Score 5.7 out of 10


What is ExpressionEngine?

ExpressionEngine is a content management system from EllisLab in 2002, a successor to pMachine Pro, a blogging system, which is written in object-oriented PHP and uses MySQL for data storage. ExpressionEngine is their flagship Content Delivery Platform.
Read more

Recent Reviews

Read all reviews

Popular Features

View all 16 features
  • Role-based user permissions (32)
  • Admin section (31)
  • Code quality / cleanliness (31)
  • Availability / breadth of extensions (31)

Video Reviews

Leaving a video review helps other professionals like you evaluate products. Be the first one in your network to record a review of ExpressionEngine, and make your voice heard!

Return to navigation


View all pricing



One Time Fee

Entry-level set up fee?

  • No setup fee


  • Free Trial
  • Free/Freemium Version
  • Premium Consulting / Integration Services
Return to navigation

Product Demos

10-Minute ExpressionEngine Primer
Return to navigation



This component helps a company minimize the security risks by controlling access to the software and its data, and encouraging best practices among users.

9.9Avg 8.0

Platform & Infrastructure

Features related to platform-wide settings and structure, such as permissions, languages, integrations, customizations, etc.

8Avg 7.7

Web Content Creation

Features that support the creation of website content.

8.6Avg 7.6

Web Content Management

Features for managing website content

8Avg 7.4
Return to navigation

Product Details

What is ExpressionEngine?

ExpressionEngine is an open source content management system developed by EllisLab in 2002 as a successor to pMachine Pro, a blogging system, which is written in object-oriented PHP and uses MySQL for data storage. EllisLab closed in 2018, but ExpressionEngine is still available, as an open source CMS.

With CodeIgniter, an agile, open-source framework, web professionals can use ExpressionEngine to build websites and applications. The software is meant to be useful for companies of any size and private individuals as well, and to that end it is highly customizable, and implementation may vary. Like many content management systems, various add-ons will determine what the system does, though the core features are somewhat broader than similarly classed free offerings. The Multiple Site Manager allows a user to create and manage multiple sites from a single ExpressionEngine installation. Nexcess (a partner) provides a hosting environment for an ExpressionEngine-powered website.

ExpressionEngine Video

10-Minute ExpressionEngine Primer

ExpressionEngine Technical Details

Deployment TypesSoftware as a Service (SaaS), Cloud, or Web-Based
Operating SystemsUnspecified
Mobile ApplicationNo

Frequently Asked Questions

ExpressionEngine is a content management system from EllisLab in 2002, a successor to pMachine Pro, a blogging system, which is written in object-oriented PHP and uses MySQL for data storage. ExpressionEngine is their flagship Content Delivery Platform.

Reviewers rate Role-based user permissions and Admin section and Publishing workflow highest, with a score of 9.9.

The most common users of ExpressionEngine are from Small Businesses (1-50 employees).
Return to navigation


