OK, We got a CMS, Now what?
July 25, 2007 11:21 AM   Subscribe

Does anyone have any advice (do's and don'ts) for migrating a large static technical Web site to CMS? Bonus if the experience is RedDot.

This is not a CMS recommendation. We've already got RedDot. Now I am charged with converting our spanking new templates into CMS templates and also importing 5,000 pages of mostly, but not entirely, structured content. I am, however, an utter CMS virgin.

Google offers very general recommendations that are mostly common-sense, or 'white papers" that are veiled sales pitches, and there are books, of often tedious length, but I still feel like I am swimming through molasses.

I am looking hopefully for real-life war stories of transitions you worked on, what you wish you had done from the get-go, what you are thrilled to have learned or done, etc., etc. Also any on-line resources that you swear by specifically for dealing with transitioning.

I will accept anyone's sagacious advice, but since we already bought RedDot, if there is a RedDot hand out there, I'd love to hear your advice even more.
posted by xetere to Computers & Internet (5 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I've migrated a number of sites to drupal and simply wrote a bunch of python scripts to submit stuff directly to the database.

Is RedDot closed source? Can you automate this?
posted by unixrat at 12:06 PM on July 25, 2007

RedDot is closed source commercial canned software. Runs on IIS and has SQL Database back-end. I suppose you can write .asp or .NET scripts to automate this. I do think, however that that will be VERY difficult. They do have an import module. but before I even undertake such a thing, I am looking for sort of best practices in creating templates that will be used by end-users, best practices in structuring Web pages so that programming this will be somewhat less painful.
posted by xetere at 12:22 PM on July 25, 2007

What is the import module like. I'd picture some sort of regular expression running over all of the current pages to get any existing data, sending that to a structured file, which you then import. The import manager only claims to take info from legacy content management systems or databases, not static files (which is entirely to be expected).

Templates have very little bearing on importing here.

So, plan to write some scripts. They don't have to be fabulous, it only has to work once. If you don't know how to write any code... then you're out of luck.
posted by tmcw at 1:51 PM on July 25, 2007

I've done the same thing for Ektron, which is a closed-source .NET CMS. I did what unixrat suggests, wrote Python scripts (you can have the mess I wrote if you want to take a look), but any language will do. It's just a matter of having SQL Server drivers (Python's Win32 extensions will get you that with a bit of tweaking) and knowing how the content is structured in the database.

If you can't get the data structure, another possible approach would be to use Watir to simulate users logging in and authoring the content. Depending on the number of different page types, this might wind up being as slow as doing it by hand or much faster.
posted by yerfatma at 5:29 AM on July 26, 2007

I'll preface this post. I work for Purple Monkey Studios, Inc., the RedDot partner of the year for 2006. My honest advise is to get some help. The are many partners who can offer assistance. Sales pitch aside, there are some things you can do to help yourself out.

1) Attend the RedDot Project Builder Training. It is a one week course which goes over the basics of RedDot CMS. If you also have LiveServer (the personalization engine) there is another one week offering for this.

2) Spend some time playing with the sample projects. These will walk you through the templating structure. The ideal templates will allow your content authors and editors to do what ever they wish with the Web site (content related of course) from within the Smart Edit environment. We find ~30%-50% of the templating time is spent annotating the UI to create an intuitive platform for your users.

3) Spend time up front creating solid (X)HTML templates. Take advantage of CSS and make sure you do not rely on JavaScript for any of your templates to function correctly. JavaScript can be utilized in your final published environment, but don't count on it working 100% of the time within SmartEdit.

4) Spend some time wireframing what areas of your templates you wish to be editable, where you want content to be automatically reused (and from where), what needs to be changed site wide, section wide, and locally on the page. This will help you determine how to build your foundation content classes and subsequent minor pieces of the puzzle.

5) Don't put your faith in the Content Import Engine (regardless of the CMS). CIEs require perfectly structured content to guarantee the automated process works. Even with perfectly structured content, there is the off chance that the content itself was pasted into the old system from something like Microsoft Word. If this happens, you still end up with garbage in. That being said, if you do have well structured content, the CIE could save you time. I only mention this because we highly recommend reviewing and touching up every page that has been automatically imported. For this reason, we always insert automated imports into the work flow to force editors to review before something goes live.

If you are interested in outside help, we would be more than happy to see if there is something we can do for you. Our projects range from hourly consulting to 100% implementation.

I hope this helps.

Ray Schauer
Purple Monkey Studios, Inc.
posted by metaldark at 7:57 AM on July 26, 2007

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