Winston Churchill once said, “To improve is to change.  To be perfect is to change often.” I’m not sure about the perfection part, but that quote is a good one to keep in mind when it comes to marketing your business online.

Things are constantly changing:  search engines change, the sites we use and how we use them change, and platforms and technologies are constantly evolving.  Assuming a web site has no major site design revisions or platform modifications in the interim, the average lifespan of a web site design is anywhere between two and five years.

However, most web sites don’t stay static.  With sites on a content management system, there are usually gradual evolutions and updates over time.  Just the platforms and extensions alone require updates, which is why we offer WordPress and Joomla maintenance plans.

 

Redesigning a Web Site

I’ve talked before about web site redesigns.  There are pluses and minuses when redesigning a web site.  The first is that the site owner usually has a clearer idea of what they really need in a web site and what they want.  Also, depending on how well organized the content on the original site was ,you may start out with a basis of good content.

However, this is not only always the case.  Many times you start with a site structure that’s a mess, with no strategy, and it can take thorough analysis and a plan to migrate the  content (even if it’s on the same platform) to one that is more effective.

Joomla Migration and Redesign

The Kingwood Connection is a news site that I have published since 2004.  It was my second in depth experience with an Open Source PHP platform.  The first was a shopping cart system called OScommerce.  It was an amazing platform at the time; however, the code was horrendous to extend and update, the development stalled, leading to several forks off of the original platform.  Many of the popular open source shopping carts today have their roots in that original platform.

While I was still working with OScommerce, I came across a platform called Mambo which was specifically designed to be a news portal and publishing platform with front end and back end user levels and publishing levels.

When I found Mambo and it’s easy XML installer for templates and extensions, it was heaven after my experience with OSC.  I was an instant fan.  The Kingwood Connection site was launched on the 1.0 version of Mambo.

But . . . things change.

There were changes with how the platform was licensed and many of the third party developers left the project to start their own fork of the Mambo platform called Joomla. (You can read more about the history of Joomla here.)

The site went through a migration taking it from Mambo to the new Joomla 1.0 version.  Another redesign was completed in 2007.  Joomla itself had a roadmap for development with several major points that would require, not simply platform updates, but major migrations to the new version.

When to Redesign a Web Site

The challenge as a site owner is deciding when to make the leap to the new version.  If you have a site where the information stays the same, it is not as big of an issue. The new version can be created on a development server and made life when it is completed.

For sites such as the Kingwood Connection, it is a much bigger issue.  User accounts are constantly being created, events and articles published, it’s not as easy to decide when to freeze the site to take the platform up to the next version.

The Pitfalls of Custom

The great thing about open source platforms such as Joomla, WordPress, and Drupal, is that you are not locked into a software with a certain set of features.  The platform can be expanded with extensions, both those that are released as readily available third party extensions as well as custom development.

Here is the issue with custom features.  One has to be prepared to continue that custom development throughout the life time of the use of that feature or extension.  It is not a one time thing.  If the core platform goes through an update, there will be times when that custom feature will also have to be updated.  If your web site is the only one using it, you will be paying for the entire cost of a developer’s time to make it functional.

That is the issue that precipitated the redesign of the web site for Wood Duck Farms.  They had a custom ordering system.  The original developer was no longer available, and while the system had been patched by at least two other developers, it had reached the point where it was more economical to switch to a new platform than try to reverse engineer what each previous developer had done.

This was also a challenge in the redesign for the Kingwood Connection.

I’ve taken numerous sites through various Joomla migrations.  The issue is never the content, it is always the extras, particularly when there are custom extras.  The site was using a couple of extensions that were not only not available for the new version of Joomla, but they were customized as well.

Other than adapting the existing content to the new format in Joomla 3 that provides an option for both featured thumbnails and images, the time consuming part was finding and testing replacement extensions that were not only compatible with Joomla 3 but also with each other.

Mobile and Joomla 3

Gone are the days of the table based templates of Joomla 1.5.  Joomla 3 is based on Bootstrap (responsive and mobile friendly) for both the front and back end.  Regardless, I found several extensions that had a conflict with the jquery and CSS of the Bootstrap themes.  Once the replacement extensions were decided on, the rest of the migration was a straightforward, albeit extensive, process.

The video below is a glimpse of what the site has looked like through years.

The Upside of Updates

The upside of the updating of the web site platform?  This is a site I work with constantly and the time savings are tremendous.  The weekly newsletter, which used to take almost a day to compile under the old system, can be completed in 30 minutes to an hour with the new Joomla 3 compatible extension.  The now native tagging system gives me a lot more flexibility in content aggregation.  The platform is now working for me rather than having to fight against it.

The current release of Joomla as of today is 3.4.1.  The support for Joomla 2.5 (meaning there will be no further development releases for that version) ended December 31, 2014.  If your site is currently on 2.5, you don’t necessarily have to switch tomorrow it is something you should probably put on your priority list and working into your budget.  If your web site is on any lower version than 2.5, it is definitely time to migrate the platform.

Time for a Change?

Is it time for your Joomla web site to be redesigned, migrated, updated or maintained?  Contact us for a custom quote!

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