We commenced work on the project in August 2014 along with our design partners at Project Projects, based in the Lower East Side. Through a series of internal ideation sessions and co-design sessions with the Poets.org team we imagined what the future of poetry online could look like and set to work realising that vision.
As a result we worked to address the following challenges:
The technical considerations for the Poets.org project dominated the early stages of planning and discussions and for obvious reasons. As part of our approach, we chose Drupal 6 as the framework to drive the content management system of the site. To manage the very high traffic load we worked with Acquia as a hosting partner and overlayed Cloudflare for caching.
The next challenge was migrating 60,000+ pieces of content across from the existing site, which was built in 1996 but had a range of hacks performed since its birth. This was an extremely labor intensive job. Content types were different in many instances, so while the migration scripts we wrote were useful, we had to employ a team to manually go through content.
One of the challenges was keeping the “form” of poetry the same when shared by people across the internet. A poem is not just a sequence of words. Line spacing is incredibly important to the structure of a poem. So we invented an embeddable poem format that allowed the public to embed poems easily into blogs and social networks for the first time.
Creating a new way of sharing poetry was not enough for the project team. Lead by Commercial Type founder Christian Schwartz and guided by Project Project’s design lead Rob Giampietro, we created and encoded a brand new font for Poets.org. “Poets Electra” was born as result and can be seen across the site.
Making poetry mobile was by far the overarching theme of the Poets.org project so that meant that a great deal of consideration was given to how poetry could be presented and read on an iPhone or Android device. In the end we created an adaptive mobile theme, opting for more control and precision over what responsive styling offered in 2014.
Finally, to add to the many moving parts of the project, as a team we committed to launching the new platform during national poetry in March 2015. After a few false starts and last minute enhancement, we launched the platform in the third week of National Poetry Month.