Migrating your website from one content management system (CMS) to another can be challenging. It is not a simple process. Each system has unique methods of storing data, making themes and adding functionality.
So, 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 are preparing to migrate your site to WordPress, there can be a few obstacles to navigate. And the core software is just the beginning. The larger and more specialized your site, the more involved the transfer will be. For example, a plugin like WooCommerce needs a lot of attention when importing e-commerce data.
Because every website is unique, there is no one-size-fits-all way to migrate to WordPress from another CMS. However, there are some best practices for preparation and execution. And that’s our focus for today.
Let’s explore some tips to make your transition to WordPress as smooth as possible.
Consider Your Data Export Options
The first step is to assess your options for exporting data from your current CMS. Some apps make it quite simple to export content as a CSV or XML file. Others may need a third-party tool to do so.
Depending on the types of data and how much there is, there may be several methods available. In general, you may find more options with an open source CMS than with a proprietary one. But it can vary greatly from one system to another.
It is also important to know which data can be exported. Blog posts or page content could be readily available. However, specialty items such as membership data, e-commerce products/sales, and events may require a separate tool – or may not be available for export at all.
Additionally, don’t expect themes or other design elements to travel easily to WordPress. Although some elements such as CSS and images can be copied, the overall structure of the template will need to be rebuilt. This situation isn’t so bad if you’re planning to do a complete redesign – but it can be a pain otherwise.
Once you understand the options available, you can put together a plan for the “big move.”
Match Your Exported Data to WordPress
Hopefully you now have some or all of your existing website data in hand. Now it’s time to determine the best way to import it into WordPress.
WordPress has several recommendations for importing content from other platforms. Having a tool available for your particular CMS makes the process a little easier. You may not need to worry about details such as the column headers in a CSV file. The tool does all (or most) of the dirty work for you.
Apart from that, there are some general import/export plugins for WordPress. They may ask you to do some cleanup on your data. Therefore, importing can be a process of trial and error. Sometimes it takes a few tries before things are imported correctly.
Part of the challenge is getting data into the right tables and columns of the WordPress database. Some plugins provide a UI to visually map where things go. Still, others may ask you to name the correct conventions within a file.
Individual values may also have formatting requirements. Date formats are a great example. But other spots may mean some reconfiguration of your export.
Getting the Import Right
Depending on your already setup site, multiple imports may be required – and run in a specific order. For typical e-commerce sites, imports may include:
- General content (pages, blog posts, etc.);
- Customer accounts;
- Past orders;
Logically, the products and customer accounts should be imported before the shop orders in the past. Experimentation is often required to find out how everything works. WordPress data can be difficult to wrangle, and imports are no exception.
It’s a great learning opportunity. That is after you pull your hair out amid a data nightmare. But the information you get can come in handy down the road.
Test Your Work
How do you know if your import works as expected? The answer is during relevant tests. That will fill you in on the perfectly transferred data, as well as any potential problems.
The types of tests you perform will depend on the data. WordPress user profiles can be viewed in the background, as can page and post content. It’s a good way to make sure the basics are in order.
But it is possible to go a step further. For example, User Change is a plugin that allows you to view your website from a specific user’s perspective. It is a great tool for testing e-commerce and membership sites.
Perhaps the biggest advantage of testing is that you are more likely to catch errors before the site is published. It will save you some embarrassing user complaints.
Move your website to WordPress with fewer headaches
Migrating your website to WordPress may seem intimidating. And things could go badly. But preparation is your best defense.
By studying both the export and import processes, you will have a better understanding of what needs to be done. There you can find tools to help you move data from point A to point B.
And if there are some hiccups along the way – don’t worry. Website migrations may involve multiple steps or require you to start from scratch. It’s not always pretty.
But don’t let that scare you. Do your best to plan and deal with any issues as they arise. That will be that much sweeter when your new WordPress website is up and running.