This blog post has been rolling around in my head for some time now, and I wasn't sure I wanted to write it. But here we are.
ExpressionEngine... if you're not familiar with it, ExpressionEngine, or EE, is a robust CMS (content management system). It powers all kinds of sites and recently went open source.
I have history with EE – since roughly 2006. It was my first “real” CMS. I had been using WordPress for a couple of years prior to finding EE. Back then WordPress was lighter and still very much a blogging platform and little else. Sure, it could be manipulated into much more but that required time and skills I didn't have.
EE was a game changer. I have nothing but respect for the platform and the folks behind it, EllisLab. But things change, and that change often means growth. As in, outgrowing something or someone.
I’ve had a couple of conversations with fellow developers who have experience with EE. My question for them was simply, “When was the last time you started a new project on EE?” They each had to think about it. And they each said it's been at least a couple years.
Yep, same with me.
In fact, I don't remember the last time I used or recommended EE for a new website build. It's not because it's a bad platform - it's still better in many ways than most of the more popular CMS platforms out there (sorry, not sorry, WordPress). But I've gotten used to a far superior CMS: Craft.
Well, more than used to it. It's what I recommend most of the time. Not all the time, mind you - but definitely when it makes sense, which due to its robust features and superb customization capabilities, is a large majority of the time. It's just a better CMS in many, many ways. (I'll be publishing something on Craft specifically at some point in the near-ish future.)
I should make one thing clear before I get too much further along: I'm not completely ditching ExpressionEngine. I have a handful of clients whose sites still run (very well) on EE and won't be migrating away from it anytime soon. They bought into EE and it's still a good platform for their needs.
These days though, my ExpressionEngine work is focused on maintaining and supporting the aforementioned sites. New sites I've had the pleasure of building have been almost exclusively on Craft.
In addition to having settled on an overall better CMS - and the reason that writing this post makes me a tad bit sad - is the shrinking community. Or at least what I perceive to be a shrinking community.
EE used to have a vibrant and outgoing community of developers. First on the forums and Twitter, followed by StackExchange, and then on Slack. For a while there things were hopping on Slack. But now when I hop into the EE Slack space, it's pretty quiet most of the time. Compare that to Craft’s Discord community where most days it's difficult to keep up with all the chatter, the EE community feels different. Noticeably so. 😢 That's tough for me to see because the community was a huge selling point for me as a budding developer.
I really think this is just a natural progression of things, like almost everything else in life. Most people want to get better at just about anything they're committed to. It's no different for us web developers who want to build cool stuff using tools that will make things easier and more efficient for us and, more importantly, for our clients. I think I'd be weary of the web professional who isn't improving their skill set and either moving to better tools and/or adding to to their toolbox.
But it's time for me to somewhat officially say goodbye. EE just is not the right tool for the various projects I'm working on these days. And if there's anything I firmly believe in when it comes to creating websites, it's using the right tool for the job, not just whatever is popular with the so-called cool kids.
I sincerely hope ExpressionEngine continues for many, many years and that EllisLab can innovate and set themselves apart like they did more than a decade ago.
In the meantime, if your site is on EE and you're curious about potentially switching to Craft, get in touch. I'd be happy to discuss your particular situation. Just know that switching may not be worth the investment if there isn't a sound business reason.
And if you're just curious about why I choose Craft for 95% of the sites I build, keep an eye on this space - I'll be publishing on that soon(ish).
Cue Boyz II Men.