Website woes: html to wordpress, what could go wrong?

Web development

With Content Management Systems becoming all the rage for managing a website (and quite rightly so), there are a number of business owners who now want to transfer their old HTML website to a WordPress platform.  More often than not, these business owners find out the hard way that it might not have been as simple as they were led to believe.

Here are some tips on what you might expect and what you can do to minimise the stress and angst. 

Transferring a HTML site to WordPress

Transferring a HTML site to WordPress isn’t necessarily straight forward – but it’s not impossible.  If you want the new WordPress site to look exactly like your existing HTML site, this process generally requires someone who understands HTML and how to code a WordPress theme.

If you want a WordPress site that looks similar to your existing site, but not the same AND you have the appropriate graphics – then you may be able to find an appropriate WordPress theme and customise it yourself. Be prepared to spend a bit of time learning your new theme and the intricacies of customising WordPress.

Copying The Content

When converting your HTML website to a WordPress website you need to physically transfer the content so it appears within WordPress infrastructure.

Depending on how much content you have, it’s typically easier to pay someone (or for you to do this) to copy and paste the content over; import images and media files; and relink everything.

The biggest thing to consider when you copy the content over, is that you need to make sure existing links are ‘mapped’ to the new links.  When you transfer a HTML site to a WordPress website, your urls’ (or web addresses) for each page will change.  Keep a list of all the ‘old’ url’s as you transfer the content and before launching your new site, set up redirects for the old url’s so visitors don’t receive 404 (or page not found) errors …. I use the Redirection plugin to achieve this.

Plugins

The WordPress plugins you choose to use are entirely dependent on the functionality your site requires.  Before you decide on which plugins you want to use, make sure you know the functionality you need to replicate first.

Many new WordPress site owners get enamored with the ‘shiny’ new plugins they can use but don’t think about the overheads and load that is placed on a website by the overuse, or misuse, of plugins.  Equally as important, be sure that you aren’t adding plugins that duplicate functionality.  Whilst there is no golden rule about ‘how many' plugins you should have on your site more often than not, less is more.

Free Vs Premium plugins

I’m pretty ambivalent about whether you should use a free plugin or paid plugin.  There are many, many great free plugins and the plugin developers provide awesome support (I use these with great regularity).  There are times that I’ve found paying for a plugin has saved me a lot of stress as I've been able to use the support processes and know that I'll get a response.

However, I generally start a site with least number of plugins that I can and add as needed.

Where To Host The Site

It's possible that your existing hosting account may not support a WordPress install.  If that's the case, do some homework and look at what's available.  There are many hosting options available to a business and there are a two main things to consider.

Does your hosting platform support WordPress?

Most hosting providers do and some provide an ‘easy install’ function (like Fantastico) so you literally point and click to install it.  If there isn’t a point and click install process, it’s possible that you can manually install WordPress.  It’s best to check with your hosting provider whether or not you can install WordPress but the requirements to run WordPress can be found on the WordPress website.

Is the hosting platform appropriate for a WordPress website

Just because a hosting provider will allow WordPress to run doesn’t mean that WordPress will run well.  Some providers limit the amount of RAM (random access memory) available to their customers for their websites and this can have a rather negative impact on the operation and performance of your WordPress website.  Not all webhosts are created equal and you need to be sure that who you choose will step up to the challenge.

Be Strategic

Transferring your HTML website to WordPress just because you can may not be the most appropriate thing to do. However, I do recommend you seriously consider doing so… by moving your website to a Content Management System (which is really what WordPress is), you’ll be able to more easily manage and add content.  No more worrying about editing HTML!

Rather than just trying to replicate your existing website across, take this opportunity to give your website a face lift and improve the visitor experience of your website.  You don’t need to start from scratch but you can freshen things up and take advantage of any of the new techniques and tactics that have been developed since you first developed your site.

I recommend that you:

  • Create a list of what you don’t like about your current site
  • Look at websites and find things you like (make sure you document why you like them)
  • Look at where you might be loosing visitors or not converting them to clients
  • Document features that you wish you had, but don’t

This will allow you to create a Statement of Requirement that you can either start (re)building the site yourself or take to a developer and ask for a quote.

This is the perfect opportunity to take a good look at your online presence and bring it up to date!


Charly Leetham

Charly Leetham

CEO & Founder at Ask Charly Leetham

Charly Leetham’s goal is to assist small business owners realise the power of the Internet as a channel to market their organisations in an appropriate and cost-effective manner. She helps solopreneurs and small businesses map their business processes and plan their web presence. Charly has a passion for IT and helping people overcome their technology challenges as well as more than 20 years experience in the IT industry, ranging from hands-on technical, to high-level business management.


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Wendy Huang

Wendy Huang , Full Time Blogger and YouTuber at A Custom Blog in 4 Minutes

Oh plugins, how they have haunted me. All it takes is one plugin conflict and my day is ruined. That aside! Great in depth look at website migration :D

Phil Khor

Phil Khor , Founder at SavvySME

Great post Charly; really helpful! Thanks for sharing! :D

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