What do I need to know to redevelop these old websites?
April 16, 2013 12:55 PM   Subscribe

I recently read How to survive a ground-up rewrite without losing your sanity. It is about programming. I need similar information regarding web development/migration. I don't even quite know what information to go looking for. Please tell me what I don't know about what I don't know.

In one case, I have an old Power Point presentation I want to turn into a functional website. In another case, I have an old handcoded website that I have been wanting to migrate to WordPress for eons. It has seen precious little forward progress. I have wanted to ask this question for months but I did not even know what to ask...for? About?

I think there is probably a technical aspect I could use help with but I think more than that I need some processes and mental models to help me re-envision the information for the modern web with bells and whistles that didn't exist when these sites were born. Without having a clear idea of that sort in my head, I cannot seem to find a path forward.

Some technical issues that concern me:

1) Good navigation: What do I need to learn so my WordPress sites have good navigation? One motivation for migrating the information to WordPress is that my original site outgrew the navigation scheme I had in place. This was an ongoing issue and I had probably repeatedly improved navigation on the handcoded site over its original scheme. How do I migrate current info in a way that is legible in terms of navigation and also leaves room to grow so I can resume developing the site?

2) Any technical or other tips and tricks for converting a Power Point to a website?

3) What am I not thinking to ask? I don't even know how to start googling to get the ball rolling on finding out what I need to know. The above programming article is the first thing I have seen that made me feel like I was reading something at all related to my issue.

Please Clue Me.

posted by Michele in California to Computers & Internet (7 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
That article is really good, but it's talking about fairly hard core computer sciencey stuff. You don't provide any reference to the website in question, so I don't know anything about the scale, but I'm willing to bet that it's not a project of the same scale as the kind of thing that article is talking about. I'm a professional software engineer, so I have some idea of what it is that the article is discussing.

I'm going to assume that you're not someone with any kind of extensive training in programming or computer technology. Unfortunately, that would really come in handy because it would give you some tools to deal with the nitty gritty of converting the data in your hand-coded site to Wordpress. To address your specific questions:

1) Converting Power Point to a website: This is the easy one. I'm certain PP will let you save as HTML. Here's a youtube guide.

2) Converting your website to Wordpress: Unless your website is very small in scale, doing this by hand is probably going to be painful. Learning the tools necessary to automate it is probably even more painful. Depending on the value of the site, you might actually be better off hiring someone with the technical skills needed to automate a transition. Since you don't provide a link to the site in question, I can't really say much about navigation, other than to ask whether the site navigation maps well onto a blog-style organization scheme (i.e., a series of articles usually organized chronologically, where the most recent N are generally the 'front page' of the site). If not then maybe Wordpress is not the right tool for the job.

3) Things you aren't thinking to ask. Again, this is hard to say because I don't know what the site in question is. One thing I know for sure you need to address is hosting -- are you using a 3rd party hosting service, wordpress.com, or rolling your own solution?
posted by axiom at 1:36 PM on April 16, 2013

Response by poster: One of the sites is linked in my profile. It is called Kids Like Mine. Th sidebar of the site has a link to the original handcoded site. It is small and I can transfer everything by hand if I can wrap my brain around things like navigation.

The Power Point is on a site I don't really want to promote or reveal here. I may still try to accomplish something "political"/real world with it. I debate how to approach that. It is a rail plan. I did a lot of research while in college. The current rail plan was driven by political factors. Cities got together and divided up the pie. Interests of both "the people" and an important federal facility went unrepresented. It is the largest employer in the county. If its interests were sufficiently damaged and the federal government decided to move the facility, it would gut the local economy.

When I was doing the research, the word was commuter rail would not be viable until gas hit $4/gallon. It is now up in that range. So I debate trying to get the rail plan changed. There would be a lot more to that than just a website but a good website would be the place to start.

Oh, I currently have good hosting. That's not an issue. I own the domain names. It is not on wordpress.org.

posted by Michele in California at 1:52 PM on April 16, 2013

Best answer: Yes, OK, that's totally a small-scale site that you can do by hand. It seems to be broadly divided into 3 categories, according to the site map: 'Aspie', 'Homeschooling', and what I'll just call Miscellaneous since I can't suss out a reasonable heading on a quick scan.

I'd translate those categories into tags/categories for the corresponding blog posts, like you already have with 'Parenting' and so forth. Perhaps subcategorize them with additional tags as well -- 'Locking Horns with my Child Over Math' might be tagged as Homeschooling and Parenting and Behavior, for example, sharing the latter two tags with a number of articles in the Aspie category. Additionally, edit the pages (once transferred over) to contain links to any of the other pages that relate or are mentioned.

There are 40-50 pages in total, and beyond the categorization mentioned, little hierarchy involved, so they should just map over as a jumble of blog entries. There isn't much in the way of technical issues that I can foresee, you'll just have to knuckle down and spend a day copying and pasting.
posted by axiom at 2:13 PM on April 16, 2013

Best answer: I glanced at your site map. It looks a bit more like a table of contents for a book, than a structure for a website. Its more common to think of categories as big pots of content, rather than so highly structured as to have just 1 article in each sub-sub-sub category.

I think you might find it useful to start by organizing your content on paper. You could make a content tree and see what pieces of content fall into categories.

You could do this by performing a card sort. Write each piece of content on an index card. Put things into logical/natural categories. Make sub categories if needed. Identify if things fall into more than one category.