View all alternatives
Return to navigation


(1-25 of 60)
Companies can't remove reviews or game the system. Here's why
Score 9 out of 10
Vetted Review
Verified User
ExpressionEngine has completely transformed the way we manage our website. This is our first CMS and it has been a life-saver when it comes to making instant updates or creating/editing content across all of the different pages. We have specific templates designed to fit our brand, our products, and our wireframe.
  • Editor contains preview windows to check work before saving changes.
  • Each section has a WYSIWYG which instructs users on the dimensions needed for images.
  • Sometimes, I'm unable to pull from the PDF folder when trying to link a file in the WYSIWYG.
  • Content boxes in certain templates do not expand, which makes it difficult to navigate where the cursor is and keep your place while editing.
ExpressionEngine, for the most part, has a straightforward, user-friendly interface and is far more simplified than any proprietary software that I've used as a website administrator in the past. Sorting through the site structure and creating new pages is a fairly simple process. This CMS may be less appropriate for customers who require far more complicated templates (with a heavy dose of coding) to match their needs.
Robert Bruce Goggins | TrustRadius Reviewer
Score 8 out of 10
Vetted Review
Verified User
ExpressionEngine is taking care of the day-to-day content input and delivery from several departments within the organization. I recommended ExpressionEngine as an alternate/replacement CMS to my colleagues, and the organization as a whole, due to the need to migrate away from the existing CMS. ExpressionEngine resolved a number of issues, including usability, reliability, and consistency in regards to delivering content accurately, something the previous CMS did not.
  • Content is not constrained or controlled by set templates, unlike other CMS.
  • Gives you total control over the look and feel. You decide the design direction and what your visitors will see.
  • The UI is sublime. It's a pleasure to configure and work with.
  • The expandability, flexibility, and customization of the entire system is unsurpassed.
  • The only issue I have with ExpressionEngine is the cost of official support.
ExpressEngine is suitable for almost all business websites requiring a robust, flexible, and totally scalable CMS. However, It is probably not suitable for basic or small personal blogs or similar.
Ben Seigel | TrustRadius Reviewer
Score 6 out of 10
Vetted Review
Verified User
I run a web agency which uses ExpressionEngine and Craft CMS for our small business and organization clients. Both are more refined, flexible, and powerful alternatives to the default to WordPress. Both allow development of custom, non-theme-based websites to fit clients' specific business requirements.
  • Wide range of fields types - allows collection and display of different types of information (date, image, multi-relation, etc.)
  • Security. Excellent security record, does not face hacking risk like WordPress.
  • HTML-agnostic templating system. Write whatever HTML, JS, CSS you want, and then integrate it into ExpressionEngine's templates.
  • UI is still inferior to Craft CMS.
  • Third-party add-ons are required for certain features that ought to be built in to the product.
  • Vendor has fumbled support for its developer network.
  • Upgrading from a previous ExpressionEngine build (v2 or v3).
  • Custom builds that aren't suited to a theme.
  • More complex needs than WordPress can handle natively.
Score 9 out of 10
Vetted Review
Verified User
I worked at an advertising agency that used ExpressionEngine for all their client websites; it was their CMS of choice. All of the developers installed it, set up custom fields and made it meet the client's requests, each site is fully customized for the client. We had a boilerplate set up that enabled us to set up a new install quickly.
  • ExpressionEngine manages content and users extremely well and with ease.
  • ExpressionEngine is reliable and scales for small websites to enterprise websites.
  • ExpressionEngine has a large community following and many reliable plugins.
  • ExpressionEngine makes a ton of calls to the database, so caching is extremely important.
  • ExpressionEngine has a learning curve when learning to set up templates properly.
ExpressionEngine is a good option for a CMS for many people. It scales easily, is reliable and has plenty of plugins to extend functionality. I've used it on small websites and enterprise websites, receiving roughly 15,000 requests daily. It's easy for end users to navigate and easy to manage user roles.
Claudia Lorena Aguilar Ayala | TrustRadius Reviewer
Score 4 out of 10
Vetted Review
Verified User
My husband and I are software developers. We work for companies with websites built in Drupal, ExpressionEngine, WordPress or any php based platform. There is one company using ExpressionEngine for their website. They have forms, user registration, and data display.
  • Simple admin interface for the end user.
  • Generates clean markup for front-end theming.
  • Not flexible enough to create a really custom website.
  • Source control can be a mess since it's mostly database.
  • Data migration even core updates or server migration are not easy to make.
  • Is not an open source license.
Dynamic validations or complex conditionals are hard to accomplish.
February 19, 2016

Great For Novices

Lauren Merka | TrustRadius Reviewer
Score 2 out of 10
Vetted Review
Verified User
We used ExpressionEngine to manage the CMS of one of our smaller sites. It was to be used by a team of writers to collaborate on various topics. They needed to be able to upload images and edit in an efficient manner. We needed a quick way to get a site up that had a built in blog tool and user management.
  • The blog tool was decent.
  • Managing users was easy.
  • It was difficult to alter functionality in the admin section. For example, we needed multiple-file uploading and in order to do this the templates had to be directly altered. This direct manipulation of templates makes it hard to upgrade the version without losing custom changes. Same goes for implementing custom file storage.
ExpressionEngine is better for a company that doesn't have a huge user base or any previously existing database/file storage in place. It's better suited for a company more novice than we are.
Not sure what is meant by support. I mainly searched for documentation to attempt to sort any issues out. Mainly trying to figure out how the hell the plug ins and caching worked. I was able to find most things I needed because they were so surface. Other things were more difficult.
Score 8 out of 10
Vetted Review
Verified User
We used ExpressionEngine as our primary CMS for building web client solutions. Most of these solutions were created with fairly large data architectures, giving full control to various levels of [client] users to make changes to (and organize) data site wide. The biggest solution this offered was easy, quick, reliable content creation and editing for the user.
  • Content architecture. It's very easy to create highly customizable display of content in various pages and templates; equally importantly it's very easy for a user to create the content within these structures.
  • Features / Plugins. Out of the box EE is exceptional for a CMS, but when you add in some of the offered plugins from the EE community, the customization and usability reaches 5 star status.
  • Community. There is a huge, devoted community of power users who contribute to the CMS. Developers create and maintain plugins with full reliability and service. This cannot be said for other CMS's I've used through time.
  • The one drawback I wasn't impressed by was that the entirety of all data - including templates (html / php / etc) was stored in the database. This made complications a few times.
Honestly, from a UI/UX standpoint, EE stands at the top of the mountain. The usability and user interface is leagues beyond any other CMS I have used, which is what the huge appeal is for me. WordPress can leave you confused and uncertain with a very half baked UX. ExpressionEngine's level of detail and ease of use is impressive.
Score 10 out of 10
Vetted Review
Verified User
We use ExpressionEngine as our enterprise CMS solution for the entire university. We host over 10,000 pages, support over 75 departments, train and manage over 200 editors, and serve over 4 million page views per week. After evaluating many commercial CMS solutions, ExpressionEngine was selected for several reasons. First, it was far more affordable than other choices presented to us. Second, our in house skill set was in php development in a LAMP stack environment. Third, it is easily extensible, allowing us to develop custom solutions in house and not be reliant on only solutions provided by the vendor. Out of the box, ExpressionEngine is extremely flexible in regards of how you decide to display cont in the presentation layer.

