Case Study: IGN doubles community with flexible CMS WordPress


When IGN outgrew its homegrown content management system, they needed a CMS that would support the entire scope of the site and all its content. More importantly the CMS had to make it easy for their users to contribute content and for their editors to publish it. They found that solution in WordPress, and their blog community has doubled because of it.

Choosing a CMS with Core Features and Extensibility

“The reason we chose WordPress was based on the fact that it really is a robust and flexible content management system, and also the fact that it has a large community of developers who are continually updating it” – Jim McQuillan, Senior Software Developer, IGN.

IGN chose WordPress because it was a CMS that could go beyond a blog. They chose their extensive Blogs and Cheats sections as the first pieces to migrate off their legacy CMS, but the eventual goal will be to have the entire site running on WordPress.

“For blogs, WordPress is a pretty obvious choice. But we weren’t looking for something for only blogs, we were looking for a content management system in general because the entire company was on a legacy blog system. The bread and butter of IGN is articles, whether they are a game review or news. It’s all this content. So we’re looking to slowly over time get each of those into our new content management system, which is run by WordPress,” Jim McQuillan, Senior Software Engineer at IGN, said.

The fact that WordPress is open source was another draw, so they could easily expand on it with any custom code as needed.

“The reason we chose WordPress was based on the fact that it really is a robust and flexible content management system, and also the fact that it has a large community of developers who are continually updating it,” McQuillan said.

Getting up to speed with WordPress development

McQuillan was the only backend developer on the IGN migration project, and it was his first project of this magnitude with WordPress. He relied on the WordPress Codex and many articles written by other WordPress community members and developers for best practices, tips, and tricks.

“Before this project, I had only done some very basic development with WordPress. I spent some time studying the code base, and what WordPress could do, and what we found is that it’s flexible enough to do pretty much anything you want to do and anything else can be done through a plugin,” McQuillan said.

WordPress is an integral part of IGN’s publishing workflow. Whenever a post is published it’s posted out to IGN’s content repository, which is running on MongoDB, as well as being saved into the MySQL database. They have developed a custom frontend which renders and presents the content.

“We’ve made a bunch of customizations to WordPress, but the one great thing about WordPress is that we really didn’t have to touch the core of WordPress at all. We were able to do everything through the plugin system,” McQuillan said.

Engaging with and Empowering the IGN Community

“Oh. This is WordPress! I know WordPress, I love it!” – IGN Community members

Since IGN is a site that is powered largely by its community, they informed them in the early stages of the plans to migrate to a new blog and cheats system for their submissions. The reactions were negative, at first, but the community quickly warmed up to WordPress as the new site’s platform.

“Originally, our end users weren’t overjoyed when they heard we were changing our blog system. Everyone is resistant to change. But as soon as they saw what we were launching they said, ‘Oh. This is WordPress! I know WordPress, I love it,’ so all of the sudden everyone loved what we did,” said Jim.

WordPress powers IGN’s one-click-to-publish submission system for community members. Submissions are sent in by users, which are then reviewed by IGN editors and with a single click, they can publish them and they’ll now be live on the site. Prior to this method, an email form was used that would then have to be reformatted, edited, and entered into IGN’s CMS system manually.

“Managing our vast legacy database of video game cheat codes, hints, passwords was a daunting task. All of that is gone now. In its place is a WordPress-based system with a new submission system that streamlines this. These submissions can then be approved and published instantly, edited or deleted right from the queue,” IGN editor Samuel Claiborn said. “WordPress gives our readers tools to create better content, and it gives me the tools to edit that content and publish it all from a single place. And I’m happy to report that the obscene submissions are at an all time low (and still funny).”

IGN editors are also looking forward to the day when they can create content on WordPress, which will change once the rest of their site is migrated as well.

“For editors, it has made us bitter because we don’t use it for entering articles. For bloggers, it’s revitalized the community. The legacy system was so complicated and unintuitive, posts would get eaten for no reason, the whole thing was clunky, and only the hardcore folks used it,” said Greg Miller, Executive Editor, IGN PlayStation.

Submissions aren’t the only thing that has changed for IGN, their Blogs section is also booming.

“Part of it is IGN’s push to make a stronger community with My IGN, but the streamlined blogs have given a voice to our most casual readers. I see more blogs now than I ever did in the old system. The photos, the novels, and the quick hits. We had a blogger reporting on the tsunami from Japan, kids host their podcasts on the site — it’s a place where everyone feels like they can have a voice and have it without being hassled,” said Miller.

Growing Traffic and Ease-of-Use

Since IGN has launched the new sites, they’ve had a huge improvement in traffic. For the first five years IGN had blogs on their site, about 25,000 blogs were created. In the year since they launched with WordPress, they’ve already doubled that number, and more, and believe this is also due to the ease-of-use of WordPress.

The rest of the IGN website will be following behind, and Jim has set aside a few minutes to get WordPress ready for this new content. “To bring over the rest of the projects, it’s going to take around 10 minutes to create a new post type. The rest will be front end work and the presentation side of things. But as far as WordPress goes, it’s ready,” said McQuillan.

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