Migrating Your WordPress Blog to Adobe Business Catalyst

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Blogs are an important part of an ecommerce solution, especially for a small company—they provide a way of directly connecting with customers, they are an inexpensive way to differentiate your client from their competition, and they provide real benefits for search engine optimization.

In many cases, however, designers are engaged to build an ecommerce solution for their client’s business and understandably spend most of the available time and budget on the online store—focusing on product presentation, categories, navigation and checkout. A blog is frequently an out-of-the-box, bolt-on solution to complete the site’s feature set—especially for a designer that has limited development resources.

Typical integration focuses on the navigation and presentation however—a common header and style are used across both the application that powers the store and the application that powers the blog—but stops there. Data cannot be shared easily, authenticated sessions are not supported, and any changes to common elements need to be updated in multiple locations, but that’s just the start of the support woes.

WordPress’s plug-in architecture is a huge advantage for most users—having developers around the world add features and functionality gives designers and clients a wide variety of options to extend their blog’s functionality. But with any plug-in architecture, you need to stay current as platform upgrades impact plug-ins. This is just another aspect of the maintenance hurdles that can grow into costly maintenance tasks over time.

Smaller design firms working with small or medium sized businesses need to maximize their efficiency and reduce long-term support costs. You should be focusing your effort on delivering value for your client, and keeping support costs low.

Even designers who recognize this issue find themselves in a larger hole: the cost to change is sometimes greater than the cost of dealing with support issues. Most full service platforms acknowledge that and provide tools to assist migrating an existing site into a new platform.

Adobe Business Catalyst provides tools to migrate an online business onto their platform—including blogs. Blogs represent a special case because blogs contain structured data with relationships that cross articles. For instance, most blogs have comments and comment threads, they are assigned to categories, and have a history. In this article, we’ll walk through migrating your blog into a new Business Catalyst site and set up a seamless template based on your current WordPress blog.

Beyond blogs, Business Catalyst is really a platform for an online business and provides tools for integrated ecommerce, marketing and content management. Other articles in the series cover those topics in more detail.

Make a Plan

Everything starts with a plan. I’m a big believer in planning before jumping in, so take a few minutes and plan it out, here are the steps we know we have to take:

  • Create a new BC site
  • Create a template
  • Set up your blog layout
  • Create your blog
  • Export/Import current blog
  • Fine tune and set as start page

Along the way I’ll identify a few more details, but this is basically what we’ll cover.

Moving In

There are actually two steps I’m going to cover in the process of moving into Business Catalyst—the first is about setting up a template to wrap your content. We’ve done this in prior articles, but in this one, the design constraint that I am applying is that you want to keep the current site template in place that is on your WP blog.

In order to set that up, the fastest way is to import your current site and then create a template from that content. After we set up the template, we’ll work on moving the blog content into the template. Sound good? OK, let’s get started.

Import the site

Business Catalyst provides a wizard that makes it easy to move a site onto the platform. It builds out the file system and moves all of the content and supporting assets into a directory structure in Business Catalyst. This step is important if you want to base your new site template on your existing site. If you are taking this opportunity to create a new template, you don’t need to do the import site step, you can skip to the Import Blog step further along.

I’ll assume you’ve created a new account and are familiar with the Partner Portal (if not, see Introduction to Adobe Business Catalyst), go to Create Site and select a Pro site type and click on the “Import your current website” radio button. This will load a subsection where you can enter the URL of your current site.

note:

You can restrict this to a subsection of the current site by specifying the directory to begin; BC will only import pages under that directory.

create site

Once you have entered the URL/path click Next and then you’ll need to enter a bit more information to finish setting up the new site on your account.

create site

Click submit and the page will reload with verbose status of the import process. Pretty cool. Depending on the size of your site, this might take a while. At the end you see a confirmation message “Congratulations! You have successfully signed up …

Now the fun part begins.

Create the Template

The first task is check out the new site—open a new browser window and hit the URL you created for the imported site. I’ve decided to work with a fictional company targeting coffee enthusiasts called Koffee Klubbe.

site imported screen

Check out the links, they should all work. What you’ll see are static copies of everything your old site contained. Unfortunately, that also includes seemingly dynamic items like a search box and comment forms. They won’t work—at least not as you’d expect since they are still pointing to the old site. We’ll walk through that clean up in just a moment.

Remove WP tags and content

Note: If you view source, you’ll see that some items in your site still reference the old WordPress site—including the stylesheet. You should take the time to identify and migrate those files to your BC site once you have your blog set up.

