Paul, the owner of Action Hobbies, approached me in September of 2020 for help and advice in regards to migrating his site off of its existing e-commerce platform. The existing platform was shutting down and he had a deadline. He's been delighted with the new site which has seen an increase in sales revenue of 99.7% in the three months after launch.
The existing site was not directly portable to new hosting due to being embedded within a proprietary e-commerce SaaS platform. With that in mind, I recommended that we rebuild the site using WooCommerce. There were several challenges to overcome to make this project a success:
- The site’s existing customers heavily dislike change. It was essential that, even through the redesign, we kept similar navigation structures and colour schemes throughout the site to allow for a smooth transition to the new site.
- The new site must use HTTPS/SSL security throughout. The existing site only used HTTPS on the checkout pages and Paul was keen to provide the best security for his customers. Adding HTTPS to the rest of the site would also aid with search rankings.
- All existing products and categories must be migrated, including stock levels and options/variations. The existing site listed over 6,000 products (including variations) and they all needed to be recreated in the new site to allow uninterrupted trading upon launch. In addition, Paul needed to continue to update, add and remove products on his existing store while the new site was built, making it difficult to have everything in sync at launch.
- Many of the features of WooCommerce work differently from the previous platform. This created a steep learning curve for Paul and other Action Hobbies staff and meant that some of the processes that they had become accustomed to in the old platform needed to change for the new site.
To speed development of the new site, Paul chose an off-the-shelf theme as a base and I built out the page layouts using a combination of custom code and the Elementor page builder plugin.
The same but different
I first helped Paul to choose a theme that would be suitable for his site and offer the best flexibility. To start with I wanted to ensure that the structure of the site and its navigation didn’t change too much from the old site.
We settled on a theme that included the Elementor page builder and several Jet plugins from Crocoblock. These allowed me to build the homepage and other page templates to retain a close match in both functionality and layout to the old site.
Migrating over 6,000 products from the old site was no trivial task. It was made more difficult because the data from the old site was in an undocumented format and many of the ways that things were done in the old site had no direct match within WooCommerce.
For this task, I enlisted the help of an old colleague, James, who is a whizz with spreadsheets and an expert in all things SEO. After a few days of work, James was able to convert the product data from the old site into a CSV format that could be imported into WooCommerce.
To address the security issues I recommended that the new site be hosted on a specialist hosting platform designed for modern WordPress and WooCommerce sites – Pantheon.
Pantheon operates a container-based hosting environment specially designed to maximise the speed and performance of WordPress/WooCommerce based websites. They also provide free, automatically renewed SSL certificates to all live sites on their hosting platform.
In addition, the payment systems used by the website now use officially supported integrations with PayPal Checkout ensuring high levels of payment security and automatic PCI/DSS compliance.
The final step in the project was to train Paul on how to use the new WooCommerce system so that he and his staff could update and maintain the site going forwards. This training took place over an online video conference call and was well received.
The new site launched to the public on 11th Feb 2021 and was well received by Action Hobbies' customers.
The site's organic traffic remained stable since launch and the monthly gross sales have improved from the old site.
This means that the migration has been a big success and now allows Paul and his staff to continue growing their business on a platform that will grow with them.