<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=1639164799743833&amp;ev=PageView&amp;noscript=1">
Diagram Views

The Difference Between a CMS Migration and Website Redesign

Chris Osterhout SVP of Strategy
#CMS, #Digital Strategy, #cloud
Published on May 29, 2024

Distinguishing between CMS migration and website redesign is crucial. Both processes enhance site functionality and user experience, shaping business success. This article breaks down each strategy, helping organizations harness technology for growth and improved customer engagement.

Today, more than ever, the performance and efficiency of a website can significantly impact a company's success. One of the crucial aspects that influence website performance is the Content Management System (CMS). Migrating to a new CMS or redesigning an existing website are strategic decisions that organizations face when looking to enhance digital performance. However, these are distinct processes, each with specific benefits and considerations. 

What is CMS Migration? 

CMS Migration refers to the process of moving a website's engine — its CMS — from one platform to another. This process is common for organizations that need enhanced functionality, better user management, or more robust security features that their current platform cannot provide. Migrations can vary widely in complexity, depending on the platform, the amount of content, and the specific needs of the business. However, the decision-making process can be complex, particularly when organizations are faced with choosing whether to combine it with a website redesign or to handle them as independent projects.

What is a Website Redesign?

A website redesign involves a comprehensive update and reconfiguration of a website's structure, visual design, content, and functionality. It aims to enhance user experience, improve aesthetics, and align the website with current web standards and technologies. Typically, this process involves reassessing and potentially reworking the site's user interface and user experience (UI/UX) designs, updating content to reflect current messaging and SEO best practices, and ensuring the site is adaptable to various devices and screen sizes. A redesign can also address issues like slow load times, poor navigation, or outdated visuals, which can deter user engagement. The goal is to create a more effective, efficient, and engaging online presence that better serves the needs of its audience and supports the organization's objectives. 

Exploring Different Types of CMS Migrations 

CMS migrations come in several forms, each addressing different strategic needs. Deciding on which approach to take often hinges on several factors, each adding layers of complexity to the migration process. Let's explore these types in detail: 

Lift and Shift CMS Migration 

The term "lift and shift" is often used loosely in discussions about CMS migrations, but it's important to understand its specific meaning. A lift and shift CMS migration refers to moving an existing system from one hosting environment to another without changing the CMS itself. For example, this could mean migrating from an on-premises version of Umbraco to Umbraco Cloud, where the infrastructure changes but the CMS remains the same.  

However, lift and shift does not apply when switching from one CMS to another, such as moving from WordPress to Umbraco. Such migrations require not just a change in infrastructure but also significant changes in how the content is managed and structured, which often necessitates adjustments to the site’s content and structure.  

Opting for a lift and shift can be appealing, especially for organizations looking to migrate their existing digital assets quickly and cost-effectively without altering the user interface. This approach maintains a consistent user experience and minimizes the need for extensive staff retraining. It is particularly beneficial for companies with limited budgets or those facing tight deadlines to meet compliance requirements or achieve system integrations. 

Redesign + Platform CMS Migration 

This approach entails a full redesign of the website’s interface combined with migrating to a new CMS. Migrating the CMS in this way can tackle issues like outdated user interfaces or poor user experiences, which may be impeding the website's effectiveness. Undertaking both a redesign and migration generally results in a more extensive overhaul, updating the website’s design and functionality to meet modern standards and potentially increasing user engagement and conversion rates. However, this method demands a significant initial investment and typically extends the project timeline. It also introduces higher risks during the transition, such as potential disruptions to user experience and internal operations. 

Platform CMS Migration with No Redesign 

While transitioning to a new CMS platform and retaining the existing design and user interface might seem straightforward, this strategy is relatively uncommon and often more complex than anticipated. Rarely is there an exact feature parity between different CMS platforms, meaning some level of redesign or reconfiguration is typically necessary to rebuild functionality effectively. If organizations must rebuild functionalities to fit the new platform, it often makes sense to consider redesigning the user interface to enhance overall utility and aesthetics at the same time.  

These projects might initially seem like a logical choice due to perceived simplicity and cost-effectiveness, but they frequently end up taking longer and costing more than expected due to unforeseen technical challenges and the need for additional adjustments to ensure the new system meets all operational needs. 
Choosing the right CMS migration strategy is crucial for aligning an organization’s digital infrastructure with its strategic goals. It requires a thoughtful consideration of the benefits, risks, and broader impact on the organization’s operations and user experience. By carefully assessing their specific requirements, businesses can make informed decisions that not only address immediate needs but also pave the way for future growth and innovation in an increasingly digital world. 

How do you determine the right time to migrate to a new CMS or to redesign your website? 

After understanding the different CMS migration approaches, you might be wondering how to decide when the time is right to make the switch. Determining the right time to migrate to a new CMS or redesign your website involves evaluating several key factors. Typically, the decision is driven by the need to address systemic issues such as declining performance, difficulties in content management, or inadequate user experience that no longer meets the expectations of modern users.  

If your current CMS no longer supports the rapid deployment of new features, or if it struggles with integrations that are critical for your business operations, it might be time to consider a migration. Similarly, if your website’s design is outdated, resulting in high bounce rates and low conversion, a redesign might be necessary to realign the website with current digital trends and improve user engagement. Organizations also need to assess their growth needs and whether their current platform can scale effectively. The decision should align with strategic business goals, aiming for improvements in operational efficiency, customer satisfaction, and overall digital presence. Below are a few resources that might help clarify timing for your business:  

  1. Choosing the Right Cloud CMS: Key Factors to Consider – This article will explain the differences between the variety of CMS platforms on the market and explore critical considerations when it comes to CMS selection. 
  2. You Should Migrate Your CMS to the Cloud – Our guide will walk you through the differences between traditional hosting options for CMS migrations vs cloud-based options. 
  3. Cloud CMS Migration: Costs, Benefits & Insights – This article will help you understand the costs associated with CMS migrations. 
  4. Website Content Migration and Knowing What to Keep – The following content will help you assess your content migration needs as part of a CMS migration process. 
  5. CMS Cloud Mastery: Overcoming Migration Challenges (Webinar) – This free on-demand webinar will dive into the complexities of moving to a cloud CMS platform, providing insights and strategies to navigate these challenges effectively. 
  6. Cloud CMS Migration White Paper – If you are looking for a comprehensive deep dive into the world of CMS migrations, this free white paper is for you. 
  7. Logistical Things to Consider During a CMS Migration – This section will provide you with specific areas to consider during a CMS migration as well as additional resources. 


As businesses navigate their relationship with technology, decisions surrounding a CMS and website design take on strategic significance. Understanding the nuances between CMS migration and website redesign—distinct but often overlapping activities—is important for improving functionality and user experience. Organizations should leverage these decisions as part of a comprehensive digital transformation strategy aligned with their long-term goals. 

By adopting this strategic approach, companies can ensure that their technology choices are proactive, supporting sustained growth, enhancing customer interactions, and securing a competitive edge. The aim is not only to benefit in the short term but also to establish a robust foundation that supports ongoing improvement and prepares for future technological advancements. This forward-thinking mindset is vital for maintaining agility and responsiveness in a rapidly changing digital landscape.