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Skin Change / Site Redesign

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Basic Member

Basic Member


    After more than a decade I want to update our web site's skin or theme as it is called now.

    What's the best way to do it?

    Usually I take a backup of our live site for example on Friday and then make all changes on my local dev system. When I am done I make a backup and restore it on the live site. Of course this can only be done if nothing important changed on the live system over the weekend, like invoiced orders.

    Another way I used before, to update modules for example is to use a backup locally and write some step-by-step instructions that I, once everything works fine, peform on the live system.

    Now with the skin update, I am sure that I cannot do it over the weekend. It will take a longer period of time.

    Is it best to use the export/import functionality? I have never used that feature except recently to import some templates that came with the new themes. Is this a good way to prepare the site on my dev system and then just import all the pages (presentation layer) without missing any data (data layer)? Because my backup method usually back's up and restores both presentation and data.

    I wouldn't mind if it could be done on the live site temporary in some new folder like www.ourdomain.com/new but I guess if using that URL I will later have to update it in a lot of places when it should become www.ourdomain.com again and maybe I'll miss some of them.

    Or is there some other way?


    Veteran Member

    Veteran Member


      when I am doing upgrades, I do them in my testing environment (backup after every successful step), and add all the extension upgrades necessary in the upgrade package. I write down all the steps necessary, then start all over again and when the upgrade works fine, I apply it to the production environment. See here for more information about the upgrade process, esp. the step to take the site offline.

      Happy DNNing!

      Michael Tobisch

      dnnWerk Austria
      DNN Connect

      Veteran Member

      Veteran Member

        I wouldn't use the export/import feature, there are a number of caveats, that might not result in a complete transfer.
        If you concentrate on skin and container and are able to make sure, all your modifications (especially CSS and JS) are stored in CSS files located in the skin (and the container) folder, you should be able to transfer the design from your local dev to production by just copying both folders. Now you would just need to apply the design to your site - If panned properly, this should be possible during a short maintenance period. You should prepare properly and write down all steps you need to apply the theme via admin UI or by using SQL (settings named DefaultPortalSkin, DefaultAdminSkin, DefaultPortalContainer and DefaultAdminContainer in portalsettings, skinsrc as well as columns containerSrc in tables tabs, tabmodules).

        Basic Member

        Basic Member

          Thank you Michael and Sebastian.

          I have the server virtualized on my desktop and like to make snapshots after each step so I can easily roll back if something goes wrong, or move back to the initial state to test my step-by-step instructions before rolling them out.

          Unfortunately the changes are not just the layout. A lot of the content will change and the new theme has different panes and such. We also move from a design that shows multiple pages connected with "Next" and "Previous" buttons to a single page layouts where users will have to scroll a lot. Thanks to Facebook, Twitter and co they are used to that and love it.

          The new theme uses bootstrap and there a lot of nice things included like FAQs, carousels, tabs and so on and we want to make use of those.

          I could try to port it as good as possible, only switching the theme for each page and adjust for the panes. The site will look bad during that period. Then I could work on the live site to make it look good again and use the included theme features, which may take multiple days.

          I just thought there maybe some way to prevent this transition period and directly move from old to new.

          Edit: So, even if I make the changes on an identical copy of the productive site, both with the same modules and themes installed, I will get into some problems with Export/Import?

          Veteran Member

          Veteran Member

            I don't see a chance to avoid the redesign period.
            1. clone the site,
            2. prevent changes on the old one
            3. update the clone until it is ready for a relaunch
            4. move over changes from old site to new site, that happened although 2.
            5. replace old site by new one

            Basic Member

            Basic Member

              Thank you Sebastian. Then I will do the re-design offline on my PC and when I'm done merge the local database with the relevant changes of the production DB. That should be mostly user registrations and the tables from our store. Once merged I can move all of it (file system + SQL DB) back to the web server. That should be possible. :)

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