A couple weeks ago I got an email from Paul of Digital Hand who is located in the UK. Paul had a couple questions to ask us on how we work so he could possibly get some insight from us to better help his client base. If there is only one thing that I have learned from the web community, it is that there are so many truly awesome things out there to help people with questions. So the tutorials on our site is kinda our way of trying to help to give back to the community and maybe us answering a couple questions might be able to help some people out there. Now there are tons and tons of ways to get the job done so our answers may not be someone else’s or even work for someone else. These answers are simply how we do things. And please, if you have any thoughts that you might be able to add please don’t hesitate to comment!
These are mostly Expression Engine or CMS questions. So lets get to it!
With working with Expression Engine do you find that you need to know a lot about PHP and MySQL?
Honestly, Expression Engine is really easy to use and doesn’t require much knowledge of PHP and MySQL. You of course need to be able to set up a database and link the two together but it’s just as simple as setting up a site WordPress or any PHP and MySQL driven program.
Is it possible to work with a number of different page templates for use within Expression Engine?
With Expression Engine you can set up multiple site areas. I’m sure there are multiple ways to set up your templates. I basically set the main site up in one main group. I have seen on other sites that each different page gets it’s own group. Unlike using WordPress or Joomla the template is stored differently. In WordPress you can build your whole site within one folder and point to it in the backend. In Expression Engine the template is stored within the CMS and all other folders (images, js, etc.) are kept wherever you’d like. I simply keep them in the root public folder.
Do you build all of your sites using Expression Engine?
I don’t build all sites in Expression Engine. If I’m working on a project that is going to need a lot of custom fields or many dynamic areas that I want to be able to control the look and feel of to the extreme, then Expression Engine is the way to go! If I’m building out a simple site that isn’t going to be too dynamic then I use WordPress. WordPress is also fantastic. They both have their sets of pros and cons. There are some things about Expression Engine that I love that WordPress lacks and vise versa. It all depends on the client and the project.
What plugins and modules do you use?
With WordPress there are tons and tons of plugins that you can take advantage of. One of the problems, however, is that being WordPress is free not all of the plugins work, and depending on upgrades you may run into plugins that worked but don’t work when WordPress is ready to be updated (By the way, WordPress is so easy to update). With Expression Engine there are a couple key Plugins that I have used. One is Sitemap Module which you can buy here for $40. Freeform is awesome with working with, well forms. Fortyseven Media is a team located in Tennessee here in the states that are huge advocates of Expression Engine (and they seem like really cool guys too!) and they’ve compiled some great tutorials in their blog as well as this list of plugins they seem to like!
What about with shopping carts?
Both Expression Engine and WordPress have some plugins for adding commerce to a website. However with a full blown online store these options may not be the best. A cool tool my team has been using is Magento which is free! It’s a super power cart; however, it is really complex to use. Another cart that I’ve heard great things about from a good friend is called digiSHOP. This one isn’t free but it seems to be easier to use all around.
So we help that this might answer some questions that are out there. Again, please remember that these are our solutions and that there may be other/better ways out there to do things and we’d love to hear them if you have them!