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How To: Migrate Your Site to WordPress from HTML, Joomla and Drupal

Last Updated on May 6th, 2021

Published on June 12th, 2013

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These tips covering migrating to WordPress from another platform aim to help make the transition as painless as possible. While there is no denying the task can be a daunting one, it is also an excellent opportunity to revaluate your existing site and update its design, organisational structure and clean up any errant code.

Depending on the current format of your site, whether it is a flat HTML website or is using another CMS like Joomla or Drupal, the process for migration will be different. However, by following these WordPress migration tips you can do your best to ensure it goes off without a hitch, while taking the opportunity to improve your site.

Things to Do First

There are a number of things you can do before starting the migration process that will make it run more smoothly and help improve the end product.

Checklist for Migration

Functionality of your Existing Site

Evaluating your existing site can help you decide which features you will need to use in WordPress, and which plugins you will need to install, in order to have access to the same features and functionalities on your new WP site. These could include:

  • Contact, email subscription and registration forms
  • Media management
  • Multi-language support
  • Multiple authors
  • Membership areas

As you might need to use plugins to have access to the same features in WordPress, now is a good time to start finding the right ones that will allow you to offer the same functionality on your site.

Evaluate the Navigation

The menu system in WordPress, along with the many sidebar widgets available should cover most navigation and menu configurations your existing site might have. However, the migration process is a great time to refine and improve your current navigation system which while it may have been fit for purpose initially, might have been outgrown by your site overtime.

How Good is your Content

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A migration is also a good time to take a look at the content of your site and see if it still relevant and necessary. Cutting out the deadwood can help streamline and optimise your site making it more useful to your visitors and easier to navigate.

Get Familiar with WordPress

If you are new to WordPress then it is a good idea to get familiar with the platform before planning too much of your migration strategy. Now is a good time to decide how you want to categorise and tag your content when importing it into WordPress and which features you will be using. Understanding how WordPress works and the different themes and plugins that are available can help you fully plan your migration project reducing much of the guesswork and surprises that can occur along the way.

Moving from a Flat HTML Site to WordPress

If your site currently takes the form of a flat or static HTML website and you’d like to move to the WordPress platform, your best option might be to manually copy and paste the HTML code into a new WordPress install. If your site is relatively small, this shouldn’t be too much of an undertaking.

You can paste the existing HTML directly into the WordPress HTML editor without too much trouble. Providing you can add any custom styles to the CSS files of your chosen themes, the appearance of the content should migrate easily enough.

However, if your site is large or the number of HTML pages you wish to import is vast, then using an HTML to WordPress plugin could speed things up considerably. Some of the free plugins available allow you to the import just the content part of the pages, ignoring the headers, footers and sidebars of the pages which you wouldn’t want added to your WordPress posts or pages as the platform comes with its own non-content page areas.

HTML Import 2 is a well-regarded free plugin that can help you migrate from an HTML site to WordPress.  While a plugin like this is good at importing the content and keeping the formatting styles that have been used, it isn’t going to be much help when it comes to migrating the design and appearance of the site.

If your existing HTML site has a basic design and layout, then modifying an existing clean WordPress theme like Twenty Twelve to meet your needs could be a fun project. If the prospect if designing your own child theme doesn’t sound appealing, a service like Theme Matcher might be able to help you convert your existing design into a theme. However, migrating to WordPress is also the perfect opportunity to update the design of your site, taking advantage of one of the many great WP themes available.

Migrating from Joomla

Joomla Dashboard

Joomla is a popular CMS and if you have made the decision to migrate your site to WordPress, the good news is that the task can be completed relatively easily. However, there are a few caveats to highlight first:

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  • The design such as the templates and themes will have to be recreated once the content has been imported
  • Functionality from modules or plugins will also have to be recreated using corresponding WordPress plugins

Follow these steps to complete the switch from Joomla to WordPress:

  • Install WordPress on your new domain (if using an existing site you may need to delete all content)
  • Install the free FG Joomla to WordPress plugin on your new WP site
  • Go to the Joomla importer screen in your WP site at Tools > Import and select the Import Joomla tool
  • Enter the requested details for your Joomla site and click the ‘import content’ button
  • The time taken will depend on the size of your site
  • Once the automated import is finished you will be reminded to modify internal links so click on the ‘modify internal links’ button to begin
  • If any errors occurred during the process, check the FAQ for this plugin.

Using the free version of this plugin allows you to migrate Joomla sections as WP categories, migrate categories from Joomla as WP sub-categories, import posts as either WP posts or pages and migrate images in a number of ways to match your WP settings amongst other things. With a positive rating from users, this process is a headache-free way of moving from Joomla to WordPress.

See the testing migration section at the end of this article to check all went well.

Migrating from Drupal

WordPress to Drupal

When it comes to migrating from Drupal to WordPress, there isn’t a selection of plugins to choose from for simplifying this task. The whole process requires a lot more work on your part than when migrating from other popular platforms but it can be done if you are able to work though the steps.

If your Drupal site is small, then you might find it easier to manually copy and paste the content into WP. Before starting, make a note of the URLs of each page and keep track of any internal links using a spreadsheet.

As the process for migrating from Drupal 6 to WordPress 3 is quite detailed, I will simply link to a few useful resources and services that can help you achieve your goal:

If you do decide to go it alone and migrate from Drupal to WP ensure you do a thorough backup of your site before beginning and check the post-migration testing section at the bottom of this article.

Migrating from Other Platforms

There are many other WordPress migration tools that can help you get the job done as easily and quickly as possible. The article on wordpress.org covering importing content provides resources for migrating from some of the most popular platforms.

WordPress Migration Tools

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Testing the Migration

Once you feel that the migration process has been finished, it’s time to do some testing to ensure it all went ahead as planned. With smaller sites, that is simply a case of visiting each page and checking that they are displaying their content as intended and that the functionality is in good working order. For larger sites, using a plugin like the free Broken Link Checker is a good option.

Here are some of the main steps involved in testing whether the migration to WordPress was a success or not:

Check the content for correct assignment to categories and the use of tags. If migrating from another CMS check any user comments that have been migrated to ensure they are displayed in the correct order including replies.

Check for malfunctioning links on your new WordPress site by testing the navigation elements as well as looking for any images that have not been linked to correctly and are now no longer being displayed. While some links may not be broken, they may be linking to the wrong location so bear that in mind when performing this check.

Check for incorrect styling on the new pages, looking for images that are no longer being displaying correctly such as incorrect alignment as well text formatting that has gone awry. Compare the source code from the original site with the new WordPress site for any discrepancies or if in doubt, use the WordPress visual editor to quickly recreate a similar effect.

Look for unwanted WordPress extras such as default sidebar widgets being displayed or any unwanted functionality that has been added to the site by installed plugins. If any are discovered, check the settings of any plugins and edit them to remove any unwanted addons.

Good Luck

Hopefully this guide will have given you enough information to plan your migration effectively and get the job done without too much pain. While it can be a lot of work in some cases, migration also provides a number of benefits beyond moving to WordPress, such as updating your site, clearing out old content and adding new features.

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Joe has been using WordPress for many years and spends his time creating content for a wide range of websites and blogs. If you need compelling content for your blog, visit his freelance services portfolio now.