We’ve covered the basics on setting up templates in an earlier article so if you need a refresher, click here. I’m going to focus on the steps you’ll need to take to make a new template out of your existing WordPress page.

In the WP theme I was using, the div containing the content is <div id=”content-main”>. I simply brought up my Default page in the Web Pages Details editor and found the beginning and the end of the div. Replace all of the content within the div with a simple {tag_pagecontent} tag:

create template

If you toggle back over to Design view, you’ll see that the content was replaced with the tag. Right now, BC isn’t parsing that tag since this is a static page—we’ll set up the template next.

create template

Copy the HTML for this page, click on Admin > Manage Site-wide Templates and create a new template for the site. Name the template, toggle to HTML view, paste the content, save and publish. Go back to the Web Pages, create a new page as index.html, give it a name and select your new template:

create template

OK. You’re actually halfway there. Now, let’s build your blog.

We’re going to start with the blog layout. In addition to the site-wide templates that let you define common elements that will show up as a consistent frame to your content across sections of your site, you can also define layout for your blog that will control how the text, comments, links to other articles and categories will be displayed within the {tag_pagecontent} section of your larger layout. Got it? Let’s get started.

Navigate to Admin > More Customization Options, then click on Blog Layouts.

blog layout

Next, select the Overall Blog Layout to edit.

blog layout

That will bring up a standard editing window but this time you’ll see all of the modules related to blogs—blog content, tags, comments, trackback links etc. If you toggle over to the HTML view, you can control the layout down to the level of detail you need.

blog layout

Now your template and your Blog layout are all set up, let’s go add the blog to your site.

Go to Web Pages > Blog and create a new blog. Like most BC applications, you’ll name the blog and select the template to use when displaying the content. I selected to enable the trackback function and the RSS feeds—common features on most blogs.

create blog

On the next screen, you’ll see that your blog has no content—yet. We’ll import your blogs from WordPress next.

create blog

Import Blog

The first thing you’ll need for the import is your data—go to your WordPress site, log into your Dashboard and click Export under the Settings menu.

export link

In the next screen, narrow the scope of the export to meet the ranges that match what you want to move into your new site. In my case, I’m moving all of the articles over.

export screen

The export should result in a datestamped xml file being downloaded. Save the file to a local directory—you’re going to use it in a minute.

Go back to your Business Catalyst site, and click on Admin, Import Data. Select the Blog import.

import blog

You’ll have to select the blog to import into, select the blog engine, in this case “WordPress” and then select the export file. Click next to begin the import.

import blog

You’ll be prompted twice to confirm that you are ready to do the import—click through the prompts and you’ll see a successful confirmation.

import blog

Now, go to WebSite > Blogs and click on Blog Posts in the right hand nav and you’ll see all of your content:

blog admin

Remember that a Blog is really just a data-driven application—web apps are set up as Modules within Business Catalyst and this gives you tremendous flexibility to extend applications and share data across applications.

Like other BC webapps, you’ll need to add this to a page in order to see the blogs on your site.

Let’s go back to the Blog Details page using the right hand navigation above the Action Box or by going to Website > Blogs and clicking on your new blog.

In that action box, you’ll see the link to Set as Start page.

blog set start

Click on the link and you’ll see a modal confirming that your blog is now the default page on your site.

blog home page

As you can see, the blog structure dynamically builds navigation to the Recent Posts, Tags, and the postings by monthly archive. You may also see that the import didn’t completely respect the formatting you may have had on WP. But that’s a great reason to check out the new blog editor. Navigate back to Blogs > Blog Posts and then select the Edit with new UI link.

blog list

You can edit the posting, add tags, categories, update the publishing date and of course use the WYSIWYG editor.

Search

As I noted above, you’ll need to trim some of the legacy items from your template, one of them is the search box. Since all of the underlying content is stored in the database, it’s easy to add search capabilities to your site—without any coding.

Navigate to Modules > Site Search and you can quickly build a new search portal. Click on Create New Search and then name it and determine the scope of the content you want to search against. We’ll select Blog and then Save the search module.

search

In order to add the search module to your site, go back to Admin > Manage Site Templates and select your Blog template to edit.

Toggle over to HTML view and create a new div for your search module. Select Modules from the Action list, and select a Search form to add to your page.

search module

Position the cursor inside the new div and click Insert to place the search box code into your template. The insert will also place the search results tag directly after the tag. I moved mine to the main section of the template just above the {tag_pagecontent} tag. This is perfect for a bit of jQuery to style a nice blind to open up with your search results. You can add as much chrome and UI behavior as you want.

