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.

Does this idea—that ExpressionEngine is becoming too expensive—have any credence? Well, let’s do a quick breakdown of the pricing of a “typical” ExpressionEngine site:

  • ExpressionEngine Commercial License: $299.95
  • Structure (Allows users to manage website content in a familiar directory/page hierarchy): $65
  • Wygwam (I don’t like them, but users gotta have a WYSIWYG editor, and you could do far worse than Wygwam): $35
  • LG Better Meta (Very powerful add-on for managing meta content and XML sitemaps): $39.95

(I realize that “typical” is a relative term, and there are certainly plenty of other add-ons that I install. However, in my experience, I’ve found that these form the core of my typical ExpressionEngine installation.)

The above list adds up to $439.90. Which might cause some folks, particularly those accustomed to a free/open source CMS, to choke a little. “$439.90?! That’s way too much considering how much I charge for a typical website!” And therein, I think, lies the point. So much of the concept of ExpressionEngine’s expensiveness (or lack thereof) is relative to the budget of your projects.

Assuming that you’re billing your client for the expenses related to the development of their site, including software purchases—which you should be doing—$439.90 might seem obscene if you typically charge no more than $1000 for a website. (For what it’s worth, these are projects that I tend to avoid like the plague, for several reasons—but that’s a different entry altogether.)

However, I’ve worked with clients who, when they hear about ExpressionEngine’s price tag, express surprise at how cheap it is relative to its capabilities. But they’re accustomed to enterprise level applications that typically cost thousands and thousands of dollars. And finally, I’ve had many clients who simply don’t care what I’m using to build the site, or how much it costs (within reason, of course).

There’s always going to debate and discussion, especially as ExpressionEngine continues to gain marketshare and acclaim, and as folks used to WordPress, Drupal, et al. give it a shot. You don’t have to do a side-by-side CMS comparison to say that they’re different systems with different feature sets, emphases, etc. So to say, out of hand, that ExpressionEngine is simply becoming too expensive because something like WordPress exists strikes me as rather silly—for a couple of reasons.

First, it assumes that other systems, like WordPress, have no expense or cost associated with them. But that’s completely wrong: everything has a cost associated with it. It may not be a monetary cost, but rather a cost in time or features, but it’s a cost nevertheless. So then the question is no longer, “Why do you want to pay any costs?” but rather, “Which costs are you willing to pay and/or are you comfortable passing on to your clients?”

In other words, it’s all about trade-offs. I have no problem with paying $300 for an ExpressionEngine license because that cost offsets other costs related to speed and reliability of development, functionality, and support that I consider to be more “expensive” than $300.

Second, it assumes that content management systems in general, and ExpressionEngine in particular, are inexpensive to build and maintain. In fact, I’ve read people grouse about ExpressionEngine’s costs and then say that it would be cheaper to build their own CMS. Speaking as someone who has developed content management systems of all shapes and sizes, that’s absolute nonsense. When I see a comment like that, I can’t help but assume that the author has never tried to build their own CMS. What’s more, I can only assume that they’re grossly underestimating the amount of time, money, research, and frustration—i.e., the costs—involved in such an endeavor.

Even “basic” content management systems are complicated little beasts, and once you start rolling in features like file/document management, template management, and permissions, they become even more so—and that’s not even taking into account support and future updates. Indeed, the whole reason I started using ExpressionEngine in the first place nearly four years ago was because I’d grown tired of building my own content management systems and being responsible for their continual support and upkeep.

Again, it goes back to costs and trade-offs. Yes, an ExpressionEngine license costs $300, but that money is paying for someone else’s time to develop and maintain the software, as well as respond to my support requests (of which there can be quite a lot at times). And seeing as how I’d much rather make money doing EE development than PHP/MySQL development, that’s a very acceptable trade-off for me.


Comment #1

I guess the bigger question I have - Is EllisLab relying on add-ons too much and not incorporating some into the core of EE? I know that gets tricky for any platform owner but at some point I think they need to whether it’s competing with devs directly or EL buys/licenses the add-ons.

Comment #2

Do what extent does the community - and articles like this one - add to belief that I need all add-ons? If I were new to EE I would believe that the ones you mention are more or less necessary. Of course they’re not. They don’t make it into my installs. Old paradigm stuff (Structure/WYGWAM), devs wanting to capitalize on the WP crowd moving in on the EE scene crying for plug-ins for everything (LG BetterMeta). If people took the time to learn EE they rethink the way they do EE and use add-ons with discrimination. There are some pretty good ones out there (both free and paid ones).

Comment #3

@endthehype: It’s true that most things can be done out of the box including Better Meta. The benefit of these addons is they save you time in development. If it takes you 3 hours to setup custom fields for meta an your hourly rate is $100 p/h then spending $40 to save $260 makes perfect sense. Not only do you save time but you also get a better UI, simpler tags and easier implementation.

From a developers point of view we need to charge for popular addons if only to cover the support they require.

