1. Plan for content migration

Over my career, I've seen so many website rebuild projects and the one thing that is always underestimated is the amount of work involved in migrating your content from the old site to the new one.

Even if you're sticking with the same CMS, content migration will still be needed in most cases and it can be a tedious and time-consuming job to do manually.

Set aside some budget for a content audit. This should produce a report about which content can be migrated using some form of automated process, which content you might not want to migrate at all and which content you will need to migrate manually.

For most sites the vast majority of content will be blogs or articles and, unless you've used some kind of page-builder for these, your developers can likely write a script to migrate these automatically. There may be other types of content in your site that can be migrated automatically too.

Automatic migration doesn't necessarily mean cheaper. There's a lot to consider when writing automated migration tools such as:

  • Migrating inline/embedded media files like images and ensuring that the content is updated to reflect the new media location.
  • Updating hyperlinks to internal content to wherever the new location of that content is (and flagging up broken links).
  • Creating redirects from old URLs to new.

For the content that can't be migrated automatically, you will need to figure out how much time it will take you to copy and paste the content from the old CMS to the new one, including reuploading any images or other assets, re-linking inline hyperlinks and creating redirects. This can be a long and tedious job on large sites so ensure that you have enough people around to help you do this.

Planning and preparation are key here. Don't let content migration derail your whole project by not investing enough time and money into it upfront.

2. Redirects

If your content and URL structure is changing (which it likely is if you're rebuilding your site) then you need to have a plan in place to create redirects from the old to the new.

I have seen businesses literally disappear overnight by not doing this.

If you don't redirect your pages when the new site launches then you will lose ranking in search engines. If enough of your pages suddenly start returning "404" errors then Google may de-index your site entirely.

It's a really simple task to have your SEO scan your old site and work with your developers to produce a redirect map that can be implemented into your new site from day 1. This will save you a massive amount of pain after launch.

3. User testing

You are going to be changing the way that your users interact with your website. The way they browse and find your content. Hopefully, that change is for the better but you can increase your chances of success by investing a little time and budget in the early stages of the design process to carry out some user testing with the new designs.

This will give you valuable feedback at a time in the projects lifecycle where you can still make changes without incurring a lot of extra costs. Spending some time and money at this stage can actually reduce the overall cost of the project by ensuring that you won't launch something your users hate.

I wrote this article because these three things are the things I see almost everyone gets wrong when planning website rebuilds. They are things that either get left until the end of the project or are forgotten entirely and then rushed in at the end of the project causing delays and additional costs.

Website projects will usually have a finite budget, but sometimes you need to spend a little more time and money upfront to make greater savings in the long term. Putting some of your budget into these things can save you more by the time your new site launches.