During January, we're going to migrate our public website to WordPress, and we intend to blog about this migration process as we do so. We'll describe the "whys" and the "hows" of this migration. We'll share any pitfalls we encounter, as well as the solutions we devise to escape them. And we'll post the plug-ins and custom code we use to make the site do what we want. Why migrate? I'll explain that in a minute. Why blog about this migration? We're strong believers in open source and in transparency, and so decided to share back our experience with the community.
The core topic of this blog is online marketing. To any readers who may find this series on WordPress-as-a-CMS to be off-topic, we apologize. Our hope is this series is sufficiently related to online marketing, as the general marketing and tech decisions may be relevant for larger sites planning migrations to any new platform.
Like every company, we maintain a public website to help potential clients evaluate us: www.rimmkaufman.com. We call rimmkaufman.com our "brochureware" site. It contains a several dozen essentially static pages describing our services and our approach. We also post articles we write for the trade publications. We post presentations we give at industry shows. We post our job openings. As we advise clients on how to make their web sites more effective, it is important that our own site demonstrates web best practices: clean organization and design, separation of presentation from content, fast-loading pages, search engine friendliness, and so on. We're dissatisfied with certain aspects of rimmkaufman.com. Editing the site is too hard and requires some technical expertise.
Putting our trade articles on the site is annoying: we can't make our articles available before the magazine publishes, and during the lag between writing and publication we sometimes forget to go back and make article live on our site on the right date. We also need to keep the list of our upcoming speaking engagements fresh, rolling events from "upcoming" to "recently occurred" as they happen. And the layout and content are somewhat stale. None of these tasks are particularly hard. However, we spend all our attention and resources working for our clients. We want a decent site for ourselves, but won't invest much effort on it.
We began by listing our marketing goals for the improved site:
- The site must present our services and our strengths clearly and quickly.
- The site should reflect our brand values. These include straight-talk, expertise, transparency, simplicity, friendliness, and nimbleness.
- The site should establish our credibility and expertise.
- The site should demonstrate web best practices for navigation, usability, writing, css, and markup.
- The site should support tagging and user comments where appropriate.
- The site should handle calendar-based changes automatically -- namely, embargoing articles until their print publication date, and managing the "upcoming" and "recent" speaking lists.
- The new site should support all former URLs seamlessly to avoid organic search damage due to migration.
- Editing the site should be easy for our staff.
After considering these goals, we decided to replace our hand-rolled site with a content management system, or CMS. We considered different CMS options and decided to go with WordPress.
WordPress is open source, so we can add the functionality we need. WordPress has robust developer and user communities, so is well-supported. WordPress is a blogging package, so it well supports dates, tags, users, and comments. And perhaps most important, WordPress powers this blog (rkgblog), so our team has experience with it.
Scope and Specs
Even though this is a fast small project, we're believers in establishing scope and specs. We'll lay out our project specs in our next post in this series.