Happy Content Publishing with ExpressionEngine - part one

Susan Snipes / Posted 7.3.2012

Happy Content Publishing with ExpressionEngine
part one: Using Native EE Tools

Make publishing content in ExpressionEngine a treat for your clients AND cut back on unnecessary clutter in their control panels.

A better content publishing experience will make the editing interface clean and optimized. Fewer options means more clarity and an empowered content team. When they're happy, you're happy.

This is the first in a series on creating more effective and enjoyable content publishing experiences in ExpressionEngine. In this article, we’ll explore native ExpressionEngine functionality.

Appropriate member groups

As a Super Admin and builder of EE sites, you can do anything you want. You know your way around EE inside and out. But your clients don’t. And they don’t need to. ExpressionEngine’s member groups allow you to build customized experiences for all levels of content publishers and editors.

EE comes with a basic set of member groups (Super Admins, Banned, Guests, Pending, Members) and includes the ability to create as many more member groups as you may need. Privileges can be tweaked and tuned individually for each member group. Some member groups will need to have access to the EE control panel, some won't.


  • By limiting access to the parts of EE a content publisher needs, you can keep important settings and controls safe from accidents and “experiments”.
  • Don’t overwhelm content editors with too many permissions and features that they may never use.
  • In addition to separating EE roles, some add-ons set their roles and privileges based on member groups.

My Tips:

  • When setting up our client/content editor access, I always create at least one custom member group. The first custom group I’d create is an “Editor” group with access to create and edit content on the site.
  • I like to turn off as many functions as I can for content editors. I don’t give editors access to Templates and Admin sections. And I only selectively provide access to the Add-ons, Members and Content sections.

Making it happen
More info on member groups is in the ExpressionEngine user guide: Creating and Editing Member Groups.

Instructive channel fields

ExpressionEngine provides several options within custom field settings. Since these are a snap to set up, it’s easy to rush through creating these fields and move on to the fun part of building the loops and templates. However, take it easy and spend a little more care with creating custom channel fields.

Selecting the simplest field settings and adding instructions will go a long way for content editors.


  • The Field Label is very prominent on the edit entry screen, and picking a useful field label is key.
  • It’s easy to leave field instructions blank, and it may seem harmless. But keep in mind that it’s incredibly powerful and effective to combine concise informative instructions for use below an appropriately named Field Label.
  • "Show this field by default?" will let you collapse fields that aren't that necessarily pertinent to editors, but that they might need for more specialized or advanced content.

My tips:

  • For a standard field type (e.g. Text Field), I like to set as many options as possible to “no.” I rarely want to see Smileys, Glossary, Spellcheck, or File Chooser.
  • I also like to set the text formatting to “None” if appropriate – and I don't allow for an override. Lots of fields don't need WYSIWYG text. Plain text is just fine for names, addresses or simple text.
  • I use the field instructions religiously. You should too (see above).

Making it happen:
The ExpressionEngine user guide has more detail on custom field options in Adding and Editing Channel Fields.

Streamlined Publish Page Layouts

With ExpressionEngine’s Publish Page Layouts, admins can customize what different Member Groups see when they’re working with content in each of a site’s EE channels. You can rearrange, resize and most importantly, hide elements from your content publisher’s view. For example, if you’re not using Categories in a channel, you can completely hide that tab. Or if you don’t want to show the expiration date for an entry, simply hide it from view.


  • The most powerful feature of Publish Page Layouts is the ability to hide settings and fields that content publishers don’t need and/or may get tangled up in.
  • There are some things you can’t hide from view even if you don’t think your editors won’t need access to them.  For example, while the publish layout screen lets you “trash” the Date tab, you won’t be able to save a layout without the Date tab. The entry date is required and must remain visible.

My tips:

  • I go through every channel type and set up a custom publish page layout for Editors (or other member groups that have access)
  • I don’t set up publish page layouts for Super Admins. It’s best if they can see everything.
  • Even though the edit/publish page will be a little longer, I leave each field on a separate line. I found that when I combined fields onto side-by-side arrangement, fields were frequently overlooked. 

Making it happen:
The ExpressionEngine user guide has more info on Using Publish Page Layouts.

Coming soon: I discuss add-ons that take EE content publishing to higher levels.

Photo Credit: Pink Sherbet Photography

Susan Snipes

Susan Snipes

President and Founder

Susan Snipes is the founder and president of Q Digital Studio. As a community-minded web entrepreneur, developer, and ExpressionEngine expert, Susan’s innovative approach to the web has benefited well-known companies and organizations ranging from technology, healthcare, education, nonprofits, local and regional governments, and more.  For more thoughts on entrepreneurship, leadership, and inclusivity in technology, follow her on twitter @SusanSnipes.