Migrating your site to a new Ecommerce Platform

I’ve been asked by a number of clients who already have a trading website how best to tackle the migration to our RedBack Ecommerce platform so thought id write up some tips for a successful migration which pretty much applies to any migration.

It’s a pretty big decision to move on to a new platform and generally means the company has outgrown their current platform. For start-up businesses you tend to opt for a cheaper platform and then as the site grows you eventually have to move on to something that’s more suitable.

Hopefully the next few tips will help and aid your migration process.

1. Domain Name Problems

One of the main problems I come up against is transferring the domain or pointing the domain to a new server. In many cases the client doesn’t control the domain themselves and they generally have to involve other people to make this happen. So firstly you need to make sure you have control of the domain or if you don’t have then start planning to have this brought under your control.

A useful tool for this is http://whois.domaintools.com/

You can search your domain, find out what registrar hosts your domain and who owns the domain.

2. SSL Certificates

If your current site uses an SSL certificate then you will have to have this moved to the new server. Generally most SSL vendors will have instructions how to carry this out and your web developer should have a pretty good idea.

You can check if your site uses an SSL certificate by going to https://domainname

In the address bar on IE for example it has a padlock; click the padlock to find out if there is a certificate in your domains name, if not then this may be a shared certificate if the web server has any at all.

3. Organic Search Listings

So probably one of the biggest concerns is what about my organic listings, generally most existing successful sites will have good organic listings. I would say this is one of the most important things to consider. Generally the new site that’s being created will have different url’s for products, categories etc if you can have the same then that’s great, but generally that doesn’t happen so time must be spent mapping the old url’s to the new ones which improves the chances of your site losing any ranking at all. The handy 301 redirect will sort this out for you and let Google etc know where the new url’s are.

below shows how this may be laid out

redirect 301 www.domain.com/oldurl.html    –  –   www.domain.com/newurl.html

This is handled different ways between apache servers and windows servers but if you get an excel sheet or something similar and have one column for old url’s and one for new then your new web developer should be able sort this.

4. Moving Data

Data is hugely important and you have to go out your way to get as much data transferred over to the new platform as possible, not only will this save a huge amount of time, but will also maintain order history etc which is invaluable information.

The main things you need to consider here is how easy is it to access the database on your existing site and then get an export of this in a suitable format to be imported in to your new system. Generally if you can export in a CSV format then your new developers should be able to create an import script and get this up and running on the new site.

If there is information that’s not required for the new platform then this could speed up the process of the build and also the costs may be kept down.

5. Email

Email is highly important so any loss on this service could be hugely detrimental. The fact of the matter is that moving your website shouldn’t really interfere with email unless email is hosted by the existing web company. If you are moving to a new web platform you have probably reached a size that pop3 email isn’t suitable and you should possibly be looking to a hosted exchange service, in house exchange server or what we recommend if you don’t require a huge amount of email functionality then Google apps is a great way to set up your email and very portable with a lot of good features.

If your web company hosts your email, it may be a good time to consider doing a move to another type of email hosting service and any good web company should have suggestions on this.

6. Activating the New Site

When you decide to go live on your new site, you need to allow some time. Even up to 48hrs in some cases, but over the years I have noticed that this has come down and sometimes the action can take effect pretty much immediately, but there is no guarantees of this so make sure you allow for this. Also it’s a good idea to put up a maintenance page on the old site so you don’t get orders on the old site from users who’s DNS hasn’t updated. We have also found launching a site on a Friday as a bad idea as generally the support team on at the weekend are reduced and you may find some minor issues after the new site going live.

7. Full Testing

I can’t stress how important this is, you have to try come up with every imaginable combination of ordering, returning, setting up a new account and testing new features. Usually a major fault may lie in cross browser testing, where it works fine in IE, but not in Firefox, so make sure all tests are completed before launching. Generally you won’t find everything but make sure you iron out all the major bugs.

8. New Features

Migrating to a new platform is a great time to implement some new features, its important to take note of your competitors and what they may have and listening to the needs of your customers who may have identified something that could make the site run smoother. However make sure these are planned out properly and that the developers understand exactly what’s required.

9. Don’t delete the old site

Its worth while keeping the old site running on the old server for a few weeks just in case there is data missing or you need to refer back to something. If you require longer don’t be worried about keeping it on longer until you are completely happy the new site is running correctly.

Hopefully some of these tips should help with a smooth transition to your new platform.

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