Never Fear: ExpressionEngine is here

Susan Snipes / Posted 3.8.2017

ExpressionEngine is here

Reality has set in. You realize you're actually going to have to update this new site of yours, and you're panicked it’s going technically way over your head and will take up all your time. Let's talk about why managing content in ExpressionEngine really isn’t so scary.

Do these echo your fears about using ExpressionEngine?

  1. I'll break the site.
  2. I won’t know where to go to edit a page.
  3. I won't be able to add a new page.
  4. The interface will be totally confusing.
  5. I'll need to know HTML, and I don't know any.
  6. I will have to retype my document into the system.
  7. I will forget to remove content or add content when I need to.
  8. I won't be able to upload a file or image.
  9. I don't make edits often and I'll totally forget what to do.
  10. Updating the site will take a lot of time.

Eliminate the Top 10 EE fears:

Fear #1. I'll break the site.

Breaking your site is next to impossible from within the ExpressionEngine administrative control panel. The ExpressionEngine Content Management System and administrative control panel are designed to keep you safe from causing unintentional damage. You are set up with an appropriate level of access to the inner workings of your site, so there’s no need to worry if you’ve stumbled into configuration settings or other components that shouldn’t be modified. Your level of site access as an Editor gives you just the tools you need.

In addition, every page that you edit has a saved version history, so if you accidentally make a mistake you can always go back to an earlier version of the page.

TIP for your EE Developer:
Set up limited access for users that only need to edit content as a user type of Editor or similar that has selective Control Panel access. Turn on version history for entries by going to Admin > Channel Administration > Channels > Channel Name. Then go to the pane called Versioning Preferences and click the versioning radio button “on”. Any number of recent revisions can be saved. Each version only takes up a tiny amount of space in the database, so there’s no harm in saving 20, 30, or even more versions.

Fear #2. I won't know where to go to edit a page.

Content is listed in the ExpressionEngine administrative area with the most recent first. You can sort and search for content using keyword or category filters. Once you find the piece you want to edit, click on the link. You'll see the entire entry in an editable mode and can quickly find exactly what parts to update.

TIP for your EE Developer:
For some cases, it makes sense to include “edit this content” links on the front end of the site for users that are logged in. This way if the site content editors are browsing the site, they can click the “edit” link next to the content they want to edit and get taken straight into the EE edit entry form.

Fear #3. I won't be able to add a new page.

During the planning stages, your web team will help you determine what types of content you'll be able to add. For example, a common feature on sites includes adding news or blog articles. You'll be able to add as many of these pages as you like, and they'll automatically be filed and linked where they’re supposed to be.

Fear #4. The interface will be totally confusing.

Any Content Management System takes a little getting used to. Yes, there is a learning curve. However, there a lot of Content Management Systems out there, and ExpressionEngine is one of the friendliest ones around. With ExpressionEngine, you’ll be set up with access to only the things you need, so you won't be overwhelmed. (Remember #1, you really can’t hurt the system!)

Fear #5. I'll need to know HTML, and I don't know any.

The elements on a page are separated (title, paragraphs, etc.), so that you don't have to worry about what formatting to pick when you're creating a new entry. For simple text items like a title or a link simply enter text into the relevant content box and the system will automatically apply the size, font, color. For larger text boxes like paragraph boxes, you’ll use an editor (similar to MS Word) where you can select styles like bold and italic, or make lists.

TIP for your EE Developer:
There are multiple ways to implement WYSIWYG editors. Our favorite is the paid add-on Wygwam for a stylish and easy to customize WYSIWYG editor.

Fear #6. I will have to retype my document into the system.

You can copy and paste content from a Microsoft Word document into ExpressionEngine. (Or from any text document.) Your formatting will not remain identical to the formatting in your Word document because it will adapt to the fonts, colors and styles of your website. (That's a good thing!) If you need to change the formatting to include subheadings or bold text, you can do that quickly and easily in the editor in ExpressionEngine.

TIP for the EE Designer/Developer:
Within Wygwam, you can turn on settings that strip any text pasted into the editor of the style tags MS Word puts in, so only plain text goes in.

Fear #7. I will forget to remove content or add content when I need to.

Content that you add to the site has a date stamp. You can set entries to a future date, so they will appear on the day you want instead of when you first enter them. For example, setting future entries works well for articles that need to released on a specific day. You can also set entries to expire, so they will automatically be removed from the site. This can be useful for advertisements that should only run for a certain number of days.

Fear #8. I won't be able to upload a file or image.

You will be able to add both files (PDFs) and images (GIF, JPG or PNG) to relevant parts around your site. ExpressionEngine adjusts the images to appropriate sizes so they display well. To help you stay organized, the places for files and images will be determined in advance. As far as displaying your documents, you don't need to worry about either. PDFs may be a list of documents with a PDF icon. Or, if your site is set up for an image gallery, you’d be able to upload a flexible number of images and ExpressionEngine will size them and convert them into the appropriate gallery.

TIP for the EE Designer/Developer:
A great way to give clients the ability to add a flexible number of files (either PDFs or images) is using the Grid field. Instead of having a fixed number of fields per entry, Grid gives you and your client the flexibility to add multiple fields of the same type right in the entry field. Clients love it, and it’s very easy to set up.

Fear #9. I don't make edits often, and I'll probably forget what to do.

Throughout the site, instructions are added next to each place you put content. These instructions will help you understand what type of content to insert, such as titles, links, keywords or whatever the content may be. You’ll also be provided with a stand-alone guide specific to your site, so you'll have a reference on where and how to make edits and add content to your site.

Fear #10. Updating the site will take a lot of time.

After you've added a new blog entry or a new article a few times, it will probably take between 5-10 minutes to add a new piece of content. If you're adding a lot of entries at once, you could probably make seven or eight updates or new entries in an hour.

Create a regular content release schedule or site review schedule to help you stay organized. This schedule is up to you and should be whatever makes the most sense for your website. Maybe it's making updates once a week, maybe it's once a month. Be sure to include in that schedule when new content must be delivered to you or your editor to make it on the site.

Other concerns?

ExpressionEngine isn’t too scary, we promise. But, if you are still nervous about using it, let us know. We'd be happy to give you a demo of a real website that uses ExpressionEngine.

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.