ExpressionEngine vs WordPress thoughts.

Posted on May 1, 2012 in Web Development

I’ve been using ExpressionEngine from day one of its release. Whether it was a pure blog I wanted to make or a more complex site, EE was one of my first choices. However, seeing at the community growth of WordPress, often made me jealous because I didn’t even know the basics around WP development. I’ve tried a couple of times to transfer one of my web designs to a WP theme, but I never actually made it.

Basic differences I see.

Both platforms are extremely flexible! You can pretty much do anything you want and it all comes down to how well you are familiar with them. Even though I still consider myself a WP beginner I do see one major difference in the way they actually do things. With EE you can design and code anything you want, add a few tags here and there and your site is ready. It doesn’t matter if you’re developing a blog or a complicated business site. The process is the same: Create your channels, add the fields you need and insert the right tags at the right template. On the other hand, WP requires a bit more thinking as to how and what you’re going to make. Maybe I see it this way because I’m just getting the hang of it or maybe because it has a few limitations compared to ExpressionEngine’s channels. However, when it comes to creating a blog, a portfolio and other similar projects, WP will save you a lot of coding time since it can pull a bunch of stuff with a single tag. EE requires that you tag and code every little detail to your site. Therefore I can almost say that it wins a point over WP on the flexibility battle.

If you’re a complete novice on the development field, you’ll probably spot another big difference between the two. With WordPress you’re definitely gonna need some PHP skill if you want to take your theme customization one step further, while with ExpressionEngine you can do almost everything without a single line of PHP code. Not that you can’t use it, it’s just not that necessary and for someone with limited PHP knowledge this is a big deal!

Learning the wrong way.

Like I said, there were times that I woke up determined that the day for me to master WP has come. But my expectations were so high, I failed almost instantly. It’s impossible to take 6 years of experience with EE and convert them to WP over night. That wasn’t my biggest mistake though. Taking an already made theme and fiddling with it in order to understand what goes where is definitely the worse learning way when it comes to WordPress. Every theme I tried to “translate” was made in a different way. Some had extra templates, others had custom mods and functions. It was just impossible to catch up with something I knew nothing about.

So the best way I found to teach my self how to make WordPress themes was to start 100% from scratch. Tutorials on sites like Nettuts+ were really helpful. I started by creating just the basic files needed for a WP theme to function (index.php and style.css) and slowly I started creating one file at a time while I was reading what each tag was doing. Not something that you can do in a day or two but the result really pays out. Currently my first theme (which used here on PixelGeek) has its own widgets, page templates, shortcodes, plus a lot more features that I had no idea how to make two weeks ago.

Does it worth making a WordPress theme?

I spend roughly two weeks of reading and watching tutorials and I’m sure I have a long way ahead to consider myself an expert. I’m enjoying every line of code while I’m learning how to make a WordPress theme. Plus there is quite a demand for them and there are already established market places to sell your work. In other words, if fun is not enough to motivate you, you can always cash your WP development skills! As for EE, themes is not even an option.

So, do I use WordPress or ExpressionEngine?

I think it’s a mistake to compare the two. Even though they can be used to produce similar work, they have pros and cons depending on the project you’re on. However WordPress has a huge advantage of being free and that alone is a reason for choosing it. As for me, I have a lot to learn for WordPress and quite a few ExpressionEngine developed sites to look after. I’m guessing this won’t be the last time for me comparing both scripts…

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