What I like about ExpressionEngine when compared to WordPress and my final thoughts on the commercial CMS from EllisLab.
In a previous article I did a bit of griping about ExpressionEngine. After spending time building a full site with the commercial CMS, I was left impressed with some of its features and quite unimpressed by it's lack of others. As I promised in that article, I'm going to cover some of what I did like about ExpressionEngine here, as well as let you my final opinion and whether I plan to continue using the CMS.
Now, on to the good parts of EE…
Solid Support Forum, Documentation
I've become quite convinced of the idea that no CMS can succeed without excellent support in one form or another. EllisLab obviously understands this… the documentation is good, laid out clearly, and the search function works very well, which is a big help for those times when you can't quite figure out where to look for the information you need. The docs get another point for the comments, which users can contribute to, at the end of each page; this was a great help for understanding some of the system's intricacies.
Anything I couldn't find in the documentation I was able to find in the support forum. They've built up quite a support community and, although the employee moderators' SEO knowledge leaves something to be desired, I found most of the community to be knowledgeable and more than willing to provide helpful advice.
Impressive 3rd Party Contributions
I have to say, I was impressed by the quantity and quality of 3rd party addons for EE. Ellis Lab has managed to build up a community of developers and passionate enthusiasts that any commercial CMS developer would envy.
Easy-to-navigate admin UI
Although it might take a bit to get familiar with the administration UI, once you do, it's very nice and easy to navigate. Most of the frequently-accessed pages are linked to directly through a tab at the top of the screen. The more advanced, perhaps less frequently-accessed pages are buried a bit and, while that may seem frustrating at first, it's nice to not have the main interface cluttered with information you rarely need to access.
I said "most of the frequently-accessed pages are linked to directly" because some aren't. The good news is EE lets you add a new tab in just two clicks, so you won't have to hunt around for those buried sections of the admin that you find you need to access frequently.
EE has a great feature that, when active, prints out a long list of useful program information at the bottom of every page for the super admin for debugging. This is something I inevitably create at one point or another for most projects, so it was nice to have it already done for me when I needed some pertinent program info.
One thing you'll probably notice is that only the admin structure and development mode are not, by default, something WordPress has. You'll also notice that my complaints about EE were a bit more serious than my praises. That's because after spending quite a bit of time with EE I've concluded that it doesn't do anything that another CMS can't do easier, better or faster. In fact, a few of it's key features are strangely under-developed – I mean, come on, I can't duplicate custom fields across sections? Custom fields are the foundation of a general-purpose CMS. That issue, among others, needs some serious attention in the next major release.
Will I use ExpressionEngine in the future? Unlikely, unless I absolutely have to. It was a good learning experience, but other than that, my time with EE only served to remind me what I like about WordPress.