I’ve mentioned previously that I was thinking of moving SEB off of ExpressionEngine and onto some other platform, likely WordPress, and now I’ve finally made the decision to do so. Not everyone cares, but for those who are curious as to why I thought I should take a moment and explain.
We’ve been running on the ExpressionEngine platform for the last five years. Before that SEB, and the other blogs I host for friends and family, ran under MovableType up until the release of version 3.0. I originally made the switch to EE due to the licensing fiasco that accompanied the release of MT 3.0. By the time Six Apart came to their senses and made MT licenses reasonable again we were already running on ExpressionEngine and digging all the cool new goodies it had. It turned out to be a great move as EE had a lot of stuff in it that MT didn’t and continued to add lots of cool stuff as the years rolled by and the platform built up a market for itself.
As it turns out, however, the market that the folks at EllisLab found themselves supporting was slowly becoming less and less blogger-types and more and more web application developer types. It seems that ExpressionEngine not only made for a fantastic blogging platform, but for a pretty damned impressive website building tool at a cost far less than many other CMS platforms. Being smart people the folks at EllisLab took that ball and ran with it. This is most evident in the upcoming release of ExpressionEngine 2.0, which is currently in beta testing and which I got to play around with for a bit. One of the changes that drives the point home is the fact that you no longer define “weblogs” in the system, but “channels.” Which is, if you know how EE works, actually a much better way to describe things. ExpressionEngine now drives some of the bigger sites out there and people are using it to build all manner of cool web applications and, honestly, the fact of the matter is that EE has outgrown me.
Which is exactly how I worded it in the email I sent the EllisLab folks letting them know I was dropping out of the beta test and moving off the platform. From everything I’ve seen ExpressionEngine 2.0 is going to be pretty damned amazing for the people that have the skills to take advantage of it fully, which would be the professional web developers. That’s not to say that EE 2.0 wouldn’t be an excellent blogging platform, but that’s no longer the primary focus because it’s attracted a market for which that is only a small part of what they’re going to use it for. That means some of the features I’ve been hoping to see implemented probably won’t be anytime soon. Again, not because they’re bad features, but because they’re not what the overall EE marketplace is looking for. And that’s as it should be.
WordPress has made a lot of progress since I first considered it five years ago and it now has a lot of the things I switched to EE to get, plus some of the things I’ve been waiting for EE to add. It is, more than ever, squarely aimed at bloggers and it’s enjoying a huge popularity as a result. If I had the PHP and mySQL programming skills I could easily develop modules and extensions for EE that would do all the stuff I’ve been hoping for, but I don’t have those skills. WordPress already has a lot of that stuff anyway so the sensible thing is to switch the tool I’m using to the one that best fits my needs and desires.
The point I’m trying to make is that I’m not switching because I suddenly consider ExpressionEngine inadequate. I think it’s great. It still has one of the easiest templating systems I’ve ever used considering how powerful it is. I will still recommend EE to people who are looking for an excellent low-cost CMS package that is easily modifiable and extensible with an active and helpful community behind it, because that’s just what you’d get with EE. I’m switching because the direction I want to head in and the one EE is headed in are diverging enough that it’s the right move to make. I will still be keeping an eye on EE as time goes by just as I do with MovableType. I won’t rule out the possibility of switching yet again because you never know what another five years will bring.
All that said, the change won’t be happening over night. I have already developed templates that’ll make exporting everything from EE over to WP a relatively painless process, but we will lose a few things along the way. First off is the SEBpedia, which is powered by the built-in Wiki module of EE. It doesn’t seem like it gets used all that much anyway so it’s probably not a huge loss, but I may try to find a way to preserve the data it has.
Second thing we’ll lose is the vast majority of user accounts. WordPress will auto-create accounts for people who have had at least one entry that they’ve submitted, but it won’t auto-create accounts for commenters. Those of you who do get an auto-created account will have to use the password recovery option to reset the password so you can login so be sure you have a current email address in your user account before we make the switch.
The third thing that we’ll lose is cross-links within past entries until I can be bothered to go through and fix them all. The basic URL structure will be changing so there will be a lot of broken links in old entries that refer to other entries. It’ll also take awhile for Google to re-index the site and update its database to reflect the new links as well. It’s a bummer, but it can’t be avoided easily.
The last thing that we’ll lose is cross-site user accounts. With EE if you registered on SEB then your account would work on my mother’s blog, my sister’s blog, and so on because they were all part of the same system. With WP I’ll have to have a separate install for each site so if you want an account on all of them you’ll have to register at each one separately.
Beyond that I think most stuff should make the transition. I’ll probably start with one of the freely available themes out there and then once everything is up and running I’ll work on learning how the WP templating system works. As always your thoughts, comments, and suggestions are encouraged.