Comment #4

Good article. I also agree with PXLated about depending too much on developers to fill certain gaps. Take auto-generated navigation, this should have been part of the EE core, of any CMS core for that matter. But since it wasn’t we are all very thankful that the developers of Structure provided a solution. While other add-ons are for such specific needs that one cannot expect Ellislab to include all feature requests.

If budget wasn’t an issue, this article wouldn’t even exist. The little shop around the corner with the $1000 budget wants a site too, and they want it to look as great as the big ones and they want to be found on Google too with no budget for SEO. If you’re lucky they already have a logo for you to make bigger. For some of them $1000 is all they CAN spend, for others that’s all they’re WILLING to spend, a.k.a. how they value your work.

Let’s forget the latter because for them, ANY price will be too expensive even if EE was free. For those projects where you cannot afford EE there’s MojoMotor, you might need to lower expectations a bit but at least there is an upgrade path. So your customer may not have the budget for a Lexus but they will get a nice looking Toyota, made by the same factory.

Comment #5

There’s several things to be discussed about EE’s pricing structure, but what’s more worrying is that EllisLabs seems to be scared of implementing basic features that were developed by an add-on publisher.

A good example of that is Solspace’s Tag Module $40.00. Anno 2010, a Tag module should be a built-in, basic feature in a CMS.

And yes, it’s a shame that there’s no core version available anymore, as in: if you’re an EE developer and want to setup a quick little hobby website for your mum, they push you now to use W*rdpr*ss.

Comment #6

Actually, if your mom needs a website, use MojoMotor.

Not everyone needs/wants tagging, and I’d rather pick and choose from the current set of 3rd party apps on a per project basis. Don’t forget to factor in support costs.

Sure, I’d love a free addon or two, but I’d rather have an addon developer make a living with his/her code so *they’ll* write the addons.

Comment #7

+1 to Sue.
Whenever this argument surfaces I’m always reminded of the scene in Moonstruck where the plumber advises his clients to go with the more expensive copper plumbing: “it costs money ‘cause it saves money”—that’s really all there is too it.
Yes, an EE-install with a few plugins can run between 400$ - 500$ but that’s a trivial amount compares to the time it saves in development. I *could* do some of the smaller projects using WP or Textpattern, but I’m so comfortable with EE I’d probably do it in half the time required.

Comment #8

I totally agree with Moonbeetle, ExpressionEngine had a “hole” with “small” clients needs, where I couldn’t fit commercial license + few add-ons, how you sad “My moms website”. From what I saw, MojoMotor is going very well to fill that part and even with few add-ons for it, its acceptable price.

Also, there are many discussions on how Devs are creating their prices, as the author sad, every project is different, but I think we all have some “default” add-ons we always purchase for a project, maybe Devs could create some packages including several more popular addons (Purchase this 3 addons and you get this one free). But I totally understand them, as Leevi sad, when you count all the work development+support+updates, it’s worth.

Comment #9

I think that’s the trouble that a lot of people have a hard time seeing. If you NEED those $430 worth of addons to get a website done, that’s a large website and needs to be upcharged accordingly. If you are charging $600 for a website that requires all of that, you might need to rethink your pricing.

Agreeing with others here, it costs money to provide support for addons, and it’s not a simple process. It would often cost you more man hours to get a free, unsupported app working than it would to purchase a well supported addon. Ever wonder why EE installs get hacked so much less than other CMS software?

Comment #10

Thanks for the comments, everyone.

@endthehype: Just to clarify, I agree that the add-ons I mentioned—Structure, Wygwam, LG Better Meta—aren’t necessary. I’ve built plenty of EE sites without them, and I always evaluate new projects to determine which add-ons are necessary (those included). But I can’t deny that they add functionality that some clients do benefit from. At the same time, I realize that different developers develop differently for different types of projects, hence my emphasis that “‘“typical’ installation” is a relative term.

And I completely agree that one should implement EE add-ons with discrimination. I know I’ve certainly been guilty of installing add-ons simply for the sake of installing them, which can cause issues down the road.

I also agree with some of the other commenters: I’d like to see EllisLab roll some of the functionality that currently exists in third-party add-ons into EE. For example, the Pages module, while useful at times, has ultimately felt lacking to me—to me, Structure has always felt like what Pages should’ve been. I’ve yet to use MojoMotor, but from what I have seen of it, there are some aspects of it that I’d like to see implemented into EE in some fashion.

Comment #11

Totally agree with the post, but the psychology of pricing is a funny thing.

For example, if we all accept that *rationally*, paid add-ons are a good thing—more functionality, good support, and they should *make* you, the EE designer/developer, money in dramatically increased productivity—why do people sometimes get all whiny about having to pay for add-ons?

I suspect (and I’m only guessing) it’s because people *feel* like they’re being nickel-and-dimed for extra functionality. If you have to reach for your credit card for each bit of extra functionality you want, it feels like you aren’t getting value any more from your initial investment in the CMS. Again, this is entirely irrational, but if you’ve ever seen people whinge about prices of $2-3 apps in the app store, you will have seen people’s irrational, and highly relative (’$2 for this? No way is it twice as good as AppX for $1!’) reactions in action.

