Massive changes to any website completely scare the bajesus out of us! The potential for lost Google PageRank, broken links, voiding user bookmarks will harm your business. How does that harm happen? In the simplest sense your telephones will stop ringing, your internet sales will slow down, and fewer people will walk through your front door.
But sometimes you can't avoid the massive changes, say, every 18 months when you want to redesign your website. Of course a "redesign" could just be an upgrade of the style sheet that controls colors and how your pages are laid out. A redesign doesn't need to include changes to the URLs of your website; it all depends on the content management system you are using.
Massive changes can occur because you are switching to a different web programming company, or hosting company. Sometimes the changes occur because you need to upgrade your content management system.
Here are the steps you need to consider when it's time for the massive changes. The items marked as (hosting related) will usually only apply if you are changing your hosting company.
1. Make sure you know what registrar your domain name is registered through. Get this information at least 30 days in advance of your scheduled change date.
2. Make sure you fully design and test the new website. If the new site won't have the same URLs you will need to have your new web programmer set up 301 redirects for you in order to minimize broken links, and preserve your customer's bookmarks and socially shared links.
3. (hosting related) If you are changing hosting companies you need to coordinate a switchover between your old email service and the new email service. Don't try to switch your website and email service in the same day because something is bound to go wrong. We suggest setting up all the new email accounts first, but do not activate them until Step #7.
4. (ecommerce related) With an ecommerce website you will need to transfer your existing secure certificate to the new site, or purchase a new one. You don't need to worry about this until the final few days before the new site goes live, just make sure your website person has it on their project list.
5. (hosting related) We're going to assume that your new website is on a different physical machine than the old website. This means you will need to change your DNS settings to make the new website live. This is where the information from Step #1 above comes into play. Your website person will need to log into your registrar and change the "A" records in your DNS settings for you. Your new website should come to life within a few hours after the DNS changes.
6. Test the new website with your domain name. Make sure it all works, including the contact forms, shopping cart, and anything else that involves customer interaction.
7. (hosting related) Only after you are sure the website works, and that you are getting emails from the new website, should you transfer your email hosting to your new service. Once again you will log into your registrar account, but this time you will need to change the "MX" records in your DNS settings. Hopefully your website person will handle this for you, otherwise ask your email hosting company for directions. Most companies have easy to follow directions now.
So there you have it; a slightly technical outline of steps you have to go through when you redesign your website and move it to a new hosting company. Unlike the rest of the internet, these steps have not changed in more than 10 years.
Go ahead and bookmark this Daily Golden Nugget; you will need to refer back to it sometime in the next 18 months.