We thought we would share the strategy and technical process on our recent overhaul of our JFM Concepts family of websites. Hopefully this post will give some of our readers inspiration and ideas for working on their own web presence.
We recently upgraded the design and HTML code on our flagship site www.vdpweb.com. Additionally, we migrated www.vdpcomplete.com, www.vdpmail.com and www.profilecomplete.com from regular ASP.NET Webforms sites into our central content repository.
These upgrades have given us the opportunity to review our content strategy, update our fit and feel, eliminate old “internet road kill” and position the sites for ongoing content updates as part of an SEO growth plan.
1. Using a central CMS (content management system)
We implemented a powerful CMS that allows for unified access to our sites in one location to quickly create, update, move and expire content. A good system will allow for fast updates, reduce the chance of errors and duplication, and expedite the approval and publishing of large content sets.
Our CMS is unique in that it manages multiple sites with an infinite number views where the user's experience is selected based on the device being used (desktop, iPhone, Samsung, tablet, mobile, etc). Additionally, the heavier administrative backend is completely decoupled from the very lightweight implementation of each live website.
Any CMS requires a fairly robust, often heavyweight program for the administrative backend. These administrative applications are often entangled with each publically viewable website. JFM’s CMS uses a completely separate public implementation keeping each outward site independent, lightweight and very fast. Changes and additions to the administrative application can be implemented inline without affecting existing live sites.
Having all corporate sites in a single management system also allows for a unified content strategy across all brands. This is far more practical than a "release-by-release" strategy where each site is individually updated in batches with complicated, intensive sessions coordinated with content managers and the web design team.
2. Evolve the website fit and feel for modern standards
During the last year, a clear trend has developed towards wider screens, rounded corners, gradients and simpler color pallets. These trends have been inspired by the consistent increase in monitor size as well as the broad based support for CSS3. Additionally, many sites have begun the process of implementing new HTML5 elements for clearer, more semantic markup in code.
3. Consolidate content and refine each brand site to a narrower focus
With the older sites, as our brands evolved and features were shifted to newer brands, content began to overlap. Some content that was relevant to both brands contained duplicate copy. With the recent algorithms implemented by Google and other search engines, original copy is king. This presented a real incentive to focus content on each site with appropriate cross-linking. This is an ongoing process that can now be implemented gradually through the unified CMS.
The primary flagship product site www.vdpweb.com was updated some time ago to be in the CMS with more modern standards, colors, fonts and graphics. Several elements were updated for color, fonts, HTML5 and CSS3 features. This resulted in a fairly low cost upgrade to the site.
With www.vdpcomplete.com, www.vdpmail.com and www.profilecomplete.com, the three sites were ported from their legacy ASP.NET Webforms versions. A full-scale redesign of the creative was implemented in the process.
The technical process of migrating the 3 sites included:
- Automated import of content via business logic rules
- Programmatic scanning of images and resource files to eliminate old files no longer in use in live page code
- Automated mapping of 301 redirects mapping old ".aspx" extension pages to new extensionless URLs
- Redefining of page URLs for greater SEO and better content organization
- Identification of indexed pages on Google to ensure that no content was “lost”
The design update included:
- Standard content shells for main and sub pages
- Unified headers, navigation and footers
- Widening the site size from 860 pixels to 1032 pixels
- Updating logos with subtler lowercase and lighter blue font colors
- Softening and consolidating colors, often opting for grayscale
- Replacing older image based CSS with modern CSS3 for rounded corners, gradients and other effects
While upgrading our sites seemed like a tremendous commitment of resources and a daunting task, getting everything into a modern system where the system can evolve independently of the content was a huge step forward.
The process helped eliminate old internet road kill, consolidate content, add modern HTML5 and CSS3 and implement sensible SEO-friendly URLs.
Overall the process will make a stronger impression of the brand while triggering search engines that our company and content is dynamic and evolving. These are important signals to send if you want your sites to rank well.