ExpressionEngine's affordability and flexibility have allowed us to continually enhance our web presence and use the system to build several stand alone web applications.
  • Extremely flexible and extensible
  • Fabulous user and developer community on Twitter, Facebook and Slack Chat.
  • Wide range of third party add-ons that solve many challenges. Ranging from calendars to special field types.
  • Cost of entry is extremely affordable compared to other commercial solutions.
  • Runs on any LAMP server setup. Though, larger installations will require something with more horsepower. We run on a load balanced, 3 server setup.
  • Running Local, Staging, and Production environments takes a bit of work.
  • The Control Panel set up and theme are not great. We usually swap out the theme. Though once you become familiar and set up quick links, it becomes much easier to use.
  • It can be a little resource heavy on large, high traffic sites without some additional caching.
It functions well for a small blog, a catalog site, or a large high traffic site. Some notable sites are Barack Obama, Donald Trump, Garmin, and Pizza Hut.
Score 3 out of 10
Vetted Review
Verified User
ExpressionEngine was used by the marketing department who is the business unit responsible for the company's web presence. The only users in the organization were myself and a few others in the marketing department. The others had access only to post and edit entries in certain areas of the site, where I had access to, and was in charge of all areas of the site and further development. It was used regularly for news releases and updating content.
  • It has very specific user-access controls. You can create custom categories of user access and assign users to any of them. It has the capability to grant very specific access to virtually any area of the site. Assigning new users and deleting old users is very easy as well.
  • The ability to customize the CMS is probably the most robust feature. No site is exactly the same and the live version shouldn't feel like a template. ExpressionEngine makes sure you are in charge of exactly what you need.
  • More and more, there are developers creating great new modules that add higher functionality and customization. Installing and removing modules is very easy.
  • Its no secret that ExpressionEngine is not for beginners in CMS's. While there is certainly a vast network of support available online, EllisLabs does little to help the average/new user. You get the feeling that you more or less need a coding background to understand how to use ExpressionEngine.
  • My particular experience with the install on my company's server had always been 'glitchy'. Whether or not it had to do with our hosting or something else, I will never know. But I think compatibility with different server types is something that EllisLabs could address.
  • It seems to me that on some level, ExpressionEngine could certainly automate template building. Building templates relies heavily on the user to code everything. The user must manually create their own templates, which is one of the better capabilities of ExpressionEngine, but on some level, there could be shortcuts to automating/generating ExpressionEngine code. This would be especially helpful for newer users to adapt to template building.
If a particular site is going to be developed and managed by the same person, I would recommend. Specifically in in-house roles. Otherwise, learning ExpressEngine code is very time consuming in order to just get something up and running. When selecting ExpressEngine, you should ask yourself if this is something that will be utilized for years to come. In my opinion, the learning curve is so high, it really is a commitment for using long-term.
Mike Griffiths | TrustRadius Reviewer
Score 5 out of 10
Vetted Review
Verified User
We used ExpressionEngine to run our news website. We took advantage of the CMS tools that ExpressionEngine offered and used many add-ons and modules to accomplish what we wanted to do. The entire organization was based around the development of the website that was powered by ExpressionEngine. Without the CMS tools, we would not have been able to easily publish our content.
  • ExpressionEngine offers a customizable publishing tool. Each channel can be customized for its specific needs.
  • ExpressionEngine offers simple APIs that allows for many add-ons to be developed.
  • ExpressionEngine's short codes make it easy to accomplish advanced coding tasks.
  • PHP parsing was always an issue when creating templates.
  • Upgrading ExpressionEngine was a difficult task. Many times I had to run the install more than once or recover from a backup.
  • Disabling add-ons and modules sometimes resulted in major issues with the database.
Do you need a tool that will allow your client to publish their own content?
Do you need a tool that will allow the client to create custom publishing fields?
Hercules Schonfeldt | TrustRadius Reviewer
Score 10 out of 10
Vetted Review
Verified User
The software's administrative features include admin logs, site membership, searchable (and search-and-replace) content forums, data export, a blacklist/whitelist module, SQL and extension manager, which are all tools that come standard with this content management system. In fact, Expression Engine is equipped with the full complement of management elements we looked for in CMS software.
  • We noticed extensive capabilities in the area of user management. The application allows for multiple administrators so that work can be spread out through multiple resources at a company rather than bottlenecking with the web developer.
  • ExpressionEngine has gained a significant following through its high level of customization and ease of use. The interface is straightforward and offers easy access to both front-end and back-end editing. Because this CMS software is open source, you get the best of both worlds. You can add to your website’s functionality through the use of PHP, which means the functionality you desire from a website is easily within reach. For the non-technical user, you can simply work on your site from a simple front-end interface with a simple navigation.
  • For functionality and flexibility, ExpressionEngine content management system software is a versatile option for operations large and small. It has obviously extended its reach to many professional websites, which is evidenced on the front page of their product site.
  • ExpressionEngine has a thriving community base filled with veteran CMS users who can help you with questions through the community forum. For the programming-savvy individual, you have access to a developer portal complete with documentation, forums and tips for increasing your knowledge of the software.
  • Very powerful CMS. Expressionengine can be thought of as a database, where you create your collections and tables and define all sorts of fields for them. Then you can gather the information in this collections any way you want and show it on front-end or at the backend.
  • EE very easy to setup. For a site that is based on eCommerce/ Articles / News this CMS is excellent.
  • Plugin, Module installation should be with ease. Upload as zip - install.
  • Multisite function should be included with purchase and not be as separate module and restriction to 3 sites - it should be infinite.
This is the best CMS on a market for developers. Turn your eCommerce or News Siet project to a winner with Brilliantretail module and simple plugins. Anything can be accomplished without breaking your neck! No project will be brilliant without ExpressionEngine. Devot-ee is the place for all plugins needed to accomplish any project your client desires.
Community for Expressionengine is growing day to day. You can have your questions answered on ellislab website or stackexchange. On Ellislab site it says: "Whether you're a freelancer or working in-house, you're covered for whatever you are working on. There's no limit to the number of support requests you can make, and you're covered whether your projects are on a current platform." And I strongly agree it is true!
Lee Whitworth | TrustRadius Reviewer
Score 5 out of 10
Vetted Review

