An honest review of ExpressionEngine
Updated February 25, 2015

An honest review of ExpressionEngine

Jonathan Mulkey | TrustRadius Reviewer
Score 6 out of 10
Vetted Review

Software Version


Modules Used

  • Structure, Reelocate, GW Categories, Low Search, Minimee, Snippetsync

Overall Satisfaction with ExpressionEngine

I use ExpressionEngine for several websites that I have developed for clients and I have taken a couple of projects for existing EE driven websites that needed a front-end design refresh.
  • It has an extremely flexible front-end templating system, unlike most of the other CMSs that I have used.
  • The community is very helpful and supportive. You can almost always get an answer through the Stack Exchange or Ellislab discussion forums.
  • The third party add-on developer are very talented and you can find an add-on for just about anything you would need.
  • Since it is a licensed product and not open source, it is not as widely used as other CMSs. I believe this is a benefit because it creates a niche for the developer.
  • It's also more secure because it's not targeted by hackers and malicious scripts as much as the more popular CMSs.
  • Pricing - At $300 per site, I feel like EE should come with a certain level of built in support from Ellislab. They just recently made support tickets a separate membership cost ranging from $50 to $2000 per month, it simply not an option for me. I've had to seek support from the Stack Exchange community instead.
  • There are some built in features that and enhancements that I feel are missing in EE. I almost always have to install a third party add-on like Structure to help with building and maintaining pages and navigation throughout the site. This should be a core feature of any CMS.
  • The built in search function is not very robust. I usually have to buy a third party add-on to enhance this function.
  • The pagination function needs improvement. It just doesn't work well and it's very limited in the options and styles that can be applied.
  • A responsive back-end would be helpful. Many other CMSs have adopted this approach in the last few years.
  • It's really difficult to update the core system and plugins with ExpressionEngine. There are third party plugins that make this process easier like DevDemon's Updater, but I feel like EE could follow the lead from Wordpress and make updates and installs a built-in system feature.
  • I can charge more for EE development because it is more of a niche market. There are only a handful of EE developers in the area that I live.
  • It takes longer to build an EE site than with some other CMSs.
  • I believe using EE has made me a better web developer. I have to take a different approach to content strategy and information architecture when building an EE site. A well thought out site structure one of the biggest factors in creating a positive user experience, in my opinion.
Most of the other CMSs that I have used have been open-source products. This means the developer community is much larger and the products seem to evolve faster. I like the smaller, tight-knit community that surrounds EE. There almost always someone willing to spend a few minutes on Twitter or Stack Exchange to help you work through a problem. I have not had this same experience with other CMSs.
ExpressionEngine can be a good choice for a CMS based on the budget and the level of customization needed. If you only need a basic brochure site with a blog and have a limited budget, Wordpress might be a better option. If you are building more of a custom web application and need the design flexibility that EE provides, it is a good choice.

Using ExpressionEngine

I would prefer to use it exclusively, but I have to give my clients a more affordable option. I have to add at least $1,000 of overhead cost to an EE website just for licenses, add-ons and support. If you need a completely custom website solution, then this is a reasonable cost to include. I always like to use the best tool for the job, but my continued use of EE will ultimately come down to my client's budget.