4 things we learned when migrating content to Contentful

Migrating to contentful header
March 7, 2019


This is part of a series of blog posts sharing how we use Contentful from both a content creator and a developer perspective and what you can do to get the most out of your Contentful experience.

When Esa McGavin joined Contentful as the product owner for the website she was tasked with expanding our own use of Contentful to host traditionally hardcoded content. Most people, including Esa, associate content migrations with mountains of tedious work, delays and setbacks standing between one CMS and another, or in our case, migrating text from our Github repo into Contentful.

Contentful promised to be something different and to Esa’s delight we have delivered on that promise. Esa and her team went fast, failed forward and learned a lot in the process, including what sets Contentful apart from other content solutions.

Today she talks happily about everything Contentful makes possible and says she’d be hard pressed to work with any other content solution, especially when it comes to migrating content. We believe in learning as we go and sharing that experience, so we asked Esa to share what she learned about best practices when migrating content to Contentful.

Your content model won’t be perfect

Creating your content model can sound intimidating — afterall it is the foundation of your content infrastructure — but it doesn’t have to be perfect. Start with some best practices and expect to learn as you go.

Esa and her team focused on where they could reuse content and content types to streamline content operations. With Contentful, reuse goes beyond website content and includes content across your entire digital portfolio (IoT, apps, digital billboards, etc.). Think of the different components on a page as modular chunks of content that can be mixed and matched to create different layouts wherever digital content is delivered.

One of the challenges the team faced was imagining content and presentation separately. With Contentful the same chunk of content can look entirely different depending on the presentation layer. This means you can do more with fewer content types, but it takes some time to wrap your mind around all the possibilities. Rather than creating duplicate content types to serve different devices, page designs or product branding, you can use the same piece of content and control presentation separately.

This is a new way of thinking about content, so it’s okay to iterate on your content model. Esa and her team now realizes that they can use even fewer content types to deliver the same digital experiences, so they will be merging some to further streamline operations. Fortunately, Contentful is designed to evolve with you so even updating your content model can be done without disrupting your digital products.

Do a reality check to make sure your model works in practice

Content modeling can be a very abstract process. It’s good to do a reality check on your content types with your editors to make sure they understand how everything works.

Esa and her team worked with the content editors and other stakeholders to understand their needs. Jani, the senior Web developer, who develops and maintains the content model and maintains the fields for the editorial interface, then met with the end users again to make sure they understood how different content teams worked. This gave the team the opportunity to further customize the editorial interface to the editors’ needs. For example editors were confused by the technical terms the team used to label the SEO fields, so Esa and her team made them more intuitive. Contentful also lets you control field names, validations, error messages, and help text, so the team was able to adjust them all to help editors with the exact problems and confusion they had over the SEO fields.

“The way we use Contentful gives editors a lot of freedom when it comes to what they can do with their content”, says Esa. Taking the time to make sure the end users understand the model and customizing it to the way they work helps them be more autonomous and productive.

Getting everything to work seamlessly between developers, editors, designers and the content model has been an agile process and it keeps improving.

Continual improvement will replace periodic rebuilds

Instead of maintaining an aging system and increasing technical debt, Esa and her team is continually improving our content infrastructure to provide more business value. “Working with Contentful feels really fluid. Contentful is comparatively flexible. There doesn’t have to be a big rebuild in a few years,” explains Esa, “For every big web project we have, we don’t need to worry about the content the way you would with a traditional CMS.”

Contentful evolves with you whether that means scaling to include more digital products or stretching the boundaries of what’s possible with sophisticated builds. Your content model, workflows, presentation and integrations can be refined as you go. It’s not static so you can move forward at speed without the fits and starts of having to rebuild aging infrastructure.

Be bold, think big… now think even bigger

Contentful breaks the boundaries of what has been possible and empowers you to explore cutting edge, innovative ideas.

Esa still finds herself redefining what’s possible as her team combines Contentful with emerging technology. It’s exciting to realize that ideas that were too complex or too time-consuming to implement with a traditional CMS, can be done with Contentful.

This is the time for marketers, product managers, editors and developers to come together and dream big. Don’t limit yourself to what you think is possible.

Check out our customer ebook for inspiration and starting imagining what you can do.

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