Satdaya is a creative services firm that includes web development among our services. We recommend and use ExpressionEngine to our clients when their projects and IT needs require more flexibility than what most other content management systems can offer. D&D Technologies is one of those clients, and they have been with us and using Expression Engine since version 1.x! We have also built our firm's project management system with ExpressionEngine, and our software as a service venture, Eventida, also uses it.

ExpressionEngine is unique in that it allows you to build your own content structure to fit, manipulate, and output your information exactly the way you want. Its template structure is like a blank canvas - any HTML, any CSS, any Javascript, any PHP can be used within the templates any way you'd like. Therefore, it is a viable solution to many business problems that require managing and displaying information online.

  • Content structuring. You can set up channels and fields to hold just about any kind of information imaginable; text, images, videos, numbers, code, etc. You can structure this information any way you want and in any order. You literally create your own information database just the way you want it using a clear, easy online interface.
  • Template system. Utter freedom. Need I say more?
  • Exensible. There are a lot of add-ons, extensions, and other external modules that extend the core functionality of ExpressionEngine. Need a user management system? Check out the User module at
  • Big learning curve! In my opinion, ExpressionEngine is not really for the inexperienced, be it users or developers. Clients who aren't web-savvy have a hard time picking up the backend, and end up paying more for a custom front-end control panel to fit their project needs. Developers have to learn the templating language. It's not that complicated for someone who is experienced with HTML/CSS, at least, let alone a programmer, but still expect to spend weeks, if not months, learning all the ins and outs.
  • It's not free or cheap. A license for the core ExpressionEngine software is currently $299 a pop. Premium add-ons can average between $20-$200 for their licenses, but there are also many add-ons that are free. is the premier marketplace for ExpressionEngine add-ons.
  • A relatively small user/developer community = above-average contractor rates. ExpressionEngine experts hard to find and do not come cheap, and understandably so. ExpressionEngine is a highly specialized and advanced CMS. Due to the price barrier, ExpressionEngine is nowhere near as popular as free WordPress or Joomla!.
  • Poor software updating system. ExpressionEngine is NOT WordPress where you get pushed core and add-on update notifications, and apply them with a few clicks. Updating ExpressionEngine requires a developer who can manually go in, backup everything, upload specific files, and otherwise follow specific procedures that require time and expertise. Due to the changing and hazardous nature of the Internet, it's imperative to keep your software updated - so this makes ExpressionEngine not ideal for projects with small budgets.
It really depends on the scope and scale of the project in question, and not to mention its budget. As a creative services firm we analyze a projects informational needs and determine which solutions are best. We highly recommend ExpressionEngine for projects that have complex IT requirements and large budgets for both initial development and ongoing support.
Brennan Sang | TrustRadius Reviewer
Score 10 out of 10
Vetted Review
Verified User
I use ExpressionEngine to build websites for several clients. For anything other than a very simple blog site, I recommend ExpressionEngine. With a few essential plugins, it's easy to train clients to use; the documentation is great and once you get the hang of the templating syntax, it's very easy to crank out custom sites quickly.
  • ExpressionEngine does a fantastic job in separating the content from the code, allowing you to build custom templates using only your own code and markup.
  • ExpressionEngine has great documentation. It's easy to find clear and concise explanation of all of the core features.
  • ExpressionEngine has a great module community. Many of the modules require a license, which will seem different from WordPress or Drupal, but many of these module developers also provide great customer service and support.
  • I always seem to use a core set of modules (Structure, Matrix, Playa) when I build an ExpressionEngine site. It'd be nice if they were included in the core feature set. However, I'd hate to stop supporting the developers of these great plugins.
  • As a new ExpressionEngine developer it was a little tricky to figure out the ExpressionEngine way of doing things. Coming from Drupal and WordPress, where the display was more married to the content, it took me a while to really get how ExpressionEngine handled everything. I haven't been a new ExpressionEngine developer for some time, so their documentation may well have changed in the past six years.
