We’re increasingly hearing from clients that they, “never want to do a full website redesign again.” Honestly, we understand why. It’s no secret that website redesigns can get expensive, and fast. There’s always the danger of hidden costs for migrating content to your new framework down the road, and if you invest in a site that isn’t going to scale to meet your future needs, it’s easy to end up in a cycle of expensive and time-intensive redesigns.
To save money in the long term and deliver an optimized website experience on time and on budget, we recommend doubling-down on a CMS and content migration strategy that takes the size of your site, your future growth needs, and the optimal list of features into consideration. To help guide your budgeting process, we’ve laid out best practices so that you can avoid those dreaded hidden costs down the road and be confident that your next site redesign may be your last.
How to Choose the Right CMS Platform
Choosing the right Content Management System is essential not only to your website launch, but also to its future growth and evolution. Budgeting for a platform assessment at the project outset is a great way to make sure you’re choosing a CMS that checks all the boxes and exceeds your business needs right now. Explore the ease of onboarding, the flexibility of content authoring tools, the capability for third-party integration, and the customization of workflow and multi-site management at scale. Along with dedicated ongoing support and licensing needs, a cutting-edge content management system plan creates a powerful and future-proof marketing engine designed to meet your business goals.
Deciding Between Open Source and Enterprise Content Management Systems
Considering open source vs. enterprise CMS platforms is a big factor in terms of budgeting for your website. Traditionally, open source platforms have lower licensing fees and more flexible features to meet your requirements. The low startup cost is enticing, however, security and support limitations require developers to stay on top of updates. On the other hand, enterprise platforms will be more costly and more rigid out of the gate, but security and support are typically baked-in to the fees. Although the features list is extensive, we find that with many enterprise platforms, you’ll end up paying more to only use a fraction of what’s available. While both options can deliver success, we believe that open source platforms are providing more of a “best of both worlds” approach as of late. By and large, newer open source CMS platforms still provide the freedom and flexibility we are used, as well as the security and support of enterprise competitors, all without the high price tag. ZenSource and Acquia are two Drupal-based, open source platforms that we most commonly recommend for our clients’ upcoming website projects. We’re experiencing savings of anywhere between 20-50% with open source CMS builds, as our clients and website developer teams are able to pick and choose just the features they need to meet the business needs.
Planning For Content Migration & Organization
No matter how simple or complex a new website build or redesign project seems to be, content migration is by far the most time-consuming, detail-oriented and resource-intensive piece of the project. Seriously, this is the case 100% of the time. Migrating website content and building your story also happens to be the most important piece of the website redesign project, so we are between a rock and a hard place when it comes to budgeting. While it seems like moving content from your old site to your new site should be the easy part. the reality is that it’s much more complicated than that. Between rewriting copy that is out of date, optimizing content to rank for new and trending keywords, and reconsidering the layout with an updated portfolio of content modules, content migration is a major contributor to heavy burn on budgets. It’s important to identify what in-house resources you may need to help write and organize all your content, or determine if there are resources you will need to budget for from your website partner. Think about deliverables such as creating a detailed sitemap of your new site pages, mapping content into your new module library and page layouts, writing and optimizing content, and determining what content should or should not be migrated. While it might seem excessive, trust us when we say that allocating a significant chunk of time and budget to the content strategy and user experience efforts early on can help to streamline the entire website project down the road. By putiting the right team and processes in place to bring valuable content from the old site to the new, you effectively ensure a successful redesign that doesn’t overshoot your budget.
Building an Effective Pattern Library
When it comes time to actually populate your new website content, investing in a robust and powerful module library is key. Make sure your CMS comes standard with a system for content modules, page layouts and functional features like forms and search tools. Moreover, choose a CMS that provides flexibility for content authors. For example, spend the budget now to create an author-driven webform builder instead of relying on developers every time you need a new form created. Thinking of small recurring requests can make the difference between a short-term website investment and long-term website savings. Whenever possible, solve for both the content you have on the site now, and the content you will develop tomorrow to avoid paying for duplicate efforts.
Explore Options to Streamline Content Population
Similar to the content organization piece, content population of a new website can become heavily resource-intensive. We like to tell clients to target a mix of automated and manual migration to help ease the burden where it makes sense. Structured, more standardized content like news, events, experts, and blogs can be easily scripted and automatically ported over to a new website environment. Factoring in developer time to create these scripts and clean up the data will save a lot of time for content population on sections that contain thousands of very similar pages. While some content population can be automated, high value sections and landing pages often require content authors to build out pages from scratch – especially when there is a new website UX that doesn’t map 1-to-1. Investing in proper training and how-to guides as well as taking a “train the trainer” approach is effective and less costly in the long-term. When clients are able to identify internal resources to own this content population process and become CMS experts themselves, they become training and support resources for other team members as they help bring over content and optimize new sections over time.
Avoiding Hidden Fees & Ongoing Support
Even with careful planning for content migration and content population, don’t forget to think about costs that can pop up after launch day. Specifically, consider how much developer support you’ll need to make enhancements and keep your site up-to-date with the latest software versions. We’ve found that with open-source platforms, support is easier to find and less costly in terms of time it takes to make updates. Additionally, open source platforms are generally easier to upgrade version-to-version. When your CMS is easier to support and upgrade, you run a much lower risk of needing to re-platform or conduct an expensive future upgrade.
When beginning to budget for your new website redesign, carefully and planning for your CMS platform and overall content migration process are two of the most important factors to achieve success. By budgeting for a platform that is flexible, future-proof, and primed for growth, you may never face the prospect of rebuilding your website ever again. Combined with a strong emphasis on developing a flexible user experience, you’ll be able to solve for the content needs at launch and well into the future without needing to build additional workarounds. If you can ensure proper training and content strategy process to align your internal team with the skills and best practices to build content, your website will continuously evolve and serve as an effective marketing engine.