Expression Engine 6: First Impressions

Expression Engine 6: First Impressions by Shrimpton Agency

We used the Expression Engine for many years to build dozens of content rich websites. But with the discontinuation of many great third party add-ons (namely those created by Pixel & Tonic who went on to launch Craft CMS) the platform became tired.

With the release of Expression Engine version 6 at the end of 2020, the platform might just be a contender once again. Firstly, it's now 100% open source and free to use. It's PHP based which means it will run on just about any crappy hosting out there, and it's learning curve for new developers is extremely smooth. The newly re-designed admin UI helps the platform look and feel like a modern web application.

On the downside, the platform hasn't addressed two features that are ultimately going to keep it from gathering any real momentum with new developer audiences:

Remote Asset Storage

No connector for AWS, Azure, or Google Cloud Files means you might end up storing gigabytes of media on your server... no thanks. Sure, there is a leading third party add-on for this, but who wants to put their faith in a third party when EE core is now open source?

JSON & GraphQL end points

If you're working with React, Vue.js or other modern Javascript powered frameworks, chances are you're looking for JSON endpoints, or even a GraphQL interface. Expression Engine seems far off having these as native response formats, thus rendering the platform virtually meaningless to bleeding edge developers.

What its good for

Brand sites that have a finite amount of assets, yet require a flexible amount of data structure, fine grain control over user permissions and a quick and lower cost development cycle.

Take a look at some of the legacy sites we built on Expression Engine 2 back in it's hayday:

Lena Gora
David Roemer Studio
Seventh Man
World of Aerin