements to easily travel along to WordPress. While certain aspects such as CSS and images can be copied, the overall template structure will need to be rebuilt. This scenario isn’t so bad if you’re planning to do a full redesign – but it can be a pain otherwise.
Once you understand the available options, you can formulate a plan for the “big move.”
Match Up Your Exported Data with WordPress
Hopefully, you’ll now have some or all of your current website’s data on hand. Now it’s time to determine the best way for importing it into WordPress.
WordPress has some recommendations for importing content from other platforms. If there’s a tool available for your specific CMS, that makes the process quite a bit easier. You might not have to worry about details like the column headers of a CSV file. The tool does all (or most) of the dirty work for you.
Outside of that, there are several generalized import/export plugins for WordPress. They may require you to conduct some cleanup of your data. As such, importing can be a trial-and-error process. Sometimes it takes a few tries before you get things imported correctly.
Part of the challenge involves getting data into the right tables and columns of the WordPress database. Some plugins provide a UI to visually map out where things go. Still, others may require you to use the correct naming conventions within a file.
Individual values may also have formatting requirements. Date formats are a prime example. But other spots could mean some reconfiguring of your export.
Getting Your Import Just Right
Depending on your existing site’s setup, multiple imports may be needed – and run in a specific order. For a typical eCommerce site, there could be imports for:
General content (pages, blog posts, etc.);
Logically speaking, the products and customer accounts should be imported before the store’s past orders. Experimentation is often required to figure out how to make everything work. WordPress data can be difficult to wrangle, and imports are no exception.
It’s a great learning opportunity. That is after you’ve pulled your hair out amid a data nightmare. But the knowledge you’ll gain can come in handy down the road.
Test Your Work
How will you know if your import works as expected? The answer is in performing relevant tests. That will fill you in on which data migrated perfectly, as well as any potential problems.
The types of tests you conduct will depend on the data. WordPress user profiles can be viewed in the back end, as can page and post content. It’s a good way to ensure that the basics are in order.
But it’s possible to go a step further. For instance, User Switching is a plugin that allows you to see your website from a specific user’s vantage point. It’s a great tool for testing eCommerce and membership sites.
Perhaps the biggest benefit of testing is that you’re more likely to catch errors before the site is made public. It will save you some embarrassment and user complaints.
Move Your Website to WordPress with Fewer Headaches
Migrating your website to WordPress may seem intimidating. And there is the potential for things to go poorly. But preparation is your best defense.
By studying both the export and import processes, you’ll have a better understanding of what needs to be done. You can then find tools to help you move data from point A to point B.
And if there are some hiccups along the way – not to worry. Website migrations may have multiple stages or require you to start over from scratch. It’s not always pretty.
But don’t let that scare you away. Do your best to plan and deal with any issues as they come along. It will be that much sweeter when your new WordPress website is up and running.