May 01, 2015

There is no shortage of powerful content management systems, many of which are capable of being used to build any type of site you can imagine. That does not, however, mean that every content management is the best fit for every site. I’d like to take a look at two content management systems in particular: ExpressionEngine and WordPress. Both are powerful and both have been used to build everything from blogs to the largest enterprise publishing operations, but each has particular strengths.

WordPress In A Nutshell

WordPress has come a long way since it’s early days as a blogging engine. The case can now be made that WordPress is full-fledged content management system, and that it can be used for much more than just blogging and other “post” based publishing tasks.
And of course, WordPress is far and away the most popular content management system on the web, which has encouraged the evolution of an active community of developers who have created many thousands of plugins and themes. Integrating new functionality into a WordPress site is as simple as installing a plugin, and there are plugins to fit almost every occasion.
Its backend interface is relatively simple to use, which makes it a great option for professionals seeking to provide their clients with a site that they can manage by themselves.
Where WordPress has difficulties is with bespoke sites that require complex content management. WordPress’s legacy as a blogging engine remains in the way it models content as posts and pages, and it’s not as easy as it might be to build custom content types (it’s possible, but WordPress may not be the best choice).
Additionally, building themes for WordPress involves delving deep into PHP, which is not something that many web designers are happy doing.

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ExpressionEngine In A Nutshell

ExpressionEngine was built from the ground up as a way to manage complex content scenarios, and it makes no assumptions about the content model a site will have. ExpressionEngine makes it much easier to design tailored content models with multiple content channels, relationships, and custom fields. ExpressionEngine is almost infinitely flexible.
As Alnisa Allgood comments on Quora:

I can create an event calendar, that’s tied to event registration, that’s related to headline news, research, publications, videos, or more, tie that to a venue database, that’s tied to Google Maps, Bing Maps, or my own mapping system. Develop an interface. Decide that only facility managers can add or edit the venue system, any member designated as a fan can upload video, and headline news items, and designated staff or volunteers can write articles, post other material types, etc.

You could do all this on WordPress, but ExpressionEngine foregrounds the functionality that makes it more straightforward to achieve if you know what you are doing.

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Which Should You Choose?

When we’re thinking about which content management system is best, we have to ask the question: “best for what purpose?”
If you need a relatively simple business brochure site, a small eCommerce store, a blog or magazine site, or a portfolio site, and don’t intend to develop a bespoke set of themes, then WordPress is probably your best choice. ExpressionEngine is more than capable of supporting these sorts of sites, but WordPress makes assumptions about content management that makes them easier to implement for the average person. You’ll be up and running more quickly, and the learning curve for non-developers is less onerous.
For more complex sites with lots of different content types, then ExpressionEngine is a better option. It gives developers the freedom to quickly build workflows and templates for managing even the most complex and heterogeneous content and for creating arbitrary relationships between that content. It can do everything WordPress can do, but it focuses on versatility and developer-friendliness, rather than end-user friendliness.
What do you think about the relative strengths of WordPress and ExpressionEngine? Let us know in the comments.


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