  • I'd love to see an easier upgrade process. While upgrades aren't terribly difficult, they're enough of a hassle that I find myself wanting to put them off.
For anything more complicated than a static four page site or a very simple blog, I'd always suggest ExpressionEngine. For the client, they will need to spend some money on the license, but for the developer, you'll save piles of time not wading through plugin code searching for classes and lines of code that are breaking your carefully crafted templates.
Rachel Rine | TrustRadius Reviewer
Score 4 out of 10
Vetted Review
Verified User
My company uses ExpressionEngine as an engine for our larger web development projects. It allows for a very custom experience and has an extensive library of modules and add-ons, making almost anything possible. We have quite a bit of experience using the product, so development generally goes quickly and we trust the product to deliver for our clients.
  • Large community base provides excellent support when needed
  • Extensive catalog of modules to expand capabilities as needed
  • Built in management of member profiles and permissions saves time
  • Can be too cumbersome for smaller projects, takes time to pair down the built in functionality so our clients have to sift through unused features
  • Large queries take significant processing power, recommended use of a cache module to store this data and speed up page load
  • Backend can be overwhelming for clients, lots of things to manage in the control panel
  • No way to repeat custom page fields or groups of fields, meaning page layout must be pretty established and not customizable from the control panel
For any project requiring a commerce module, this is a go to. ExpressionEngine is also preferred in situations where there are complex relationships between data and pages. In situations where the site is small, and the pages are relatively individual and not interconnected, a simple content management system tends to be more effective.
Jeremy Troxell | TrustRadius Reviewer
Score 10 out of 10
Vetted Review
Verified User
I currently use ExpressionEngine for my business website, and as the primary CMS for my clients. It solves a multitude of problems. As a stable platform it allows me to build a very flexible website for my clients; EE (ExpressionEngine) is so flexible that I can build the entire site that is editable by the client or down to just the content. Feature wise EE has powerful plugins which can be installed giving the CMS even more capability. My clients love being able to go in and add/edit products, services, or even staff members to their sites. The language that EE uses is easy to learn and understand, what would take several lines in other languages can be accomplished with only one in EE. Security wise, I am able to develop roles so that I can assign only certain content to be editable by different people. Training my clients on ExpressionEngine is easy as well, if they can fill out a form, they can use EE. I will also choose ExpressionEngine as the CMS for myself, and my clients.
  • Flexibility is a huge aspect of ExpressionEngine, other CMSs lock you into certain ways your site must be built. You write the templates and write the way you want the website you are building to function with ExpressionEngine.
  • Creating editable content in ExpressionEngine is easy, allowing you to control and make your website more dynamic.
  • The plugins for ExpressionEngine are wonderful, I have never had a request for integration from a client that I can't find a plugin for ExpressionEngine.
  • ExpressionEngine would be even better than it already is if it had a page editor where you could see your page and edit the content on the actual page, some clients prefer this method when moving from online website builders.
  • Although there are add-ons for backup, I would like to see a native backup feature for ExpressionEngine.
ExpressionEngine is a very powerful and flexible content management system. It can handle a simple small business website all the way to a large corporation's website. If you are a business with multiple websites ExpresionEngine can handle that as well with it's Multiple Site Manager. I think ExpressionEngine would be less appropriate for a global large scale business with a magnitude of sites with different regions and languages.
July 21, 2015


Kelley Leonard | TrustRadius Reviewer
Score 6 out of 10
Vetted Review
Verified User
We use ExpressionEngine for our web site, our blog and all our web updates and management of in-house image and text changes. Since it's tied directly to the web site, so long as the web hosting company is up, we are able to log in and manage the site. We are able to log in anywhere in the world so long as there is Wi-Fi service so it’s not tied directly to a hard-wired system.

