Urgent Website Update

Websites in the legacy version of the WashU Web Theme documented in this website will reach end of life in October 2022. A necessary PHP update will be released in October that will make sites in the oldest version of the WashU Web Theme unusable.

If your site is in the oldest web theme version and you still need the site to be accessible online, you will need to migrate its content. Updating will require rebuilding the site in the newest WashU Web Theme. We’ve done our best to make this process as simple as possible for you and have outlined the steps below. Please review this information and let sites@wustl.edu know if you have any additional questions.

Migration Instructions

For the purposes of the following information, I will refer to your current website as the old site and the updated site that has yet to be created as the new site.

Summary of the site rebuild process

First you will need to request a new site, which will automatically come in the latest Web Theme with the new block editor activated. You may choose to migrate the content from the old site into the new site using whatever process works best for you and your team. Some people like to export all the content from the old site and import it into the new site. Others prefer to migrate the content manually by copying and pasting. I have provide detailed instructions below on each of these processes, but regardless of the method you choose, I encourage you to take this opportunity to audit the site content and make sure it is still current and relevant. Since you will be creating a new site, this is a great opportunity to restructure or revamp your content if needed. Once all the content has been migrated and any other desired updates have been made, we will launch your new site and sunset the old one.

Your next steps for updating your site to the new editor are:

