Content Marketing

ExpressionEngine: A Flexible, Developer-Friendly, and Well-Structured Open Source CMS

The choice of a content management system (CMS) depends on individual needs and project objectives. ExpressionEngine targets users who demand advanced customization, structured content, security, and scalability.

This open source platform stands out as a preferred content management system for many individuals and businesses for a variety of reasons, each contributing to its distinct appeal:

  • Flexibility and Customization: ExpressionEngine’s hallmark feature is its exceptional flexibility. Unlike other platforms, it offers a pure and adaptable CMS framework that empowers developers and designers to create fully customized websites. This flexibility allows unrestricted design and content structuring, making it an ideal choice for those requiring tailored web solutions.
  • Structured Content Management: ExpressionEngine excels in managing structured content. It enables users to define the structure of their content precisely, offering a flexible channel system that is particularly well-suited for websites with unique data requirements.
  • Security Focus: ExpressionEngine is recognized for its strong security track record. Its structured content approach, built-in security features, and robust user management capabilities make it attractive for those who prioritize protecting their data and user information.
  • Scalability: ExpressionEngine is versatile and can accommodate websites of various sizes. It is equally adept at serving the needs of small personal blogs and large corporate websites with multiple complex features and diverse user roles.
  • Multi-Site Management: For organizations overseeing multiple web properties, ExpressionEngine simplifies the management process by allowing the administration of multiple websites from a single installation.
  • Developer-Friendly: Developers appreciate ExpressionEngine’s developer-friendly features that allow them to work with their preferred technologies, structure code as they see fit, and easily integrate custom add-ons or third-party solutions without constraints.
  • Add-Ons and Extensibility: The ExpressionEngine community actively creates add-ons that can be used to extend functionality or develop custom solutions tailored to specific needs. These add-ons are known for their seamless integration into the core system. Add-on categories include API, headless, analytics, commenting, data migration, backup, dates and events, e-commerce, email, fieldtype, file adapter, forms, integrations, maps, marketing, media, membership, multilingual, navigation, performance, polls, quizes, publishing, SEO, security, social, spam, templating, and utilities.
  • Content Approval and Workflow: ExpressionEngine offers robust content approval and workflow management, making it a valuable choice for organizations with complex content publishing processes.
  • Comprehensive Support and Documentation: ExpressionEngine’s strong support and comprehensive documentation ensure users can access reliable assistance and resources for building and managing their websites.
  • Search Engine Optimization: ExpressionEngine allows users to create clean, search engine-friendly URLs without needing extensive plugin use, a significant advantage for those concerned with SEO.
  • Smooth Updates: The update process in ExpressionEngine is typically smoother than many other platforms, minimizing compatibility issues that can arise from theme and plugin updates.
  • Ownership and Licensing: ExpressionEngine users maintain complete control and ownership of their content, ensuring flexibility in how data is utilized.

ExpressionEngine is compatible with most web servers, including Apache, Nginx, and Microsoft IIS. The choice of the web server largely depends on your preference and the server software available from your hosting provider. ExpressionEngine is built using PHP and supports both MySQL and PostgreSQL databases. Some additional configurations need to be done, but nothing too difficult.

Features of ExpressionEngine

ExpressionEngine is packed with a plethora of features that empower you to build and manage your website with efficiency and precision. Here’s a comprehensive list of the standout features that ExpressionEngine offers:

