You know from time to time, I would run across a prospective client who just wanted to update their current website, instead of starting with a new one. This can be a sticky situation for a web designer. At some point I’d have to decide if the current website they had was serving their goals.
I’d have to determine, if we were going to just build on top of what’s already there or if it would serve them better to start from scratch. So the question is. . .
“Is it possible to upgrade a website without starting over?” Well that depends on what you have to work with.
Work With What You’ve Got
If I saw that a prospect already had a good content management system in place (like WordPress, Squarespace, Magento or Shopify), I may recommend that they focus more on the actual design and layout of the site and customize the designs of their social media outlets (i.e. update their branding).
This will be easier to do with a site that is built on a CMS because the content and data are separated from the “presentation” (aka CSS) in its code. CSS is “geek speak” for the design, colors and all the bells and whistles.
We’d also discuss what business objectives or marketing efforts, they would like to use the site for and focus on making sure they were ready to take their site to the next level. I would check to see if they needed an email service provider, a shopping cart or if they needed to upgrade even further to automated marketing software.
I’d also ask them what kind of features or functionality they want to add or upgrade on the site that aren’t already there. If it’s simply a matter of adding a few plugins here and there, a web designer like myself may not be the best match for them.
I personally, provided my clients with video training sessions as apart of the packages I offered and they usually handle this sort of thing themselves.
Others considered hiring a Virtual Assistant with a strong background in content management or a company that offers site maintenance. A good Virtual Assistant these days will most likely have a good grasp of a least one CMS if they’re offering site maintenance services at all.
Gain More Control Over Your Site
Now – if a client does not have a content management system in place or if they are on an outdated site builder. I most likely would recommend moving their current site over to a CMS like WordPress or Shopify. I’m a big advocate for using a content management system to manage your site.
Now some of you are going to frown and say, “What do I need a content management system for? I have a very simple site.”. Here’s why – as a small business you most likely have a very small budget for web design, marketing and branding services or you want to, at the very least, keep your budget it in check.
A CMS (aka a content management system) allows you to have more control of how and when you can update your site.
If you take the time to learn how to use it or if you’re just simply strapped for cash – you won’t be left out in the cold with a site you can’t do anything with. You can also save money on site maintenance contracts and programming fees.
The best thing about this is if you can’t afford or need a complete site overhaul, you have options. You can implement things in phases without sacrificing what you already have. CMSs were designed to scale and sometimes the best thing to do is to wipe the slate clean and start fresh than to try to unravel a mess.
But I would also advise that you make the investment and let a professional handle this upgrade or transition for you. Don’t ask your neighbor’s kid to do it. Hire a professional. It will be less painful and save you a lot of time and frustration.
Question: When it comes to updating or maintaining your site, what do you grapple with the most? Share comments and questions below.
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This post was updated on August 30, 2021.