Tuesday, June 23

The Right Way to Update Your Old Website

church website
I updated a website several years ago for a church in Milwaukee. Basically, it had a website that was broken (and potentially hacker-dangerous) because it was built on Joomla 1.0 technology. The church assumed I would be building a whole new website, but when I saw that several articles were approaching 10,000 hits, I figured it was better to migrate the website. 

I was able to keep the website intact, with most of the articles in the same place for search engines. The only problem was that I tried a little too hard to simply reuse elements of the old site in the new one, so I had random images and modules that looked a little out of place. Also, in attempting to mix the old color scheme with a new one, the sub-pages did not match the home page perfectly. And then I was asked to add even more to the page, like the full (long) name of the church, and a kind of ugly calendar component.
Since my main goal was to get the website migrated to the newest version of the CMS, I didn't really try too hard to make it look perfect, especially since I'd given a low price, and I'd already done more work in hours than the price warranted. Instead, I suggested the church use the new site and then let me know about changes.

Every six months or so, I'd get a request for a small change, or else someone at the church seems to have made one, and each one of those changes were more for usability rather than aesthetics. Therefore, by the time I was contacted again about a new website, the one I had created initially looked kind of like the same hodgepodge I'd inherited.

The good news was that I'd kept the website updated with the latest cms version, so adding a new template would not be an issue. But a new template peppered with all the same random modules would have been just as disjointed. This time, however, a church member had a plan (and even a wireframe) to ensure I was only going to add the elements that everyone wanted.

One of the main requests was to have the menus look the same on all pages, including the main page. A lot of times, modern templates will use a different color on sub-pages, and if you add old imagery as a header image on those sub-pages, then you end up with a website looking like it's using two different templates. With consistent menus and a paired-down use of modules on the site itself, the site looks cleaner. I had been asked (once again) before the redesign if it made more sense to start over completely. As before, my answer was that it was better to keep all those articles and menu positions if possible. Changing how a site looks doesn't have to change the important searchable content on the site.

The revised website was what the church wanted, maybe even from the beginning, but it needed someone who would organize those thoughts into a single plan. The biggest challenge will be when someone asks about those stained glass images or the facade photo or another random module I or someone else added to the home page. Or when someone wants 10 new categories in the menus. Until then, the website looks pretty good. 

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