  • Flexible Channels: Organize your content into flexible channels, data containers with fields for various types of information.
  • Front-End Editing with The Dock: You can easily access your site’s content and fine-tune its functionality while browsing the front end.
  • Templates and Template Partials: Create dynamic, richly formatted content using templates and tags.
  • Custom Fieldtypes: Choose from over 20 field types to capture content that suits your specific needs.
  • Entry Cloning: Save time by quickly cloning channel entries, making entry creation more efficient.
  • Add-On Prolets: Access essential add-ons while browsing the front end, enhancing your site’s functionality.
  • User Management: Manage different types of members easily, offering flexibility and usability.
  • Live Preview: View content in real-time as you edit, simplifying the editing process.
  • Structured Content for SEO: Manage SEO efficiently with ExpressionEngine’s structured content approach.
  • Entry Versioning: Save previous revisions of channel entries, ensuring you never lose any edits you make.
  • Image Modifiers: Resize, crop, rotate, and convert image formats directly in your templates.
  • SQL Query Form: Easily submit standard database queries.
  • HTTP Header and RSS Parser: You can set HTTP headers in your templates, and parse RSS feeds with the RSS Parser plugin.
  • Captcha and New Relic: ExpressionEngine offers built-in CAPTCHA support and supports New Relic for application monitoring.
  • Database Backups and SEO Friendly: Create SQL dump backups of your database, and leverage ExpressionEngine’s structured content approach for SEO management.
  • Duration Fieldtype and File Upload Manipulations: Store lengths of time with the Duration fieldtype, and apply predefined file manipulations during uploads.
  • Control Panel Access Logs and Query Module: View access logs for your Control Panel and perform SQL queries in your templates.

Whether you’re a developer, a content manager, or a business owner, ExpressionEngine has the tools and capabilities to help you build something amazing.

ExpressionEngine Code Basics

ExpressionEngine templates use a combination of HTML and a templating language unique to ExpressionEngine. The template tags, variables, and conditional logic used in ExpressionEngine templates are specific to the platform. Below are some code snippets and descriptions:

Template Structure

ExpressionEngine uses templates to structure the content of a website. Templates are typically written in HTML with embedded tags for dynamic content. Here’s an example of a simple template structure:

   <!DOCTYPE html>
       <div class="content">
  • In this example, {title}, {content_title}, and {content} are ExpressionEngine template tags that will be replaced with actual content when the template is rendered.

Channel Entries

ExpressionEngine’s content is typically organized using channels. Each channel represents a type of content, such as articles, products, or news items. Here’s an example of how you would display entries from a channel:

   {exp:channel:entries channel="news" limit="5"}
  • In this code, {exp:channel:entries} is a tag that fetches entries from the news channel and displays the title and summary of the latest five entries.

Conditional Logic:

You can use conditional logic to control the display of content. Here’s an example that displays content only if a certain condition is met:

   {if logged_in}
       <p>Welcome, {username}!</p>
       <p>Please log in to access this content.</p>
  • In this code, it checks if a user is logged in. If they are, it displays a welcome message; otherwise, it prompts them to log in.

Custom Fields:

ExpressionEngine allows you to define custom fields for your content. Here’s an example of how to display content from custom fields:

   <p>Date: {event_date}</p>
   <p>Location: {event_location}</p>
  • In this code, {title}, {event_date}, and {event_location} are custom fields associated with a channel entry.

Navigation Menu:

  • You can create navigation menus dynamically by using ExpressionEngine tags. Here’s an example of a basic navigation menu:
       {exp:channel:entries channel="menu" orderby="menu_order"}
           <li><a href="{menu_link}">{menu_title}</a></li>
  • In this code, it fetches menu items from a menu channel and generates a list of links.

These are just some examples of how ExpressionEngine is used to configure websites. ExpressionEngine’s flexibility allows developers to create complex and highly customized websites by combining templates, tags, and channels in various ways. The specific implementation may vary based on the needs of a particular website or project.

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Douglas Karr

Douglas Karr is the founder of the Martech Zone and CEO of DK New Media. Douglas has helped dozens of successful MarTech startups, has assisted in the due diligence of over $5 bil in Martech acquisitions and investments, and continues to assist companies in implementing and automating their sales and marketing strategies. Douglas is an internationally recognized digital transformation and MarTech expert and speaker. Douglas is also a published author of a Dummie's guide and a business leadership book.

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