Spotlight: Kenny Meyers - Omni Group
March 9, 2010
by Jacob Russell
This week we spotlight web guru extraordinaire Kenny Meyers and the site he built for The Omni Group.
Our “Spotlight” series of articles gives designers, developers, add-on creators, and just generally great members of the ExpressionEngine community a chance to talk about how they have used EE and its add-ons in their work.
Kenny Meyers is a well-known web-developer and ExpressionEngine enthusiast. He works at Virb, freelances on the side, helped keep EE Insider rolling for many months, and is perhaps most famous as man who taught Johnny Depp how to act like a pirate in ‘Pirates of the Caribbean.’ He’s here today to talk to us about a new project he developed for Mac and iPhone software developer Omni Group.
How did you get started with ExpressionEngine?
I started working with ExpressionEngine in 2008 when I joined Blue Flavor (now I’m at Virb). Before that, I had previously tried to understand it, but didn’t really understand it. Ryan [Irelan]‘s screencasts made a significant contribution to learning it. He doesn’t pay me for those referrals either, so it’s a wonder I keep making them.
I find with ExpressionEngine there is a weird learning curve at the beginning, due to some poor word-choices like weblog and the pre-built-in field types. This is now fixed in 2.0. The awkward learning period is almost overwhelming, but when it’s done you enter a honeymoon phase. Then you learn about the display class…
What is this site, and why is it special?
Omni Group is a software company that makes really popular Mac software. They also make a really popular iPhone application. I really appreciate that Omni has the balls (UK re:stones, CANADA re: baulls) to charge what they charge for their products. $80 for a task manager, and $20 for an iPhone app is a lot to ask, but they’re really powerful applications. They also make OmniGraffle, which is a popular tool for prototyping, wire-framing among other things. Some great tools there.
This site is special because I am. This is what my mother told me, and I’ve never known her to lie.
What add-ons are you using on that site?
This site makes heavy use of Playa 2. Each product is an entry with several playa fields relating to other entries. This way I can pull up some generic product data for each section. Again, this increases the number of queries, but I found the site still runs well with caching, etc.
They also use Wygwam, which Omni really loved. It’s hard to get over that technical disconnect sometimes where you think a WYSIWYG editor will let your client destroy the design. Wygwam does an excellent job, however. We did run into some issues with it in terms of page load speed. If you use Wygwam with FF Matrix and have a lot of Matrix rows, the slowdown can really hamper and in some cases freeze a page. I haven’t tried Wygwam 2, so I’m unsure if it’s fixed.
We also use Leevi Graham’s NSM Publish Plus, but found several of its features unusable. It’s a good add-on, but it doesn’t enforce entry statuses. People have to go look for where the tab is and set both an entry status and an NSM P+ status. They never did that. They did like the revision control though, but there’s some education on what’s a draft and what’s a revision. LG Addon Updater is in there, as well as LG Site Name: both excellent.
We also discovered that FF Matrix changes with revisions would cause publication issues. Items wouldn’t be updated. We never determined the source of the conflict. Yeah, we also used FieldFrame with FF Matrix and nGen File. The BK Suite with bacon a la Boyle.
Were there any particularly challenging parts of this site that required creative solutions? What add-ons were involved with that?
There are some pretty funky (RE: James Brown) URLs going on in the products section, stuff that fights ExpressionEngine’s basic nature of template_group/template URLs. To create them I would build controller templates, essentially if/else clauses that would then use embed to load a template. There’s a cost to doing that though, because you load the template parser each time. However, I found the speed to be negligible and the site holds up pretty well under stress.
Speed optimizations are great, but at a certain point s*** just needs to work.
What is the greatest need you have on this site that you wish were met by an EE add-on?
There are no good Twitter extensions. All the ones out there do one or two things well. However, none handle multiple accounts well.
There are a lot of add-ons in the EE world now, which ones do you find most useful throughout your work?
Brandon Kelly’s are great. I know he goes by Pixel & Tonic but he’ll always be the BK Broiler to me. Leevi Graham has an excellent suite of tools as well. I think my favorite recent add-ons are from Stephen Lewis: Bucketlist and Field Formatting are awesome tools.