Chris Wiegman Chris Wiegman

Site Migrations are Hard

This past weekend a friend asked for help with migrating her WordPress site. Her existing hosting was to be cut off today (with only 24 hours notice) and she had no idea how to move it to new hosting.

Years ago, when I worked solely within WordPress, this would’ve been easy for me. I never did get into migration plugins or any tools like that, I got very efficient at moving sites as long as I had server access like (S)FTP and access to my laptop.

This weekend, not so much. She was moving from one identical domain to another and had no server access at all. While I was able to assist with the domain move in DNS (a system I still know well) I quickly fell apart when I started using the WordPress plugin she had available to migrate the site as, while it could completely export a site, it couldn’t import it’s own export data into the new site.

I’ve been around WordPress for a very long time. It’s done me well as a developer and has held my attention because, at least on the service, its tech isn’t as predatory as big-tech firms and I never felt like I was doing something immoral working with WordPress. The problem is that, today, WordPress has left me and many others behind.

We had to bring in a 3rd friend, who specializes just in site migrations, to help us move this little site of only a dozen or so pages. I struggled with the “easier” hosting options available to her and my friend who owns the site and works in WordPress support herself simply didn’t have the skills to do the job.

In the pursuit of “easy” I feel like we’ve made WordPress harder than ever. From getting started with a site itself to writing the code for a site to relatively “simple” tasks like switching hosts, the amount of knowledge needed to own a WordPress site has become anything but “easy.”

Hosts like WP Engine (where I work) and many others are doing a great job at trying to solve this problem but there is only so much they can do. WordPress Core, in its push for design above all else, including content management, just isn’t a user-friendly tool for anyone who has to work on it and it’s long-past time for the team building it to refocus on what made WordPress a great choice in the first place, managing the sites themselves.

It shouldn’t take 3 experienced WordPress people to move a small site between hosts 20 years after the software was first released. This is a failure of the project and, if the project is to survive another 20 years, absolutely needs urgent attention.

I’m not giving up on WordPress yet. It is still, thanks to the hosts, one of the best choices for building a site today but that advantage seems to be quickly fading and I do hope the project can address it before it’s too late.