The archival community has developed content and data structure standards to facilitate access to the diverse and unique sets of archival records, personal papers, and manuscript collections that are held by archival repositories and special collections libraries. However, these standards are difficult for archivists to use and are often implemented in ways that negatively affect materials-handling workflows, depriving archival users of the best possible access to the totality of materials available within an individual repository. The authors propose that archival descriptive problems can be addressed by implementing a web/database application that is tailored specifically to archival needs and can be implemented with little technical knowledge. This paper describes the system architecture of one such tool, the Archon software package, which was developed at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Archon automates many technical tasks, such as producing a searchable website, an EAD instance or a MARC record. Although the system utilizes sophisticated algorithms and optimizations, it is easily extensible because most development takes place in an easy-to-use, object-oriented environment.