Switching from ExpressionEngine to Craft CMS

Posted on January 12, 2021

Caroline Blaker

Switching from ExpressionEngine to Craft CMS Image

Is it a good idea to switch from ExpressionEngine to Craft CMS?

Updated February 8, 2023

Thinking about switching your website from ExpressionEngine to Craft CMS?

TL;DR - Switching to Craft CMS will definitely help you to get more out of your website. To say whether or not making the switch is a good idea for your business, however, primarily depends on figuring out what your website needs right now that it currently lacks.

Craft CMS has some unique capabilities that ExpressionEngine does not, but if your needs are relatively simple, then you may be able to save yourself the time and effort from transitioning into a new CMS by exploring more of ExpressionEngine's functionality.

Here are a few examples where key differences in ExpressionEngine and Craft CMS can help you determine which platform is right for you.

Are you getting ready to bump up and handle thousands more users?

Static caching options for Craft CMS have allowed it to soar in popularity around long-standing, open-source classics. While it's newer in history than the classics are, Craft CMS does so many things so much better. Craft CMS add-on developers have been making elegant solutions around caching (not to mention SEO, e-Commerce, and spam management, among others) while ExpressionEngine's selections of these kinds of add-ons has idled a bit.

Looking for performance enhancements on a website for anything associated with heavy traffic?

Go directly to Craft CMS and look no further.

Do you want additional security or stability outside of high-traffic performance?

Stick with ExpressionEngine, at least for now. A move to Craft may only complicate these factors.

Do you want out-of-the-box headless support?

Nothing ghoulish about this, my friend. Craft can handle GraphQL and has built-in support to configure feeds straight from section entries. For publishing anything past your website and past social networks 2FA API's, Craft has the ideal set-up. ExpressionEngine can be operated sort-of headless but with the head—where templates are set up just to make feeds. Not bad, but feels extra.

You can add 1 or 2 of these to an ExpressionEngine site and be fine. Otherwise, if you're building new and/or depending on it heavily, it's Craft CMS.

Speaking of add-ons...

"Each CMS has its own collection of 3rd party developed add-ons or plugins. Switching from ExpressionEngine and its add-ons, means comparing whether Craft has equivalent inherent functionality, or will need a free or paid plugin to replace it." says Niki Wolf, Aquarian web developer. Your work in determining if it's even possible to move from ExpressionEngine to Craft CMS should needs to include the viability of what is currently built in EE and how that will work in your new system.

I want to set my cool design up on something I've heard is good software.

These are both good choices. You will struggle with Craft CMS a little more than ExpressionEngine if you are new to building websites or have not used the command line to set up a local development environment. Both have help available both free and paid. ExpressionEngine has no build process requirements, offers a predictable and flexible templating language (and now Twig support via Coilpack!), and with optimal setup is just as, if not more, secure. Lastly, and I cannot stress this enough, there is room for you there, O code investigator. Enjoy the company of a longstanding dedicated community while growing your career.

My web design company says this is what we have to do.

Good for you for getting a second opinion. If you want our opinion on if you should switch or not, you can book a chat with us for free.

Do you have a stakeholder who is eager to pursue the latest ways in all things? How about one who prefers stability?

Craft CMS websites generally use a collection of modern frameworks as reference code that are compiled when it is installed on a server. Same goes for add-ons. Managing these dependencies can be tricky and has been known to sink a day or two of even experienced developers' time, in connection with unexpected updates elsewhere or just forgetting the basics. When you have a development company who keeps up with this for you, you don't need to worry about fragile command-line skills.

On the other hand - if your stakeholders are more along the lines of "We just want what we want and we don't have to worry about anything happening to it," you may consider staying in ExpressionEngine and consulting a development team about reworking your website's features. ExpressionEngine is still bar-none for stability and simplicity—there are no command-line build processes for EE itself and it's been like that for like 20 years. (date approx)

Are you a developer who wants to learn Craft CMS?

Go for it, kid.

Before you do anything, back up your stuff—well. Files and database, no exceptions.

But if you are not sure if you'll blow up your site upgrading on the command line or are deciding between this migration and implementing features in ExpressionEngine, just keep the EE and add features there. Make sure you're on the latest EE for you, which is likely to be EE5 or EE6. Take your time with the transition to a Craft CMS workflow, which is much more involved and can be fraught with unknowns (mcrypt) and errors that can affect how quickly you move forward.

Do you recommend one CMS over the other? Why?

These are the two content management systems we do recommend. We don't recommend other CMS platforms, so let it be said that they are both recommended but for different reasons.

ExpressionEngine is an awesome dependable, open-source piece of software for smaller websites or websites that aren't likely to change much in their server-side form once deployed. There's ample opportunity to extend ExpressionEngine as needed or even integrate some larger build-system. It's simple to set up and configure and will last forever, if the past is any indication. ExpressionEngine websites are out there that have been out there for 15-20 years. Additionally, there is room for beginners in this ecosystem. ExpressionEngine was road-tested in advertising agencies for most of its past and never cracked.

Craft CMS is an enterprise-grade software that works all the way down to the common tiny website. Planning for a future of heavy website traffic (and sales, perhaps) demands a solution that is designed to scale and grow and remain not only stable but forward-reaching. While both of our options implement scaling and security better than other website platforms, we also work with the absolute best for this. This is Craft CMS and we are lucky to have it. important industry projects (the W3C redesign, for example) are choosing to work with them, and they are working on becoming the first completely a11y-compliant CMS on top of everything else. It's a privilege to work with an extraordinary tool like Craft and all the minds around it.

Overall, the decision to switch your website from ExpressionEngine to Craft CMS hovers around specific concerns in where you are going. It may also hover around whether or not you are in charge of the work yourself and can handle the difference (command line and command line errors) between ExpressionEngine and Craft CMS. There have been those who have switched to Craft for vanity or because they incorrectly thought ExpressionEngine could be on its way out, a concern which we are here to assuage. If you want an opinion on your website, we can provide that. As both Craft Verified Partners and ExpressionEngine Silver partners, our commitment is to listen carefully to your needs as a business or organization and use what we have learned over our 10+ years of optimizing websites, to guide you towards an educated perspective where you can decide how to move forward for yourself, with our help. Get in touch today.

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