  • Ease of use.
  • Similar or same menu selections that I'm used to using with other MS office products.
  • It doesn't seem to be workable with Internet Explorer - that is fine now that I use Google Chrome.
We didn't have any say in the software as it was tied to our web site developers and development of our site.
Todd Richards | TrustRadius Reviewer
Score 9 out of 10
Vetted Review
Verified User
National Network (aka NNEPA) is a national membership organization of estate planning attorneys. We needed a new members-only website to replace our seriously outdated website in which we made all of our updates manually. Already having significant experience with ExpressionEngine, it was an obvious choice for me as I knew it could handle the thousands of entries we already had, and the thousands more we would be adding. In addition to our large library of resources and training tools, it handles our member logins, event calendar and more. We will soon be adding a store so members can make their purchases online. The website will also drive a new front-end recruiting area to help grow our membership.
  • The number one thing that I think ExpressEngine allows for is its flexibility. I always tell people there isn't anything that it can't do and that proved true in this case as well. For instance, we needed a few levels of membership for providing access to different areas of the website and ExpressEngine handled this without issue. In addition, some of the library resources are accessible based on that membership group.
  • One of the things that I love about ExpressEngine is that it doesn't come with any expectations about your website look/feel/code. We created the layout and coded our pages, then plugged in the necessary tags.
  • ExpressEngine is a very secure system out of the box, and there are numerous tips and guides to help you further secure the back-end. That was an important feature for us.
  • The ExpressEngine community is probably one of the greatest strengths. There are so many great people involved who are willing to lend a quick hand or provide some advice to help out.
  • For me, one of the greatest strengths of ExpressionEngine is also one of their weaknesses. There are so many add-ons available (some free, some not) for ExpressionEngine to allow you to do just about anything you want. However, the more add-ons that you use the more you have to deal with when performing updates. For instance, is the add-on compatible with the new version of ExpressionEngine - or even another add-on? What if that add-on gets abandoned by the developer - is there another that can perform the same functionality?
  • I think that ExpressionEngine needs to offer more out of the box than it does. Yes, you can get add-ons for just about anything but this adds to the cost. I have a list of add-ons that I use on almost every site which can raise the cost of getting started with a new site by $100-300. So add that to the cost of a license and you're at $400-600 and you haven't even started working on it yet. For instance, I shouldn't have to buy an add-on to allow me to customize the menu for my end-users.
  • The membership management feature is seriously lacking. Fortunately, there are add-ons (for an additional cost) to allow you to manage things better.
For someone with a limited budget, it's hard to recommend ExpressionEngine simply because of the cost of the license and any add-ons just to get up and running. As a developer, the budget needs to be a certain amount before I can even consider ExpressionEngine - no matter how appropriate it is for the site. Besides that, I recommend ExpressionEngine for those who have a lot of content, have a need for a certain level of flexibility, or who have special feature requests. There are a number of ExpressionEngine add-on developers who are willing to help build (for a fee) custom add-ons to fulfill that need.
John Dezember | TrustRadius Reviewer
Score 9 out of 10
Vetted Review
Verified User
ExpressionEngine powers our college's main web site as well as online training modules, event and ancillary sites. ExpressionEngine's flexibility allows us to publish a variety of content types and designs to our web site and other internal systems. User control and access to manage, update, and approve content changes is also a great benefit.
  • ExpressionEngine has no preconceived ideas about how your content should look or what code is generated.
  • A robust template engine makes integrating designs and content a breeze.
  • The control panel can be customized to control what content managers have access to.
  • The upgrade process can be tedious if your site uses more than a couple of add-ons.
  • Back ups must be managed manually or by a third party system/add-on.
ExpressionEngine can literally be used for any type of site, but for a very basic site with just a few pages or if the site will primarily be used for blogging, there are better tailored solutions.

Also, you will need a developer and/or someone very familiar with content management systems to install and configure the software. There is nothing like the "WordPress famous 5 minute install" that will give you visible results very quickly.
Samuel King | TrustRadius Reviewer
Score 10 out of 10
Vetted Review
Verified User
eHouse Studio is a digital marketing agency that specializes in medium to large web site design and development. ExpressionEngine is our content management system of choice for these sites due to its ease of use, flexibility, and extensibility.
  • Extensibility: ExpressionEngine's core is extensible, allowing for third-party code to be modularized and installed. ExpressionEngine's community has a number of highly talented add-on developers that contribute to its pool of add-ons.
  • Flexibility: ExpressionEngine is tremendously flexible, allowing for a single installation to manage everything from static pages, to blogs, to full fledged eCommerce platforms.
  • Ease of Use: ExpressionEngine's control panel can be themed and its publish layouts customized, allowing for a very pleasant experience for our clients. This increases the likelihood of them actually using the platform which reduces the number of support hours we must provide.
  • Query bloat: ExpressionEngine tends to run an excessive number of queries to generate content. This is due, in large part, to an inefficient database schema.
  • Lack of third-party add on reviews: ExpressionEngine's extensibility is also a curse, due to a lack of official reviews of add ons. This can introduce bugs in the system that are difficult, at best, to squash.
  • Reliance on outdated technology: While newer versions of ExpressionEngine have started to move away from CodeIgniter (almost entirely at this point), older installations still rely on the outdated framework resulting in a code base that does not take advantage of updated server software.
In my experience, ExpressionEngine is a perfect "middle-ground" CMS, well suited for sites that contain multiple types of "normal" content. For projects that either consist of minimal content types (a single blog, for instance) or those that require a more enterprise level publishing process, ExpressionEngine may not be the most suitable. Additionally, sites that contain a massive amount of data and require bleeding edge performance may want to look in a different direction.
Chris Lagasse | TrustRadius Reviewer
Score 4 out of 10
Vetted Review
Verified User

ExpressionEngine was one of the alternatives that we used separate from WordPress. It was a product that we used at Big Sea when WordPress wasn't sufficient for the client's needs.

