Content Migration Guide

A move to a new CMS is an ideal opportunity to tidy the intranet, remove the clutter and possibly present things in a better way. You can choose to use your existing content as a basis for the new CMS, or wipe the slate clean and create new content. This guide covers moving content to a new CMS.

Methods of migration

There are several ways of moving content. It usually boils down to a combination of automated scrapes, exports and imports, and manual copy and pasting.

Using the bulk methods of scrapes and imports you end up with your existing content in the new CMS, and this means that you can do any content rewriting, culling and reorganising within the new CMS.

If you can’t use any automation then you’ll need to manually migrate content. This gives you the chance to rewrite and reorganise the content before it hits the new CMS, or you can still migrate everything over as is, and then do the rewrite work in the new CMS.


Whichever method you choose to move content over, it will help to know what you’re dealing with. A content inventory gives you a detailed account of your intranet pages, documents and images.

I’ve written about my content migration spreadsheet before. It’s a combination of the content inventory and a migration dashboard, showing the live rate of migration and projected finished date. It’s a great tool for keeping an eye on migration progress, for keeping migrators motivated, and because it’s in Google Docs it means that you can work in realtime with other content migrators. I’ve shared this spreadsheet:

Duplicate the content migration spreadsheet from Google docs

Creating the inventory involves similar choices to the migration method. It may be possible to get an export of your site structure and assets from your old CMS that you can use as a basis for the inventory spreadsheet. Or you could produce a folder listing from your intranet server or from a scrape of the intranet. Or you can manually create rows in the spreadsheet.

Watch out for automated content inventory listings that may miss sections of the old site due to access restrictions, Javascript links or a single page on the old intranet that you plan to turn into several pages on the new intranet.


Once you have the content inventory spreadsheet complete, you can start to sift through deciding if the content is still required or not, whether it needs to be rewritten or combined with other pages. This is also an opportunity to move content around and to categorise and tag pages.

The finished audit will give you a spreadsheet that you can use for migration and ongoing content maintenance. It could also be adapted for an automated import.

Migration planning and practicalities

For manual migration, the order that you move things across can help to speed up the process. I have found it best to migrate documents and images first so that these are in place for linking up to pages.

You will generally need to do two passes through the migration spreadsheet. The first round will get all the content in place. The second round is for linking up the content. Attempting to get it all done in one go can be difficult because you may come to a page containing links to other pages that don’t exist yet. Keep a note of these pages during the first round of migration. And then whizz through them in the second round to link them.

Think too about your different types of content. For example, if you have a news section containing news stories that mainly link to your publications section, then it makes sense to migrate your publications section first. You save time when you come to the news stories because you can already link to the publications in the first round of the spreadsheet.

If you are pressed for time, you can leave older content such as news stories until after launch.


The main pitfalls to watch out for are all caused by copying and pasting.  The first problem is that whether you copy from a Word document or live from an intranet page, you sometimes copy more than you bargained for. Hard-coded styles, font sizes, colours and tables may all be lurking behind your page and need to be tidied up. If this is a constant problem you may have better luck by pasting into a simple text editor first and then copying again before pasting into the CMS.

As well as hidden styles, you may also copy over HTML including embedded images and links to documents. Pages will display the image because they are still pulling it through from the old site. When the old site disappears the image will no longer display. In this case you need to link up the new page to the new image. The same can happen with documents; you copy over a link to a document on the old site, it still works when you test it, but it will break when the old site disappears.

Final checks

Once all the new content is migrated, a final broken links check will make sure that everything is linked up okay.

You can also setup some rules for redirections so that people with bookmarks or following links to the old site will be pointed to the new site, and preferably the relevant page in the new site.

How to use the migration spreadsheet

The spreadsheet is setup with 2 tabs. The Dashboard tab shows the high-level migration progress. The Main tab is for the content inventory.

On the dashboard, set your start date and target finish date. The rest of the information will update automatically using formulas in the cells. Key points are the projected finish date, which is calculated on the start date and the rate of migration. The dial shows percentage complete and the graph at the bottom shows where the projected finish date lies in relation to the target finish date. The dashboard does not count documents and images.

On the main tab, enter each new page, document or image to be migrated on a new line. During migration, enter your initials in the first column as each item is completed. This will feed into the dashboard to show progress.

Note: Columns D and E are used for the dashboard calculations. When inserting new rows, copy cells D and E from a completed row to the new rows. If you mark rows as completed and the dashboard doesn’t change, the likely cause is blank cells in columns D and E.


BIS intranet moves to GovIntranet WordPress theme

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills intranet supports around 2000 staff. The new intranet started to roll out in the first week of May, alongside a department-wide IT upgrade. More staff will see the new intranet on their desktop over the next week or so.

Content rewrite

Like DCMS and NIO, BIS decided to rewrite their content in the new format of tasks and guides. The intranet team have been busy for months, working with the many teams in the department, to simplify their old intranet pages and documents. This has been a precision operation managed by Nora Brodian, involving humongous content inventory spreadsheets and several rounds of rewrites and signoff. New pages are in plain English, organised by category and tagged to allow navigation by topic.

The HR department has had difficulty making the leap to the new way of presenting information. All the HR information has been put into a separate section of the intranet, using left-hand navigation and hierarchical layers of content. I understand that there are plans to move this content into the tasks and guides. In the meantime, staff can still find the HR pages via the regular search box, which is working pretty good according to my tests.

Predictive search test

The content rewrites and reorganisation have resulted in a leaner bank of information and makes for good search results. My standard set of government department intranet searches performed really well. Results in the gallery below:

GovIntranet theme updates

Thanks go to BIS for commissioning several new templates and enhancements that went into version 3 of the theme. This includes updates to the general look and feel of the templates to bring them more in line with GOV.UK, a new set of events templates, and the A to Z template.


The events templates allow staff to browse through past and future events and we have included a widget to display forthcoming events around the intranet. Events can be integrated with Eventbrite booking, allowing staff to register for internal and external events. The templates also work with Gravity Forms, so you can capture event bookings via this method too.

Events widget
Events widget, customisable to show forthcoming events and thumbnails.
Eventbrite booking
Event page with Eventbrite booking.

Theme styling

DCMS and NIO have made use of the enhancements to the theme and this is a great example of saving money through Open Source software. All three departments are now using the same version of the theme, with their own customised colours and typefaces and their own way of doing things.

More information