I frequently see clients who are so familiar with their content, they're missing the forrest for the trees. After you've thought about structuring your content for a while, ask a friend to sort those cards and see what categories they come up with.

Once you've done all this, then you can think about the CMS you need, how to structure content in your CMS, and go about the arduous process making a big pot of copypasta (grabbing your content and sticking it in your CMS).

You shouldn't out grow your navigation, just about ever. Keep categories specific enough to be useful, but generic enough to be expandable. A tag named "Turkey on Rye sandwiches eaten on Tuesdays" might perfectly describe 1 photo of your lunch, but not other sandwiches or lunches, or other things you do on Tuesdays.

Follow precedents set by other websites. Do not make more than 10 top level categories. If you looked at your content again, you can probably add another layer, or fold categories together.

Much of the same process would apply to your powerpoint.

For your last question, I wouldn't think about this as such a technical, nuts and bolts, question. Look at the bigger picture. Look at other websites. See what they are doing that makes sense, (and what doesn't work), and emulate the successful structures and patterns.
posted by fontophilic at 2:24 PM on April 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: The top level categories for KLM would be parenting, homeschooling and something like special needs or twice exceptional issues. I have debated putting that in the subheader. I have never been satisfied with the various subheaders I have tried over the years. I feel like there is a big disconnect between the way I frame these issues and the way others frame them. This has been an issue for things like SEO. Labeling it the way other people would label it would likely improve traffic but I always feel like that would misrepresent what I am trying to share. I have never found a good solution for that issue.

I belonged to a gifted homeschooling list for a long time. Bright kids who get homeschooled are often kids with an assortment of "issues." The atmosphere on the gifted homeschooling list was very positive. You could ask how to help your child learn some advanced subject in spite of not yet knowing enough math and all kinds of good workarounds would get discussed. I generally don't find that kind of positivity on sites or lists for "problem kids." People who are mentally defining the child as a "problem child" are more likely to be looking for ways to minimize harm than for ways to help the child live a full and happy life in spite of some stumbling blocks. It is a completely different framework. I struggle a lot with that issue and related issues -- that, for example, it gets perceived as a very niche site that applies only to some really small minority rather than excellent advice that would work well generally but is especially helpful when there are serious challenges.

So clearly there is something I am not getting right in the way I package the info. I think that is a big part of why I need to "re-envision" the site. It doesn't "tell" people what I am trying to tell them about parenting or dealing with kids for whom off-the-rack solutions fail. I think we all do better when we get custom fit solutions but for some people the difference in quality of experience is more substantial.

Oh I will add I know the trick about saving a Power Point as html. I don't feel that serves my purpose very well. I guess I need to find some political or grass roots sites or something and see how they organize info. That is probably a big part of what is missing for me.
posted by Michele in California at 2:51 PM on April 16, 2013

Response by poster: Update: After literally several years of piddling around and trying (but mostly failing) to move the parenting site, that is currently in progress. This question helped me more than I expected but the process was also supported by serendipity: I happened to move everything first for a smaller site I decided to fold into something else. Doing that tiny site first helped me develop a process which has evolved some for this second thing but I had something to start with.

Since a few people favorited this, here is some of the process that helped me get over the hump:

I made a tag that indicated copied posts were being moved from elsewhere. (Cuz: OCD, I guess. But it mattered a bunch to me that I did this.)

When possible, I preserved the original publication date. (Some things have record of this.)

In both cases, I decided to move some things to a page rather than a post. This is finished on the astrology stuff I moved to another blog but has not been finished on the parenting site. The section on my parenting site called "Asperger's Syndrome: A working hypothesis" will become a page becausd of navigation reasons. Other pages in that section are already being turned into posts and the links on the old site updated so it remains functional in the interim.

As stuff gets moved to the new WordPress site, I am deleting things off the old site to help me keep track of my progress. Because of that and the above issue, I am moving stuff first that more readily stands alone.

I made extra copies of some things, like nav files that are getting repeatedly modified as pages get removed (so I still have the original -- though not exactly because in some cases I didn't think of this until later and had to recreate the file to the bedt of my ability), and I rearranged files on my harddrive so I can move things to another folder as I am done with them. I use includes files on the original site and those can't be moved out of my way on the hosting service, because it would break the site (or involve nightmarish amounts of work to avoid that), but it doesn't matter on my computer. Realizing that was very helpful because this means both the live hosted files and the working files on my computer are being "counted down" (by deleting pages on the live site and moving files on my harddrive) and I am not dealing with a lot of confusion as to which pages have been done yet and which haven't.

I am also using the move as a chance to do a little cleaning up. I have already twice combined two pages into one. I am also doing a smiddgeon of editing here and there, for various reasons (to make it fit better on the new site, to fix broken links, to remove outdated info, etc).

Thank you for your feedback. Hopefully moving the parenting site will help mentally prep me for dealing with the Power Point.
posted by Michele in California at 9:41 AM on April 27, 2013

Response by poster: Oh, I am mentioning the issue with the section on Asperger's because it is still in progress, so if anyone who favorited it wants to see what I am talking about, you can. When I am done moving the site, you won't be able to see the old layout anymore. I don't know how to explain it in writing or do screenshots that make sense or whatever. But I thought it might be helpful to some folks to see it in progress.
posted by Michele in California at 9:46 AM on April 27, 2013

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