ExpressionEngine was our go to for clients that needed a heavily robust site without default bells and whistles. These projects included a large number of different streams of data (blog, staff members, locations, news, departments) all with interconnectivity in a way that was quick to set up.

The primary downside to ExpressionEngine is that it is a bare minimum out of the box, and that it essentially requires third party extensions in order for it to be efficient. However, this is a plus when you want to clean up the bells and whistles in the admin to only the essentials that the client will eventually need.

I love the power of ExpressionEngine, but it's usually way more (less?) than we need for our projects, as it takes longer to set up the initial configuration. The handling of the theme is actually far more to my liking over WordPress, as literally every file you create is created for YOU, and not because the theme requires it.

  • Extremely robust. To be able to start from absolute scratch in the CMS and get it configured precisely to each individual client's needs.
  • Combined with Pixel and Tonic's Matrix and Playa addons alone, EE's channel fields become a whole new world of awesome.
  • System needs more hooks, especially for third party plugins. A lot of the plugins are so precise in their functionality that trying to do anything custom with them quickly becomes a chaotic mess and regular hair pulling.
  • So bare minimum out of the box, that the cost of the initial purchase is sneaky as you'll spend a lot more on addons and modules.
If you're looking for a quick product set up, and getting it out the door, this is not an appropriate system for you. However, if you have a large project with a lot of moving parts that can be resolved with the plugins and what they offer, this is an awesome solution.
Steve Garcia | TrustRadius Reviewer
Score 9 out of 10
Vetted Review
620 Studio uses ExpressionEngine for both the company website and is the default content management system we use when building websites for other companies. It allows us the ability to design and build websites without any limitations to pre-existing templates or requiring us to build our HTML files just to take them apart again to fit into PHP templates; our code and designs stay completely intact. ExpressionEngine has the flexibility to create any type of website from the ground up; it's a giant box of sand with an arsenal of tools and I can build any type of castle I want for us and our client.
  • First-party and Community Support - ExpressionEngine has a large support base both from EllisLab, the maker of ExpressionEngine, and the vast community of users. Any challenges that arise during a project, there is either a third-party plugin or a solution already posted on a discussion forum.
  • End-User Experience - Every website we build is custom from the ground up; no two are alike. Each install of ExpressionEngine is built and organized to fit that specific client. With the use of custom fields, our clients can easily update and maintain their website while keeping the styling intact. Many systems will give one large WYSIWYG box and it's up to the user to ensure the styling of the content matches the page and branding. ExpressionEngine allows us to create a entry form guiding them through the process of creating or editing a web page. We can decide how strict or loose the content areas are based on the technical expertise of the client or website administrators.
  • Templates - The templates built into ExpressionEngine use native HTML for rendering. Within the HTML, we're able to inject their tags into our code to process the functionality. This makes moving our front-end code into the back-end quick and seamless. This is incredibly helpful for maintenance purposes as we find reading HTML is far quicker and easier to read and diagnose than PHP code.
  • Third-party Plugins - ExpressionEngine has a large community of module, extension and plugin developers to help solve any challenge. Custom fieldtypes can be easily installed for better user experience. Powerful add-ons for eCommerce and site searches developed by well-known and highly reputable companies ensure support is always available. ExpressionEngine does not suffer from an over-abundance of third-party plugins questioning the level of support especially with ExpressionEngine system updates.
  • License - ExpressionEngine is a licensed product and has a license fee that comes with each install. Most of the additional first-party functionality that is available outside of the core ExpressionEngine install has a license attached. For large websites with a lot of functionality, software licenses for ExpressionEngine and third-party plugins as well can cause the price to exceed the budget of a client.
  • Third-party Plugins Required - EllisLabs has been making strives in adding native functionality into ExpressionEngine that would have required third-party plugins in previous versions. They tread carefully not to punish plugin developers who are selling their plugins by building it into the system at no additional charge, however certain functionality like page organization for site navigation should be already included and more streamlined for the client.
  • System Updates - Compared to other content management systems, ExpressionEngine is not the easiest when updating to newer versions. Its a manual process of copying, uploading and moving files. There is no "push-button" approach without purchasing a commercial add-on by a third-party developer. With the requirement of third-party plugins to be added for user experience, each system update will require a proactive approach by the plugin developers and the admin updating the system to ensure the plugins will work on future versions. Most admins will wait several months to ensure plugins and minor bugs are ironed out prior to updating.
The two main factors for my suggestion to use or not use ExpressionEngine for a client are budget and scope. If the website is for a small three to five page website that is strictly informational and have a smaller budget, then I always recommend using a system like WordPress. Most of our clients are usually already on WordPress and ready to "graduate" to a larger system. They understand the need for a custom design and ease-of-use for site maintenance so recommending ExpressionEngine is easier as they will often have more budget available. Very rarely does a client request a specific system and trust our recommendations.

