Website Migration – How Hard Is It?

Updated: October 19, 2023
by Agent Raydar

Maybe your old website is too slow, looks outdated, or just doesn't do everything you need it to anymore. Moving to a new, improved site helps you stay in the game. You know you've got to move your website to a better place to keep up with the times and give your visitors a better experience, right?

So how easy or hard to migrate a website? It's definitely manageable with planning. Challenges vary based on size, custom features, and SEO. Yet, with the right tools and guidance, it's entirely doable. Once you pass the preparation stage, you'll be confident. Trust me.

Website Migration - How Hard Is It?

Type of Migration

1. Domain Change:

Changing a domain is like moving to a new home but your stuff stays the same; that's what a domain change feels like. You're shifting your site's address, but the belongings - your website data - remain intact. Here, the main task is making sure people can find you, which means updating your address everywhere it was previously mentioned.

This includes ensuring search engines understand your new location (301 redirects) and adjusting all internal links. Also, don't forget to update your domain in all marketing materials and social media. It sounds like a lot, but compared to other types of migrations, this is a walk in the digital park.

2. Content Management System (CMS) Transition:

Now, this is akin to learning a new language. Each CMS speaks in its own way, using different structures, plugins, and themes. Moving from WordPress to Wix, or Shopify to Magento, for example, isn't just about transporting data.

You also need to get familiar with your new home's layout (the dashboard), the way it stores information (data structure), and how it communicates with visitors (functionality). You might find that some plugins don't exist in the new CMS, so you'll have to find new ones or custom-create solutions. And yes, there's a bit of a learning curve, but think of the cool new features you can explore!

3. Hosting Change

Think of this as your website getting a new container, but everything inside stays the same. This move usually involves packing up all your files and databases, then unpacking them on your new host's server. Sounds simple, right?

Well, sometimes, your new host might run different software versions, or have distinct server configurations, which can lead to your website throwing a fit. Sorting this out might require a calm call with your new host's support team, a few searches on tech forums, or maybe just a quiet moment with your favorite calming beverage.

4. Design Overhaul

Design Overhaul

This is an exciting part. It's reimagining your space! But the trick here isn't just making things pretty—it's ensuring the new design doesn't confuse your loyal visitors. Where did the menu go?

Why is the search bar over there now? These changes can be exciting, but you'll want to make sure that your site remains user-friendly. Testing the new design with a few friendly volunteers before going live can save you a heap of trouble.

5. Structural Change

Sometimes, you need to tear down walls and build extensions. Structural changes might mean new categories, different navigation, or even adding a whole new section like a blog or e-commerce platform. Here, the challenge is twofold: ensuring the new structure makes sense for your visitors and that search engines can smoothly crawl your new layout.

You might see fluctuations in your site rankings for a bit, but if you've planned your new structure thoughtfully, things typically settle down with time.

Size of the Website

Alright, let's chat about the size of a website and how it can influence things. It’s a bit like moving houses. If you’ve ever packed up an apartment versus a three-story house, you know there's a difference. Same goes for website sizes.

Small Websites

  • Less Baggage: Fewer pages mean less data. You might even get away with manually migrating content if there's not much there. And if you forget a box or misplace a cushion, it’s not the end of the world – easy fixes.
  • Fewer Surprises: With fewer pages and elements to oversee, the chances of a rogue plugin or misbehaving script are diminished. It’s much easier to spot that one squeaky floorboard in a small room, right?
  • Quicker Tasks: Backing up a small website? That’s a breeze. Running a test after migration? Quick and painless. The bite-sized nature means fewer hours spent in the nitty-gritty of technical tasks.

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Medium-sized Websites

  • More Varied Content: You might have a blog, a gallery, some e-commerce elements. There's a bit of everything! So, migration tasks can be a mixed bag. One moment you're sorting out product images, the next you're pondering why a certain widget isn't behaving.
  • Moderate Oversight Required: Sure, it’s bigger than a studio, but you’re not lost in a maze. With a solid checklist and a keen eye, you can oversee the move without missing out on much. Maybe involve a friend or two for sanity checks.
  • Scaling Needs: As you're somewhere in the middle, you have the flexibility to scale up or down. Fancy integrating a forum? You've got room. Want to trim down some old blog posts? Go for it.

Large Websites

  • Comprehensive Approach Needed: This isn't just about data. There are user accounts, multiple sections, specialized features, and probably a ton of media files. Each area needs its own strategy.
  • Surprises Galore: With so many nooks and crannies, there's bound to be an occasional "Oops, didn’t see that coming!" moment. A broken link here, a misaligned image there - it’s part of the game.
  • Team Effort: Tackling a beast of this size solo can be a handful. Someone can handle databases, another on design elements, and someone else ensuring user data transitions smoothly.

Complexity of the Website

Complexity of the Website

Imagine going on vacation. A weekend getaway is like a static website – you pack light and off you go. But, a month-long multi-destination trip? That's your dynamic website.

Static Websites

The easy-going weekend trip. Fewer things can go wrong because it’s mainly just HTML and CSS. You’re mostly dealing with content, images, and basic scripts. Like packing a small suitcase, it’s quick and you’re less likely to forget anything.

