We looked around at some other content systems but found them all to be too restrictive - one of our requirements was the ability to roll out new structured content formats without having to do a lot of dev work. Then we found EE, and it fit the bill perfectly.
Congratulations on the relaunch of Penny Arcade! Many of us here at EllisLab are fans so we are ecstatic that you chose ExpressionEngine. Can you tell us about the site in general? What are the goals of the site and the main audience?
Penny Arcade has existed in one form or another since 1998. It’s made up of a comic and accompanying news post every Mon/Wed/Fri. We have a searchable archive of comics, as well as space for special projects and Penny Arcade TV, which hosts a number of web shows including Penny Arcade: The Series and Blamimations. The site needs to be able to present all of this content in an intuitive and attractive manner, to a pretty diverse demographic.
Can you tell us about the team that worked on Penny Arcade?
The redesign was handled entirely by myself and Erika, our designer. Besides being an incredible visual designer, Erika has ridiculous experience implementing cross-browser compatible designs. She was able to handle most of the work of turning her own production-ready HTML and CSS into ExpressionEngine templates, while I took care of getting our server infrastructure set up, as well as writing some custom plugins to handle our unorthodox pagination/aggregation requirements.
What was your major consideration in using ExpressionEngine for this?
Our previous content management system was an in-house Django app that we considered just rewriting, but we were working with an extremely short timeline. We looked around at some other content systems but found them all to be too restrictive - one of our requirements was the ability to roll out new structured content formats (like PA Presents, or PATV) without having to do a lot of dev work. Then we found EE, and it fit the bill perfectly.
Are you using any Addons? If so, which ones? How did they help?
Besides the custom plugins we wrote, we’re using a number of third party modules to run the site. We used AJW DataGrab to import all our old content into EE and Deeploy Helper when we were ready to move everything from our test server to our production server. Day-to-day, we use Solspace’s Super Search module to handle our archive searching and DevDemon’s Tagger for tagging organization.
What is next on the plate for Penny Arcade? Any additional functionality you can tell us about?
We’re always busy with new projects! We recently launched The Trenches (trenchescomic.com), a joint project between the creators of Penny Arcade and PvP Online. It’s also built within the same EE system, using Multiple Site Manager to keep things organized. Keep an eye on @PA_Megacorp for more on our future projects!
What is the part of this project you are most proud of?
I think Erika and I are most happy with the way the finished product turned out. It was a lot of little challenges, getting to know how EE did things, making tradeoffs between the speed of using third party plugins vs getting it just right and writing our own, that sort of thing. But once we started wiring everything together and had all our old content moved over, it really started to feel like a site we could be proud of.
Do you have any other information you’d like to share with the community? Tips from this project you’d like to share? Lessons you’ve learned?
The EE community has been particularly helpful when we’ve been stuck on some issue or another - if the documentation doesn’t have an answer, make sure to check the forums!