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A step-by-step CMS migration guide: where to start?

Olena Teselko
Try Storyblok

Storyblok is the first headless CMS that works for developers & marketers alike.

Larger businesses have more complex IT infrastructures since they use more software products and have more connections between them. However, cutting ties and adopting new technologies is sometimes essential to progress. So, how would you handle the content management system migration or, shorter – a CMS migration? 

Section titled What is a CMS migration and why you might need it

A CMS migration is a process of transferring all the website, mobile app, or the entire digital presence data from one content management system to another. 

Why would companies start this complex process? Typically, the reasons for CMS migration include wanting more advanced features, exhausting maintenance, security concerns, etc. In other words, it's easier to completely change the content management system than to adjust the current one. 

Section titled What are the benefits of CMS migration?

Switching to a more flexible and powerful CMS should be an informed decision and bring more benefits than any possible disadvantages. The difference, though, might be either very significant when moving from a monolithic to a headless solution or less noticeable when changing from one headless system to another.

Here is a list of benefits you are likely to get when migrating from a legacy (monolithic) CMS to a headless CMS such as Storyblok:

Section titled Powerful features

Due to the API approach, the capabilities of headless CMS are limitless, as you can add as many features, tools, and integrations as you wish. At the same time, since the apps only communicate with each other, but are not completely bound, you can update any of them without fear of ruining the entire system.

Section titled Ease-of-use for all teams

The work is always more effective when each team is busy with their specific tasks. Developers should focus on the tech side, while marketers and other non-tech teams should be able to handle all the content-related tasks without constantly asking devs for help. Storyblok empowers all teams to work independently by introducing the Visual Editor that allows all users to easily create, edit and publish content. 

Section titled Scalability

As your company grows, so does your tech infrastructure, so having a reliable CMS is crucial. Whether it's the number of users, integrations, assets, or content to store, your CMS should be able to handle that volume of tasks and resources.  

Section titled Security

Switching to a headless CMS, your company will be more protected due to two factors. First of all, a headless structure is considered more secure than traditional CMS because it separates the content management system from the presentation layer. Doing so reduces the attack surface and eliminates many vulnerabilities associated with frontend code. Moreover, headless CMS usually provides an API for content delivery that can be more easily secured and monitored, thus reducing the risk of attacks. At Storyblok, we go even further to protect our clients by becoming ISO 27001 certified.

Section titled CMS migration guide: 5 steps to make 

Now that you know the benefits of moving to a headless CMS, it's time to prepare, get a plan, and take a leap of faith.

Here is a quick CMS migration checklist:

  1. Choose the right CMS platform to migrate
  2. Plan the migration process in detail
  3. Prepare your data for migration
  4. Transfer the content from one CMS to another
  5. Test and launch the new CMS

So, let's go through each phase of the migration procedure in a bit more detail. Since it is a complex task involving multiple teams and stakeholders, it is critical to have a thorough strategy and a backup of all the material in case something goes wrong. 

Section titled 1. Choose the right CMS platform to migrate

When you feel that your current CMS is not good enough anymore, picking the new one might be tricky as there are so many options on the market. 

What you can do to narrow your list is to research different CMSs on verified software review platforms such as Gartner Peer Insights and G2. These websites offer detailed reviews of other users, so you can compare the user experience of different tools, features, functionality, and even pricing sometimes (depending on the package you are interested in).

Make sure to examine how comfortable the new CMS might be for all the teams who are going to interact with it. For example, not all headless CMSs offer a built-in editor, which would create blockers for marketers and other non-technical users. Consider your specific needs and requirements, such as localization, personalization, eCommerce integrations, and so on.

Section titled 2. Pre-migration planning

Before you start the migration process, it is important to set realistic goals and expectations so the team can comfortably move to a new CMS and have enough time to get used to it. Determine the project's scope, assign roles and responsibilities, and create a timeline for the migration. 

This will help you stay organized and on track throughout the process. Make sure to involve stakeholders and team members early to get everyone on board with the project goals.

Visualization of content migration

Section titled 3. Prepare your data for migration

To ensure a successful migration, you need to prepare your data, so it's compatible with a new CMS. It's a good practice to back up your existing data first, so there is no data loss, unexpected errors, or corruption during the migration. 

Also, companies that used to have a monolithic CMS often have a lot of siloed content. Hence, it's a great moment to clean up your data by removing any duplicates, outdated, or irrelevant content. Analyze each content type further to determine which fields you wish to transfer – maybe some of them are not relevant anymore? Meanwhile, don't forget about the URL structure, as it might change. If that’s the case, you can either manually create a list of redirects or write a script that will do everything automatically.

When the data is ready, organize it by creating a clear taxonomy and tagging system. Finally, ensure compatibility with the new CMS by researching any limitations or requirements for data formats and file types.

Section titled 4: Content migration itself

Once you have prepared your data, it's time to migrate your content. Choose the proper migration method that suits your needs. For example, if you switch from WordPress to Storyblok, check out this step-by-step instruction that ensures a smooth process. If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to contact our team on Discord.

Test the migration process by transferring a small amount of content first to ensure everything works correctly. Once you are satisfied with the process, migrate the rest of your content. 

After the migration, review and organize your migrated content, including any digital assets such as images, videos, and documents. Since Storyblok offers a built-in DAM (digital asset management system), you can manage all the content-related processes without leaving the app. Additionally, you can be sure that the migration won't disturb the content delivery process, as in Storyblok, it's managed via CDN (content delivery network). 

Section titled 5: Post-migration testing and launch

After the migration, it's crucial to test the new CMS thoroughly to ensure it works correctly. The more data you've transferred, the more issues might arise, including formatting misalignment, broken links, or missing images. You may also need to update your metadata and optimize your content for search engines.

But the content itself is only a part of the update. People working with a CMS should also be ready to learn the new functions. Involve end-users in the testing process to get feedback on the new CMS. Ask them to perform everyday tasks such as searching for content or adding new pages to the site. This will help you identify any usability issues and make necessary improvements.

Check for performance issues: ensure that the new CMS is running at an optimal speed and can handle the expected traffic. Monitor the site for any slow-loading pages, and identify and fix any issues that may arise.

Finally, we strongly encourage you to test all the integrations and third-party tools. This includes testing your forms, payment gateways, and other plugins or tools your website relies on.

Now the most-awaited part – launching a new CMS! Drink a glass of champagne (joking or not), notify your stakeholders and end-users about the launch, and provide them with any necessary training or support to ensure a smooth transition. Voilà! 

We could also add a step for maintaining your new content management system, but we won't do that. If you decide to go with Storyblok, the best part is that no maintenance is needed – all the technologies are updating automatically, so your dev team can work on the more sophisticated tasks. 

Section titled Time to make a switch: migrate to Storyblok 

Even though a CMS migration can be complex, switching to a more functional, scalable, and robust system will benefit your company in the long run. This is especially relevant nowadays when digitalization is rapid, and businesses should act fast to offer the best user experience for their customers. 

Storyblok has proven its value for the business by providing as much as 582% return on investment over 3 years, according to the Total Economic Impact™ study conducted by Forrester Consulting. A lot of our customers have migrated to Storyblok from both traditional (monolithic) and headless setups, so our team has a vast experience in content migration.