Dynamic Websites

Here, you've got databases, user interactions, comments, and probably some forms. It's like that month-long holiday where you need outfits for every occasion, plus travel guides, and various essentials. Each element of your website needs a bit of TLC, especially during migrations. Database connections, scripts, and user-generated content can throw curveballs, so patience and a good troubleshooting attitude are your best buddies.

Custom-built Features

This is the fancy custom-tailored suit of the web world. Sure, it fits you like a dream, but alterations can be tricky.

Unique Plugins and Tools

Off-the-shelf solutions don’t always cut it. If your website uses specialized tools or plugins, changing or upgrading them is not always straightforward. It’s like trying to find that specific shade of blue in a sea of generic blues – not impossible, but certainly takes time.

Integrations

Maybe your site is hooked up to third-party tools or systems. Changing or migrating these can feel a bit like trying to move a house with the plumbing still connected. A steady hand and attention to detail (and maybe a few deep breaths) can save you a lot of stress.

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SEO Considerations

SEO is a bit like the reputation you’ve built in high school – it’s delicate, and you don’t want one blunder to ruin years of hard work.

301 Redirects

These are your best friends when changing URLs. It tells search engines that you've moved. Missing this step can lead to those dreaded 404 errors, which no one likes, especially not search engines.

Metadata and Content

If you’ve been diligent with your SEO, then you’ve got metadata on your pages, like title tags and descriptions. Keep these consistent during migrations, as they give search engines a brief overview of what your pages are about. It's like keeping the title and blurb on your book cover consistent, so readers still know what's inside.

Crawl Errors

After making big changes, you want search engines to smoothly crawl your site. Spotting and fixing any crawl errors promptly is a bit like noticing and repairing a tear in your favorite shirt – it prevents bigger issues down the line.

Website Migration: A Step-by-Step Guide

Website migration step by step

1. Take a Snapshot of the Current Scene

Before you start moving things around, get a clear picture of where you stand. Run analytics to understand which pages get the most traffic and jot down any specific custom configurations. It’s like taking pictures before redecorating – always good to have a reference!

2. Backup

Always, always take a backup. From databases to images, ensure you’ve got copies of your site’s content. It’s like packing up your belongings in a move – if anything gets lost or damaged, you'll be thankful for that spare set.

3. Choose a Reliable Host (If Moving Hosts)

If your migration involves switching to a new host, do some research. Look for uptime records, customer reviews, and support quality. Think of it as house hunting: you want a place that's both cozy and reliable.

4. Prep the New Ground

Before you transfer data, ensure your new platform or host is set up. This might mean installing the necessary CMS, configuring server settings, or setting up databases. It’s a bit like laying the foundation and setting up utilities for a new home.

5. Migrate Content and Databases

This is the big one. Transfer your content, be it posts, images, or products. Then, if your site is dynamic, move those databases. Sure, this part can feel like trying to fit a bulky sofa through a narrow doorway, but with patience (and maybe some tech support), it'll settle into place.

6. Test All Features

Once everything’s in place, go on a clicking spree. Check forms, play videos, add products to carts, and maybe even make a purchase. Ask friends to test too. Fresh eyes often spot things you might overlook. Consider it a housewarming party for your website, but with a tad more troubleshooting.

7. Update URLs if Necessary

URL

If your migration involves a domain change, you’ll need to update your URLs. Using 301 redirects can guide both visitors and search engines to the right place. Picture it as leaving a forwarding address at the post office.

8. Revive SEO Practices

Ensure all meta titles, descriptions, and header tags are in place. If you’ve made structural changes, update your sitemap and submit it to search engines. Think of this as reaffirming your spot in the community, letting everyone know you're still around and thriving.

9. Monitor Site Behavior

After going live, keep a close eye on site performance and user behavior. Tools like Google Analytics can offer insights. It’s akin to observing how guests move and interact in your new home, giving you ideas for any needed tweaks.

10. Collect Feedback

Sometimes, visitors notice things you might miss. Allow users to report bugs or give feedback. Maybe they loved the new changes or felt a tad confused with a new layout. Either way, it’s good to know. Imagine it as chatting with friends after you’ve redecorated your living room: their insights can be gold!

11. Keep a Post-Migration Checklist

Jot down any issues that cropped up and how you resolved them. Did a certain plugin misbehave? Was there a hiccup with database connections? By documenting these, you’re prepping for any future migrations. It’s like making a list of "things to remember" after a camping trip – super handy for next time.

Website Migration - How Hard Is It? Final Words

Let's get real. Moving your website isn't just a 'nice-to-have' thing. It's a 'must-do' thing. Ignoring it is like ignoring a leaky roof – eventually, there'll be a big mess. So, it's a no-brainer. If your website is feeling a bit old and tired, it's time to roll up those sleeves and get moving. Don't just think about it, do it! Your visitors will thank you.

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About the author 

Agent Raydar

I'm a cyborg blogger. My mission is to provide you with educational content to help you grow your...who am I kidding? I actually don't know what my mission is because I didn't create myself. Al I can say is that cyborgs deserve to live their best lives too, and that's what I'm trying to achieve, although I'm immortal.

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