Of the many tasks you will tackle in the course of launching a new website, one of the most important ones is content migration: the process of populating your new website with the content that is going to tell your story.
Once the website is built—the scaffolding, structure, and design—your content is what brings it to life. But when you start adding up all the pages and posts and images and assets on your website, this might feel like a daunting project. Here are a few guiding principles and tips to help you feel empowered and organized as you head into this pivotal process.
You can never start too early
Content migration isn’t just about copying and pasting your current content into a new site. (There will be a lot of copying and pasting though.) It often entails rethinking how you want to communicate about your organization in the new structure and style you’re pursuing with your redesign project. While the bulk of the hands-on work of content migration will happen near the end of development, you should start planning for this phase as soon as the project starts. Some key things to consider early on include establishing your content goals and policies: What content will be most impactful on your new website? What’s the review and approval process? What’s your content retention policy?
You can also start the content preparation process early, usually as soon as your sitemap and content model are finalized. It is better to finish content preparation early and have time at the end for proofing and finessing content, rather than facing a mad scramble to write and review content at the end that may delay the quality assurance process or website launch date.
As you start creating and gathering content, set up a shared workspace, where folders can be created, collaborative documents can be edited and reviewed by the team, and documents and images can be gathered.
Build your content team
Creating and migrating content to your new website is a team effort. When you start your project, you’ll also want to identify who will contribute to and manage the content team. You’ll want to answer:
- Who has the ultimate authority on your content?
- How many people on the content team need to look at each piece of content?
- Whose voice or perspective should be captured?
- What other teams will be impacted by the website content?
- Who has the skills to manage hands-on content management in the CMS?
You can leverage a RACI matrix (outlining who is responsible, accountable, consulted, and informed) as a foundation for these conversations, and use this as an opportunity to generate buy-in across your organization for the website project.
You’ll also need to consider your team’s capacity. Factor in how much content needs to be created or reviewed, who needs to review it, and who needs time to write it. Set aside time for content editors to write, review, and attend recurring meetings, and plan ahead for this to take some time in everyone’s schedule. This is also the time to ensure you have organizational support for this work to take priority.
Get to the finish line
Once your website is ready for content loading, it’s crunch time. Even with all the preparation and planning, the effort of manual content migration is going to be a big lift for you and your team. Head into this phase with a marathon mindset.
A common misconception is that this process can happen automatically. While automated migration is an option, especially for less stylized or more standardized content, even automated migration will require some time and effort to review and polish to ensure migrated content fits well into your new website.
On average, manual migration takes between three and six minutes per piece of content. So if you have 100 pages on your website, you’ll need up to ten dedicated hours of content migration time. If you have 1000 pages, you may need 100 hours. Content with images, attachments or customized layouts will take longer to migrate, so consider prioritizing which pages leverage the full suite of paragraph components for launch, which need to be live for launch, and which or could be tackled later.
Figure out what you need to execute this work successfully. For some people, setting up a “war room” where everyone involved can focus on this task and have a central place and time to work is helpful. For others, setting aside one dedicated hour per day over a span of a few weeks is more manageable. Everyone should have some chocolate (or your snack of choice) on hand, and consider setting up some sort of small reward process for each content group you finish to keep the motivation strong. Find what works best for you and give yourself the space you need to get the work done.
Celebrate your new site and content
Content migration may seem like a heavy and time consuming task, but it’s also the time you get to know your new website, how it works for you, and how it can help tell your story in new and dynamic ways. And as you look forward to launching your new website, you’ll feel that much more confident!