Revolution Brewing

2nd May, 2012 ✭ by Static Interactive

You hear it repeated over and over again, but it can’t be understated how helpful, open and giving this community really is. The amount of high quality, educational resources available is amazing.

What can you tell us about the team that built the Revolution Brewing Site?

The site was a close collaboration from start to finish between myself (Static Interactive) and Ian Law. At the outset we worked together, along with Revolution, to map out the general architecture and content outline. From there, Ian handled all of the design and I tackled the front-end and ExpressionEngine development. Content editing for the initial launch was done by Julie Schumacher at Well Turned Words.

What can you tell us about the site in general? What are the goals of the site and the main audience?

Revolution is a local and beloved brewpub in Chicago, known for producing dozens of noteworthy craft beers each year. WIth a new brewery, one of the largest in Illinois, in the works, they wanted a website that better reflected their overall brand, brewpub experience, and growing success.

We chose to make the site responsive, which was a rather easy conclusion to come to given that almost 25% of their traffic comes from mobile and tablet users—many of whom are looking to check out the latest beer release, upcoming event, or menu special while out and about.

They also needed an online store to sell their merchandise and special event tickets on the front-end and a way to easily track orders, inventory, and ticket information on the back-end.

What was your major consideration in using ExpressionEngine for this?

To me, ExpressionEngine’s trump card is its templating system and the way it handles content. 

The open-ended flexibility of EE’s templating tags weave seamlessly into my html markup. This makes it feel like the CMS is working for me, and in ways that make sense for my workflow. It makes my job easier and more enjoyable. It’s magical stuff, really.

I come from a design background, and in many ways, still view my development work through the lens of a designer. Beyond a sensitivity to design details, this often means a very content focused approach. The way EE gives me complete control over storing and displaying content meshes perfectly with the way I like to think about planning and building my sites. The things I’m able to do with relative ease using EE I’ve found to be frustrating, illogical, or terribly inefficient with other systems.

Were there any Commercial Add-ons that proved useful? If so, which ones? How did they help?

Absolutely. Add-ons are the special sauce of the EE world.

I’m using heavy doses of Pixel and Tonic’s Playa to create flexibility with how various types of content can be organized, while still keeping the details of the design buttoned up tight. Michael Boyink posted a wonderfully insightful article titled Flexible Sidebars using Playa last year that I’ve found to be a great model for a wide variety of situations. That basic concept drives the admin experience of the tap list, brewpub menu, party package offerings, and, of course, the sidebars.

Solspace’s Calendar is powering all of the event information on the site. I’ve really appreciated how well constructed that guy is. Much like EE, it makes no assumptions about the presentation of the content, which gave us great flexibility in how and where we were presenting event information throughout the site.

The store is backed by CartThrob and CT Admin. This was my first chance to build a custom online store, and I have to tip my hat to Chris and Rob at CartThrob. They proved to be super patient and helpful in holding my hand through some of the initial baby steps. It was a great experience, and one I look forward to building on.

The front-end of the site is a quite a bandwidth hog, with layers of textured graphics, several web fonts, and its fair share of js files. Because of that I wanted to make sure that the CMS side of things wasn’t dragging down the user experience and general load times. The superb trio of Stash, IfElse, and Switchee by Mark Croxton helped keep the templates running efficiently. Automin by Paramore is squeezing the CSS, HTML, and JS. And CE Cache by Causing Effect did the rest. In all seriousness, it can’t be overstated how amazingly amazing CE Cache is at speeding up page rendering. It’s like strapping a jet pack to your server/site.

There are more, but for the sake of (relative) brevity, I’ll stop there. I’m a bit of an add-on whore to be perfectly honest. I’ve read some very compelling articles from the community, making a good, strong case for not going overboard. And I agree, to a point. But I think it’s less about volume, and more about choosing judiciously. I don’t hesitate to purchase and install an add-on that’s been well vetted on devot:ee (or elsewhere) if I think it will make the site better or improve the administrative experience.

Did you do any custom add-on development?

Nope. One of the things I love about ExpressionEngine is its ability to gracefully handle such a wide variety of tasks using nothing more than native functionality and incredibly well crafted add-ons. It allows me to say yes to more, and more interesting, projects than I likely would be able to responsibly and confidently handle otherwise.

What is next on the plate for the Revolution Brewing Site? Any additional functionality you can tell us about?

Nothing major at the moment. There’s a beer finder that will ultimately be tied to Google maps that’s currently on the back-burner. I think everyone is just excited to see the site live for now.

And this was my first major crack at a responsive site. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the opportunity to do much with serving device appropriate images. That’s something I’d love to have the chance to swing back around to down the road.

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?

Oh man, I wish I had something wonderfully helpful or insightful to share here, as I’ve been on the receiving end of so much goodness from the EE community the last couple of years.

I guess I’d say that if you’re not already doing so, soak up everything you can from the various EE informational resources out there. Find an RSS reader you like and subscribe to every EE based feed you can (prominent studio blogs, Devot:ee, EE Insider, and the EE Podcast just to name a few). It will dramatically speed up your learning curve if you’re just starting out. You hear it repeated over and over again, but it can’t be understated how helpful, open and giving this community really is. The amount of high quality, educational resources available is amazing.

It wasn’t long ago that my business was comprised almost entirely of building complex Flash websites. I’ll never forget the day Steve Jobs essentially declared Flash to be a dead in the water. I wake up every day thankful that I was able to successfully make the leap to working with ExpressionEngine.

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