Why migrate?

If you are completely satisfied with the solution you have in place, you wouldn’t be looking at migration strategies. The most common pain points that designers experience are the costs of ongoing maintenance and the effort of maintaining a site spread across disparate infrastructure.

The advantage of a platform like Business Catalyst is that your entire online business can be managed from one platform allowing you to leverage data, analytics and marketing tools across all of the web apps on your site—not just a blog. Consider this an opportunity to future-proof your solution by moving into a hosted platform that will grow as your business grows. Content management, fully integrated ecommerce, cross sell capabilities, email marketing are all driven from the same underlying platform.

Migrating from one platform to another is never completely painless, but Business Catalyst’s tools let you design the site, template and blog with as much fine-grained control as you want. If you follow the quick migration path I’ve outlined above, you’ll still want to clean up your template to ensure that the CSS, JS and related assets are all under your control and hosted on the same platform.

Questions? Comments? Let me know!

Tips for tuning up:

These are a few of the quick changes you should make in your site-wide templates after you directly import your site from WordPress. Again, you don’t need to do the site import step—if you want to design a new one from scratch, your blog data will flow into whatever template you design.

  • Remove the search box.
  • Create a local version of your CSS and JS files.
  • Remove just about all of the meta and link tags from the head—do not remove the CSS link until you recreate your style sheet locally.
  • Remove the feedarea
  • Remove the comments at the top that capture the time it took to generate the page.
  • Remove the RSS feeds.
  • Remove the Footer.
  • Replace the headerimage div.
note:SitePoint Content Partner

This tutorial has been made possible by the support of Adobe. In cooperation with Adobe and independently written by SitePoint, we strive to work together to develop the content that’s most useful and relevant to you.

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  • Henrik Blunck

    Never change a winning horse, or don’t fix what’s not broken…

    But this article is an excellent way of focusing on startups, and indeed the Business Catalyst platform may be an excellent idea for those starting up.

    I have looked into Movable Type, but since I am completely satisfied with freeware such as WordPress, which is updated exactly so often that I have never had any major problems, I see no reasons to migrate.

    But thanks for inspiring and bringing new products to our attention. Much appreciated. :-)

  • Adrian Hart

    I agree with Henrik. As a WordPress user and developer, there is no real benefits to change. However, for small businesses with an in-house website administrator, Business Catalyst looks like a nice tool.

  • http://www.onlineiq.biz Urszula Richards

    I’m trying to decide whether to go with WordPress for a client or Business Catalyst. I have built his existing business site on the Business Catalyst platform, however he also has a hobby site he wants to build.
    I am hoping to recreate something similar to this … http://www.bikeexif.com (different niche, but same blogging functionality), and wonder if anyone can help with the following questions:
    1. How the ad-space on the right hand side of this works, and
    2. How the varied commenting options on this site work. I think they are fabulous, allowing the most commonly used accounts to post from. If this was possible with Business Catalyst – I’d love to hear how.

    Thanks in advance!
    Ursh

  • http://www.createwebworks.com/ Plypox

    Wow, that was easy to follow, but I think the codes I used was mixed up. Anyways, thanks for the informative post. I hope I can get the blog to upgrade soon.

    Thanks

  • http://buildabusinesswebsitenow.com Frank

    A lot of usefull information.Thank you , i own a few blogs and i have to consider your advice on migrating on one platform like business catalyst. I will follow you from now own….thanks.

  • http://arcadiabuildersltd.co.uk Northallerton Builder

    I might give this a look, it’s the first I’ve heard of it. I have tried so many of these drag and drop solutions and there’s always something missing. Often, it’s because it is designed with Americans in mind such as, for instance, asking for zip codes instead of post codes or asking what state my customers live in. Shopping carts are a disaster with out of date or just plain incorrect County lists and very poor presentation of VAT which is essential for BtoB in UK.
    My present site for builders in northallerton began life on 1&1 with their easy build solution but I got so far after a while and gave up it was too American and I wasted the best part of a week. Now I came back to WordPress and, with the right theme, I can get everything I want down to a granular level.
    I would be interested to know if there are any UK or other European businesses that have successfully used Business Catalyst.
    Besides, migration is never as easy as tutorials like this make out. I like the line, for instance, “remove the WP tags”. Hah, that’s assuming a lot, if you are that good, WP won’t frighten you anyway.