I did not give a ranking of 10 as there are some instances where other systems would handle the job better than ExpressionEngine; it's not the end-all-be-all. If a client is looking strictly for an eCommerce site, there are other systems that are better prepared for the task and will cut down on development time reducing the overall budget for the project.
For each ExpressionEngine release, I will often wait a few months before upgrading existing sites just to make sure it's had time to settle and get real-world use. This will allow the developers to handle any initial issues they may find and update the system accordingly. For all new sites, I will always use the latest version and any issues that arise can be handled while in the development phase while on a staging server.
Rachael Swogger | TrustRadius Reviewer
Score 8 out of 10
Vetted Review
Verified User
We're a web design agency, and we use ExpressionEngine to help our clients keep an updated website full of content and images. Some of our team members set up the backend to adopt our design and development features, and some team members simply upload all of the website content and do some Q/A testing and editing. ExpressionEngine is great because it's easy to learn and easy to use once you learn it. Therefore, it makes it easy to get everything up on the site and enables simple collaboration and editing among team members and clients.
  • It integrates well with your design and development features, so all you have to do after setup is create the appropriate fields and enter content.
  • It integrates well with many different tools and plug-ins, so whatever you need in addition to ExpressionEngine features, there's a tool out there that will connect and work effectively.
  • It would be nice to have easier access to older saved versions of pages.
Some clients have a lot external plug-ins they want to use, so making sure all of those tools, or alternatives to those tools, can be easily integrated with ExpressionEngine is the first step. Another thing in question is who and how many people will be updating the site on a regular basis. ExpressionEngine is easy to use and learn, so it's the option we'll suggest to clients who will be updating their own site.
CJ Williams | TrustRadius Reviewer
Score 2 out of 10
Vetted Review
Verified User
We use ExpressionEngine as a CMS for our public website, The biggest issue I have with ExpressionEngine is the lack of current documentation and third party module/plugin support. I find WordPress to be a much more simple solution to CMS with a much larger community. I do like how clean ExpressionEngine code is, but that simply can't outweigh the cons of the product.
  • Clean Code Output
  • Straight-forward CMS input
  • Simple page management
  • Session timeout/cookies suck
  • Needs much more community
  • Needs more current documentation.
If you want a completely hand-coded website with a simple CMS backend, ExpressionEngine is fine. If you are looking for a site with easy-to-add plugins and a great community, use WordPress or even Drupal.
Eric Nance | TrustRadius Reviewer
Score 10 out of 10
Vetted Review
Verified User
I use ExpressionEngine as a tool in my arsenal to provide web design and development services to clients. I've found that it is an extremely flexible and scalable CMS solution for a large number of web application needs. ExpressionEngine is a blank canvas upon which my clients can build their web-based marketing and business solutions.
  • Flexible templating engine - ExpressionEngine makes no assumptions about what type of website or application you want to create. It does a good job of separating data from data presentation, allowing you to choose the front-end framework that works best for your/your client's needs.
  • Robust community support - The ExpressionEngine community is very helpful. There are many resources for third-party add-ons and technical support answers.
  • Forward-thinking architecture - Built on CodeIgniter, ExpressionEngine uses a well-documented and proven PHP architecture that is scalable and powerful.
  • Third-party AddOns - ExpressionEngine's flexibility is also a drawback. Because it makes no assumptions about your web project, it doesn't offer every feature under the sun. Expect to increase your budget to accommodate the variety of third-party AddOns that really make it shine. Not everything is done well, and some functionality is best left for dedicated third-party solutions.
  • Configuration - ExpressionEngine requires time and expertise to get an installation really dialed in before you can hit the ground running. There are a lot of configuration options, and adding third-party AddOns to the mix increases the amount of configuration. However, this is a good example of the power of the software. You have a lot of options and can really dial in security settings, software behavior, administrative access and so forth.
ExpressionEngine is a great choice for web projects that need a flexible CMS solutions that puts power and control in administrators' hands. I don't believe it's the best solutions for smaller web projects on limited budgets. ExpressionEngine can be overkill for smaller sites, like using a sledgehammer to drive a nail into butter.

It does a great job as a scalable and flexible CMS. ExpressionEngine begs you to be organized and think through your information architecture before you start coding. This is a good thing right? I think ExpressionEngine can quite possibly lead to a better website and a better user experience as you really need to think through channels, variables, custom fields and architecture.
Juan Bolivar | TrustRadius Reviewer
Score 9 out of 10
Vetted Review
Verified User
It was mostly used to create sub sites of each medical department.
  • Customizable
  • Independent subsites
  • Easy to use and to learn (it took me a little bit to learn about this CMS and start doing my own plugins)
  • The variety of plugins is not that big, besides the database is the best one in performance
So far it's one of my favorite CMS [products], especially if you want to create templates to have a lot of independent subsites.
Return to navigation