Expression Engine - First Thoughts

ExpressionEngine LogoFor quite a long time now I’ve wanted to give ExpressionEngine a try – for those of you that don’t know ExpressionEngine is a CMS that is very popular within the web design community. Many of you will know that I’m not a developer myself, I either work with developers or off the shelf CMS’s, so I was keen to get my hands of Expression Engine and see whether it could potentially add another string to my bow.

After taking the plunge and forking out $299 for a license I quickly installed ExpressionEngine on my local web server and started going through the documents. It’s fair to say that I hit a wall pretty quickly, none of the terminology really made any sense to me: channels, categories, custom fields, status groups – what’s the difference between a category and a channel? Why do I need category groups?


It wasn’t long before I uninstalled ExpressionEngine – learning a new CMS was one thing but I hadn’t anticipated learning a whole new terminology set. Coming from a WordPress background none of it really seemed natural to me. I’ll use something else I told myself, something open source and I’ll make use of the 30 day money back guarantee that comes with ExpressionEngine.

Try again

Not wanting to be defeated so quickly I started again. A fresh installation and a bit of googling and I started to find my way around. EE is probably a little too powerful for the site I’m creating as it stands but I’m aware that the site needs the ability to grow in the future and I want a stable platform for that growth. So, after around half a day with EE I’m starting to get to grips with it, I’ve managed to create a few templates, have some content pulling through and an feeling a little more comfortable. There are still a few issues that I need to look into: namely making the admin area a little more user friendly for my clients (is there a plugin for this anyone?) but on the whole despite a fairly scary start I am progressing.


A few more days have passed since I started writing this post and I’m getting further along all the time. I’ve installed a few newadd-ons (Structure, Matrix and Wygwam) and the admin area is starting to look a bit more like I think it should. I’m a little disappointed that I had to pay for the add-ons for features that I think should come as a part of a $299 CMS but I’m willing to let that go for the time being.

It’s too early to say for definite whether it’s going to end up being my goto CMS, but I’ll keep you posted!


Phil Wragg:

27 Apr 2011 13:06:44

I’m interested that your Wordpress experience has still led you to try and find another CMS. Like a lot of web designeres I am constantly looking for a solution to dedicate the time to learning, Wordpress is a quick start but I find it limiting.

Let me know your latest Expression experiences, are you learning to love it more?!

Dave Wilkinson:

04 May 2011 13:47:40

I’ve been working with WordPress for about 4 years, but I’m starting to hit a wall in terms of WPs content management workflow.

I’ve tried Perch, which is brilliant but possibly a bit too simplified for my liking. And now I’m playing with ExpressionEngine.

From a content management point of view, it beats WordPress hands down. If you stick with it, you’ll grow to love it (you’ll also be a bit poorer, but that’s the price you pay for a CMS as opposed to a blog).

Phil Wragg:

04 May 2011 15:30:22

Thanks Dave – I guess in the end its finding appropriate solutions for the projects in hand – Wordpress, Perch and Expression should (one hopes!) – answer all situations?

I’ve been playing with Perch for a project which is suitably small….it will be interesting to see how it develops in the future.

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