Lesson Learned from a Site Redesign – I hate them

Posted by: Admin  :  Category: Web Hosting

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Back in the day, I loved site redesigns. I thought they were wonderful. Change of scenery, pretty shiny colors, the promise of a new day, month, year, era, etc. Oh how naive I be.

You see for Web Host Magazine, we have redesigned it some four or so times in the past but the underlining bits of it was never been changed and those goes back to 1997. Now before I continue I would like to talk about the back end. Quite honestly, I am still in awe of the back end of WHM.

The three programmers on the original WHM were Ron Dunlap, Nick Hobbs, and Keith Frankhart, with Ron being the main source of all the coding and the chief architect of it. The site was a content management system in its most definite of terms. You can switch banners on and off, change the layout, show various bits with a flick of a radio button, you can design a complete tree structure and have it show almost automatically. I consider it to be a modern wonder of the Internet, considering the techniques for doing all of this back then hadn’t even been made. It was new ground that was being broken and the fact that it has lasted this long is a testament to the designers.

Problem is over the years new things have come out. SEO has gone from something quite simple to being complicated. Social networks have emerged, the desire of the audience to share and comment on information. Even advertising as changed dramatically from the old days and all of these things take a toll. The site in general requires a complete rewrite. Which is quite the undertaking. The site has over 80k pages. It has press releases and new items going back to ‘99. In short, this is one extremely large site with thousands of things to keep track of.

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When it first came out, WHM was a pioneer in a lot of areas that are being used today as far as the hosting industry goes. Independent Reviews being one of the main ones. Communities being another. So not only do we have a back end that needs to be changed, but we have a tradition of innovation, which believe me is a tough act to follow.

The idea for the redesign came a few years ago. We have worked and planned, tossed ideas left and right. Hired programmers. Fired programmers. We have looked into the need for redirects, keyword overhauls, till we are blue in the face. We have found numerous problems that require study to solve. We have witnessed days worth of work die during several computer crashes and corrupted file backups.

The journey so far has been long, arduous, and each day we throw ourselves back into it. Partly from pride and partly out of necessity. Although it has been a difficult road, there are experiences walking it I wouldn’t trade away. And it has been necessary and in many ways quite fun… but honestly, I hate site redesigns. 8-D

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