Thoughts on ExpressionEngine from a small-time developer
April 22, 2014

Thoughts on ExpressionEngine from a small-time developer

Anonymous | TrustRadius Reviewer
Score 7 out of 10
Vetted Review
Verified User

Overall Satisfaction

When I worked as a web developer, I used ExpressionEngine (EE) to build custom websites for various clients. EE was a platform that was used company-wide on several projects, because it offers some distinct advantages compared to other platforms. EE is an extremely robust platform that offers solutions to all kinds of business problems. Most notably, it offers extensive customization both in form and function, has a substantial development community behind it, and handles social networking and custom content better than its competitors.
  • The user interface is extremely well designed. It's clean and super easy to navigate—this is so valuable for training clients and for regular use. I haven't seen any content management systems that have a better UI.
  • From a programming standpoint, the EE markup is amazing. It is SO clean and simple! Your code will look marvelous. The markup is intuitive and responsive. It saves so much time and effort.
  • We used EE largely because of how it handles social networking and custom content types. There are literally no limits to how you can categorize your content. No more "posts" and "pages" ... everything is customizable based on the content you're working with and the goals of the project. This is such a great value for clients/users/developers.
  • Most people point to the licensing cost as a point of friction. While $299 seems steep compared to free, open source alternatives like WordPress, I will say that the investment is worth it. I'd still like to see the cost of the license come down, though. It would make this platform more accessible.
  • With a proprietary platform like EE, training resources are a must—since there are a lot of nuances within the platform that are unique to EE. These things need to be explained clearly in a way that "mere mortals" will understand. While EE does have a ton of documentation (i.e. User Guide) and learning materials, I would say that even more learning materials would be nice. Video tutorials, walkthroughs, etc. Give us more!
  • So EllisLab (the creator of EE) has decided to sell its open source CodeIgniter framework (CodeIgniter is the framework EE is built on). This is alarming to many EE developers, who at this point are not sure whether CodeIgniter will remain the backbone of EE, or if that will change in the near future. So this is an important development that has some negative potential impact.
  • We had clients express to us how easy the control panel/UI was to use. This reflected really well on us as a business.
  • EE allows for efficient development time. Since things are customizable, you don't have to spend as much time thinking of work-arounds like you would with a platform like WordPress.
  • EE has a great support/development community, so whenever issues may arise with clients, you can be sure you'll get answers fast and be able to increase your customer service.
Before using EE, we developed in WordPress almost exclusively. We started using EE because we were running more and more into snags regarding custom content and social networking (user engagement). WordPress is a great platform with a massive user base, but it was just not cutting it as far as how easy it was to tailor different types of content based on the project. It also has a very meager presence of social networking features, which EE has in spades. The UI of EE is also nicer than WordPress' (we thought).

EE has a licensing cost, but a very insignificant one compared to other larger proprietary CMS platforms in the market. WordPress is easier and quicker to set up and get off the ground (talking time alone ... we could set up a basic site in WordPress in under 10 minutes). But EE still takes the cake. There are just too many great features to pass up!
It depends entirely on the project. If I'm looking at a content-heavy project, I will most certainly look at EE first. But there are other CMS platforms that are starting to pay attention to content like EE does. Craft would be an example of one. Whether or not EE is the right platform for the job, it will be on the short list of platforms to consider.
EE is well suited for content-rich web applications. It is especially built around content customization and management. Since the markup is so easy, any good PHP/CSS/HTML developer could easily implement a site in EE.

I would recommend EE based on its UI and content customization features alone. However, the fact that the CodeIgniter platform could change in the future (speculative), I would throw in a caveat to anyone I was talking to about EE.