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Migrating the Library Website

Christian Aldridge, Web Developer GW Libraries

The Libraries’ website has over 250,000 monthly page views and 37 thousand unique visitors. They spend an average of five minutes each on the site.

When we built the new site we wanted it to be easier to use, architecturally flexible and mobile-friendly. And we wanted to make the transition as seamless as possible.

Chart with Website Visitor Stats and Responsive Design Output

The project scope included a migration of our existing content to a new architecture.  Along the way we would incorporate the branding of the University’s new Unified Web Presence, improve the site’s navigation, make it mobile-friendly and lower costs by moving it to our own servers. We also improved our failover and backup process to make it more robust.

A large part of the process was the migration of our existing content. All of the content areas were assigned to their respective groups within Libraries, and ‘content editors’ from those groups worked to clean up and move existing pages and files to the new site. Although much of the content was revised and many obsolete pages deleted, the website’s content as a whole (including its organization) remained the same. The emphasis on ‘migration’ instead of ‘redesign’ was an important decision that allowed us to focus on the architecture and features of the new site and also helped us shape expectations.

To help ease the transition for our visitors we added tools to redirect traffic from old or deleted pages and route our various domains to the new library.gwu.edu. We announced the upcoming changes through social media, news and spotlight posts, a banner message on the 'old' site and an information page. We also gave visitors access to a public beta ahead of launch.

The new site launched on August 1st, ahead of its original schedule and with more features than originally planned. After completion the website entered into ‘maintenance mode’, with a focus on security patches, code maintenance, UWP branding updates, workshops for content editors and support.

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