Is ExpressionEngine becoming too expensive?

Over the last year or so, the ExpressionEngine community has seen a lot of changes. Without a doubt, the biggest change is the release of ExpressionEngine 2, which was released as a public beta on December 2, 2009 and is now out of beta as of July 12, 2010. But I would argue that a close second would be the rise of third-party developers releasing commercial add-ons for ExpressionEngine.

Commercial ExpressionEngine add-ons have been around for awhile, thanks to developers such as Leevi Graham and Solspace. But the last few months have seen a sudden new wave of developers who have begun charging for their add-ons, with Pixel & Tonic‘s Brandon Kelly perhaps being the most famous. (Kelly even gave a presentation on commercial add-on development at EECI 2009.)

There are still plenty of free add-ons for ExpressionEngine, just do a quick perusal of Devot:ee’s add-on library. But clearly, a paradigm shift of sorts has begun within the ExpressionEngine community, as more and more developers are selling that which might have been offered for free even last year. Which brings me to the point of this entry.

Along with this rise in the number of commercial add-on developers, I’ve also noticed a certain attitude developing within the ExpressionEngine ‘verse that ExpressionEngine is becoming too expensive. I first noticed it when Kelly began releasing his commercial add-ons, which were a huge hit and paved the way, I think, for more developers, and it really seemed to gain ground when EllisLab announced ExpressionEngine 2’s pricing structure, which included ditching the free “Core” version and increasing the license price across the board.

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Simplify your ExpressionEngine control panel

There’s no use denying it: ExpressionEngine’s control panel, or CP, can be a little daunting, even if you’ve been using EE for years. Which is why I like Jesse Bennett-Chamberlain’s simplified CP theme so much. While it doesn’t do much, if anything, to address the CP’s underlying architecture, it does clean things up and reduce some of the CP’s visual clutter—which is not nothing. I recently installed it on Opus, and like it so much that I’ll probably be using it for client sites that aren’t running EE 2.x (the theme only works with EE 1.6.x).

ExpressionEngine turns 2.1, gets a new website

ExpressionEngine

For the last seven months or so, ExpressionEngine 2 has been available as a public beta. However, with the release of ExpressionEngine 2.1 (change log), the beta period is officially over. The road to this moment has been a long one for the folks at EllisLab—it’s been over two years since we got our first glimpse of ExpressionEngine 2—so many congratulations to Rick Ellis, Leslie Camacho, et al.

And as a way to celebrate this auspicious moment, the folks at EllisLab have unveiled a brand new ExpressionEngine website. In the interests of full disclosure, I worked on the new website and I consider it a real honor to have been involved in the project. I got to work with people I respect for a community that I value and to help promote a product that has had a huge impact on my career over the last few years. What more could one ask for?

EllisLab’s plans for the end of the ExpressionEngine 2 beta

With the impending release of ExpressionEngine 2.1, the new version of ExpressionEngine will officially be out of beta. EllisLab has just announced their plans for the transition and here are a few of the highlights:

  • ExpressionEngine 1.x will no longer be available for purchase after ExpressionEngine 2.1 is released. However, ExpressionEngine 1.x owners will still have access to download their files.
  • Folks who purchase ExpressionEngine 2.x will also have access to ExpressionEngine 1.x through December 31st, 2010. (Presumably, most third-party developers will have made their add-ons compatible with ExpressionEngine 2.x by then.)
  • EllisLab will continue to provide support for ExpressionEngine 1.x “as long as there is sufficient demand for it” (i.e., probably through at least part of 2011).
  • EllisLab will continue to provide bug fixes and security updates for ExpressionEngine 1.x.

You read all of the details here. Additional information and discussion can be found in this forum thread.

Pixel & Tonic

Pixel & Tonic

If you’ve done any significant ExpressionEngine development in the last year or so, then you’re probably familiar with Brandon Kelly. With add-ons like Wygwam and FieldFrame, Kelly has quickly joined the upper ranks of “rock star” EE developers, alongside such developers as Solspace and Leevi Graham.

In October of 2009, Kelly announced that he would be leaving his job and forming his own company, Pixel & Tonic, to focus on full-time EE add-on development. And on February 23, 2010, Kelly unveiled the new Pixel & Tonic website.

Use any of Kelly’s add-ons, and you quickly realize that he sweats the small things—his add-ons are elegantly designed down to the littlest detail—and it’s no different with his website. It may not be the flashiest developer website, but it’s a solid, good-looking one that is packed with useful information (including thorough documentation for all of his apps). But the real magic happens if you’re using a “cutting edge” browser, such as Safari 4.

Kelly has used CSS3 to develop the website, which means that users with newer browsers will see a lot of subtle visual flourishes that give the site an extra level of polish. For example, the form fields are just lovely thanks to a nice use of gradients and rounded corners. Also, he’s using HTML5 to mark up the website, which means that the website’s code is more sensible, semantically correct, and easier to maintain.

Of course, this means that IE users are left behind. Visually speaking, the Pixel & Tonic website is an absolute mess in IE6, and only slightly better in IE7. But, as Kelly points out, that’s not really big deal for him:

So what about IE? Well, thanks to the fact that I’m targeting other web developers, I can say with 97.3% certainty that you’re not using it. Which is awesome, because that gave me a practical reason not to worry about it (besides just not caring). I did scope out the damages a couple days before launching, and it wasn’t pretty. Not even remotely usable. I’ll probably deal with that in some form eventually, but it’s most certainly not going to be full support.

Kelly has been blogging about the processes behind the website, which is a nice way to get in the head of one of ExpressionEngine’s premier developers.

All in all, a very nice website and a nice sign of things to come. It’s certainly a website that I plan to return to a lot in the future, if only to keep abreast of the coolness that Brandon Kelly unleashes upon the EE community.