  1. Request a new site in the latest WashU Web Theme.
    • You may give your new site the same title as your old site, but you will not be able to give it the exact same URL. (We can update it to the same URL later when we sunset the old site.)
    • We recommend you give the new site the same URL as the old site with “NEW” appended to the end (e.g., https://sites.wustl.edu/sitenameNEW).
      • If the site has a custom domain, I will transfer the custom domain when the new site is launched.
  2. Migrate the content from the old site into the new site. You have two options for migrating content, or you my employ a combination of both methods:
    • Option 1: Export content from the old site and import it into the new site:
      • From the dashboard of the old site, go to Tools > Export. Select All Content (or select one content type at a time, if you prefer) and click Download Export File. This will download a XML file onto your computer.
      • Now from the dashboard of the new site, go to Tools > Import > Advanced WordPress (usually the first option in the list) and click Run Importer, select the XML file from your computer and click Upload File and Import.
        • You will be asked to reassign authors if there were users on the old site that are not on the new site. You may add new users to your new site before importing content if you would like the original authors to be maintained.
        • You may also see a checkbox at some point that says something to the effect of Download Attachments. If it appears, be sure to check this box! This allows media from pages and posts to be added the media library in the new site, rather than simply linking to their location on the old site.
      • Check your work! Once all the content has been imported, go through each content module and confirm that the number of pages, posts, people, places, items, events, etc. in the new site is the same as the old.
        • Certain types of content (e.g., People, Places and Items) do not import into the new Web Theme and must be rebuilt manually (instructions below).
      • Convert content to the block editor:
        • Content in the new editor is built using blocks; if the new site recognizes a block match for the incoming content, it will place it in the appropriate block. But since this is a legacy site using a very different editor, in most cases it cannot find a match, and content will be imported into the new site in “containers” called Classic Blocks. These Classic Blocks must be converted one by one into the appropriate block before the content can be edited in the new site. This becomes a bit tedious. If you were to copy and paste the content (instructions below), you would be able to select the appropriate block from the start, rather than having to convert.
      • Any additional content or widgets that were added to the Page Builder in the old site WILL NOT IMPORT and must be migrated manually by copying and pasting (instructions below). While you convert the Classic Blocks on each page and post, as described above, reference the matching page on the old site and check very carefully to make sure no content is missing.
        • Page-specific widgets are not available in the new theme. Sidebar widgets can be added to every page of the new site, but if you have a widget that you would like displayed only on select pages, we recommend you build those on using the block editor.
    • Options 2: Migrate content manually. The import process described above is ideal for very large sites with lots of content. If your site has fewer than 20-30 pages, it is usually more efficient to migrate manually by copying and pasting content from the old site into the new.
      • Go through each content type (pages, posts, people, places, items) one at a time and create a new page/post for each piece of content. Unless you want to alter the structure of the site, give each piece of content the same name and ensure that the permalinks match. Put the pages/posts in the same order and assign them the same parent pages in the new site as they have in the old site. Matching the names, permalinks and menu structure will eliminate the need to set redirects when launching the new site.
        • If you are changing the menu structure of the pages because you are revamping and reorganizing content, that’s ok! Keep a spreadsheet as you go listing the URL of the page from the old site and the new URL. This will make setting redirects much easier when the time comes to launch the new site.
      • When rebuilding a page/post, open a frontend view AND a backend view of the page on the old site. It is usually easiest to copy and paste content from the frontend, but the backend can reveal specifics of the content that are not visible on the frontend, such as media file titles, text formatting, and page width.
      • When pasting content, the new block editor will usually recognize the formatting and put the content in the right kind of block (specifically paragraphs, headings, and lists). For advanced content like cards, billboards and columns, the block must be added to the page in the new site before content is pasted in.
      • Check your work! After manually migrating a page, carefully review the old page and the new page side by side to ensure everything looks as you expect.
        • There will be some differences! This is a new theme, so not everything will look identical. In some cases, we must seek alternative ways to create content in the new site.
        • Take this opportunity to audit your content. Make sure it is all still current and relevant and that you want the content in your new site.
  3. Export/Import media:
    • See 2a for instructions on exporting/importing, but rather than selecting All Content, this time just select Media.
      • Even if you exported/imported all of your other site content, it is usually necessary to complete this process again with just Media. WordPress will not import duplicate files.
    • Again, be sure to check the Download Attachments box whenever you see it.
    • Sometime media fails to import if there is too much of it.
      • If you receive an error that media fails to import, keep repeating the process, but work in smaller batches by selecting a limited date range when exporting.
      • If you continue to have trouble importing a large amount of media, import it through the Advanced Importer instead, and let it run for several hours. It can run in the background while you do other work, or even run overnight while your computer is in sleep mode. The importer screen may go blank or appear frozen – don’t close the page! Open the media library in another tab and continue to refresh it to check the status while the importer is running.
      • When you think you are done importing media, check to make sure all your files have imported. When viewed in list format rather than as a grid, the total number of items will show in the upper right corner of the media library.
    • Image size requirements, especially for headshots, differ between the legacy theme and the new Web Theme. Please reference our image size cheat sheet for dimension requirements based on where the images will be used on the site. We recommend looking through all the media on the old site before exporting – if any images are too small, they will need to be resized or replaced before being uploaded to the new site. We do not recommend using WordPress’s built-in image editing and cropping tools; programs and web-based tools like Photoshop are more reliable. Please see our tutorial on Saving Images for the Web for more information. If the quality of the image does not allow for resizing, locate the original files or use a different image.
  4. Forms (if applicable): Forms have to be managed independently.
    • To import a form from the legacy site to the new one, start in the old site and from the dashboard go to Formidable > Import/Export, scroll down to Export, check the box for Form, then select the form you want, scroll to the bottom of the page, and click Export Selection. This will download a file onto your computer.
    • Now go to the new site, again from the dashboard go to Formidable > Import/Export, click Choose File, select the file that just downloaded and click Upload File and Import. You should now see that form in your Formidable Forms module.
    • Please Note: Form submissions will have to be exported separately and are not able to be imported into the new site. If you will need these historical entries for any reason, download those entries you have collected in your forms and save to your files. Follow the instructions here.
  5. Double check links: Whether you import content or copy/paste, internal site links will maintain the URL of the old site. This is confusing because as long as the old site is still active, the links appear to work; but those links point to the old site and as soon as it is deactivate the links will break. This also applies to linked media such as PDFs that are stored in your media library.
    • Double check and update every link while you are building the new pages.
      • Ensure that internal page links go to the new URL.
      • Re-link PDFs and other media files with the URL found in the new site’s media library. See our tutorial on Linking to Documents in the Media Library for instructions.
  6. Final review: When you think you are done importing/migrating and converting all the content, do one final review of the entire new site to make sure nothing is missing. The old site is going to be deactivated, so it is important to ensure all relevant content is transferred over.
  7. Set redirects: If you changed the page structure, parenting of pages, or menu structure, it is best practice to set redirects so that your site visitors can easily find your new site. Now is the time to reference the spreadsheet of changes you made during the migration process. See the following tutorials for instructions:
  8. Launch the new site and sunset the old site. Contact sites@wustl.edu when you are ready to launch the new site.
    • We will work with you on changing the URLs so that the new site has the same URL as the old site, and the old site is no longer visible or searchable.
      • If the old site had a custom domain, we will transfer it to the new site for you at this time.
    • The following final steps should be completed immediately after the URL is changed (within the same day to ensure a seamless transition):
      • Check for broken links. Once the old site has been deactivated, run a link checker and update any broken links. There are several web-based tools available for checking links.
      • Transfer Google Analytics to the new site. If you used Google Analytics to track site traffic on your old site, it is important to remove the tracking code from the old site and assign it to the new site at the same time that the new site launches so that you do not lose any data. Transferring the code to the new site will ensure a seamless data set between the old site and the new.
      • Make the site visible to search engines. At the same time, I will hide the old site from search engines so that anyone searching for your site will find the new one. It can sometimes take a while for Googles servers to catch up to the change, so expect the old site to still come up in search results for a week or two.

We are here to support you throughout your site conversion process!

Please bookmark webtheme.wustl.edu for quick reference for managing your site in the new editor. The following resources will be especially helpful as you begin to work with the editor:

Editing content in the new Web Theme is very different than the legacy theme of your old site. We encourage you to sign up for training to learn more about the block editor and working in the new theme. The following courses are offered monthly:

  • Intro to the Basics will introduce you to WordPress and basic features of the new editor.
  • Advanced Tools delves into some of the more robust features of the Web Theme, such as custom post types, events and forms.

Feel free to reach out to us at sites@wustl.edu with any questions.