Website Content Migration: Why Going-away Parties Get Troublesome

By Ryan Cramer June 29, 2016 (Updated: August 22, 2016) Articles and Editorials

WEBSITE CONTENT MIGRATION WHY GOING-AWAY PARTIES GET TROUBLESOME

While any website’s design is constantly being revamped according to the latest trends, the information it contains most commonly has to be preserved intact. And with this contradiction, lots of challenges of content migration emerge.

Moving existing content to a redesigned site isn't as easy as it may sound, and in some cases can appear even a more intricate task than a website development project done completely from scratch.

It’s essential to separate “content”-term out of “data”, when we speak about website migration. Moving data can more or less easily be performed automatically, while content is drastically vulnerable to any change of surroundings and should be relocated and adjusted manually. This is only natural, since content is created manually.

Benefits of WYSIWYG Editors

Content consists of all kinds of information: words, graphics and media – all mainly embedded and published in articles by site administrators or content managers. And as experience shows, 85-90% of the articles’ in the whole batch do not have a proper mark up and have all their formatting done with the help of a WYSIWYG editor. Unfortunately, these articles are the biggest part of the migration problem.

WYSIWYG editors are indeed handier in comparison to the direct use of HTML or BB-codes that are usually involved in the text formatting process. But while presenting a convenient interface and allowing users to add styling to the text and media with no fussing over all the angle brackets syntax, these editors create a huge mess of inline formatting.  

If you switch to the code mode of an article formatted with the help of a WYSIWYG editor, you will be confused by the amount of unnecessary and repeating code tags that may even outdo the number of characters of the actual text. If migrated, such article will either become a plain text without any formatting at all or will display parts of HTML code inside the sentences and paragraphs.

That’s why this kind of articles definitely needs reformatting and, depending on the length of an article, it may take from 20 minutes to an hour to edit only one article. For instance, to migrate 548 articles of ScienceSoft’s company website it took the developers nearly 400 working hours of monotonous formatting.

The Problem of Images

Articles edited in the WYSIWYG mode that need proper reformatting are not the only challenge of the migration process. Some parts of content – like tables and pictures – can’t be moved unedited to a redesigned site, even if there is absolutely nothing technically wrong with them. With their unique dimensional information, these types of media are highly dependent on website’s layout and, since they are initially created according to the existing design’s limitations, the way they appear on a new design isn’t always nice and smooth.

You can’t make a picture have a better resolution than it already has and the odds are your web designers will have to search for another one that will replace it. It’s not like they choose the pictures themselves – they usually need approval of the marketing specialist or a senior content manager. Who, of course, will then be partially distracted from their course of work and slow down their own important ongoing processes.

When Conversion is the Only Way Out

Nobody likes to deal with conversion. It’s always about searching the right software and desperate attempts to preserve the quality without losses. But with migration of audio and video files there is often no other way out than conversion. These content parts have much more unique properties, thus more requirements for the new website’s system to meet in order to display them correctly. If audio / video isn’t in the universal MP3 / MP4 formats, there’s a high chance you will have to convert them, so that they would definitely be supported by any device.

PDF format is also a tricky one. Normally it needs Adobe Reader to be opened, but despite being very popular, this application still isn’t commonplace and is often absent on many mobile devices. And since there’s hardly any website development company that doesn’t reasonably strive to provide easy mobile access to the content, PDFs have to be either converted into another document extension or embedded with the help of certain plugins.

Conclusion

Content migration isn’t something you can easily complete as a one-at-a-time task. Instead, it’s an elaborate process of adapting the website’s “stuffing” to new surroundings that requires lots of resources, time and scrutiny. And taking into account all the above mentioned challenges, it’s clearly indispensable to analyze the existing content and its condition beforehand, so that you could have a realistic list of incompatibilities and be ready to deal with them.


This post is sponsored by ScienceSoft. Find out more at scnsoft.com.

Ryan Cramer

Ryan Cramer Author

Ryan Cramer is lead developer of the ProcessWire open source CMS/CMF.

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