So what’s the solution? I don’t know, but as a total guess, I wonder if add-on developers started offering bundles of their add-ons (possibly with an EE license, if that’s allowed) as some kind of Super-EE, for a reasonable one off payment, then buyers would *feel* like they’re getting a whole bunch of extra functionality in one go, at a discount (happy!) rather than having to reach for their credit card for every extra add-on (sad!), *even if* the final value is worse off for them (i.e. they spend more on the bundle than they would have on individual add-ons). Such is the irrationality of pricing :)

(The bundle idea could be a total flop too—it’s just an interesting way to highlight how people react emotionally to the same thing presented/sold in different ways.)

Comment #12

My issue with EE was never the cost—it was the customer service. There were all kinds of issues and I’d post on the boards and not see a response until days later. This happened multiple times over multiple months, and is ultimately why I left EE to use Ning.

Comment #13

Pricing complaints are usually a sign that the pricing is spot on. If EE (and add-ons) were actually *too* expensive, people would stop complaining about it and just move on.

Totally agree with Greg. The cost of making a website scales with the scope of the site. If your invoice isn’t scaling as well, that’s on your end.

As for the argument that EllisLab needs to start including some add-ons’ functionality in the core app—they already do, when it’s actually appropriate. Pages, CP jQuery, FieldFrame, etc. And since smaller sites are the only segment where a WYSIWYG is almost universally needed, MojoMotor got one of those. (I *made* Wygwam and I’ve only used it once.)

Comment #14

@Luke Stevens, I think they also get whiny because of the repetitive cost they aren’t used to. It’s not that you have to pay for that certain add-on, it’s that you have to pay for it…every time. And the fact that shopping for add-ons before Devot:ee was time consuming.

I don’t believe in bundles either, but an Add-on grocery list based on you previous purchases on Devot:ee so that you just have to tick the ones you want to order for your next project…now that would be sweet.

Comment #15

A more expensive CMS solution simply means a paradigm shift:

* It will become a higher-end solution
* It will attract higher-quality add-on developers
* It will command a higher fee for development
* The barrier to entry as a dev is higher, so there will be a smaller, more expensive pool of developers to choose from.

That’s all fine with me, but we all need to adapt to this paradigm, because we will quickly lose the shirts off our backs if we charge $1000 for an EE install and appeal to clients with such a budget.

I think that MojoMotor was a brilliant move to fill in the gap where the new, more expensive EE system is heading.  And let’s face it, the newer add-ons that are coming out (commercial or not), are simply improving EE to a really great solution to those that can afford it.

Comment #16

@Luke Stevens: Well, there was EE Heist a few months ago, and Solspace has their Solspace Software Bundle. Personally, I like the idea of EE bundles quite a bit, and would like to see more of it happen.

Of course, the challenge would be in defining how many bundles there are and which add-ons go into which bundle. If there are too few bundles and/or they’re not constructed well, then devs end up having to purchase multiple bundles to get all of the add-ons they need—which defeats the entire purpose of bundles.

@Kate: Sorry to hear that. In my experience, I’ve found the EE support staff to be pretty responsive overall.

Comment #17

@PXLated - Part of your concern is the negative side effect of EE2’s long journey to launch. We spent a lot more time then anticipated on EE 2s development and it was at the expense of the typical new feature/enhancement cycle that the people expected from us.

Long story short, now that EllisLab is back to a more normative dev schedule on a regular basis instead of rebuilding EE from scratch (ie, the move to CI) I think its pretty unavoidable that we’ll step on some 3rd party toes over EE 2’s lifespan.

Since this post is about pricing, I’ll just say that while there are very legitimate concerns about “gaps” where EE can’t be used due to pricing. But overall we think EE’s pricing is currently in a nice sweet spot where it delivers the best value possible.

Just to add to the fire a bit, in order to fairly compare EE to free alternatives, you must include the same level of support. With EE you get support straight from the developers, the people who make EE. To get similar support from WordPress is a minimum of $15,000 per year, per site ( Drupal/Joomla isn’t quite that expensive, but certainly a lot more expensive than EE.

So for $500 or so you get a CMS capable of handling enterprise level work, support directly from the people who write the code, all for $14,500 cheaper than WordPress’s equivalent offering. And we haven’t even talked about EE’s features for such projects, purely the cost of establishing a real relationship between you and the company who makes the software.

If you’re site is “mission critical” we think that EE is by far the best value and as such, we’re really not concerned about EE + add-ons price point right now.

Its the sites that aren’t mission critical where I have some concerns over EE’s availability (pricing being one aspect of that).

Comment #18

All the commercial add-ons is making the EE costs more significant alright, as well as a bit unpredictable, because it’s occasionally unclear that a certain add-on will be needed until into the development phase e.g. playa.

I think that EE should come with a wysiwyg. If you get one with the lower end MojoMotor, I can’t see why that can’t be part of EE. Having used several other CMS in the past, EE is the only one that didn’t have this built in and I find that all clients (regardless of site size/complexity) want a WYSIWYG editor.

While I’m using EE for the majority of projects these days, one thing that irks me is the amount of add-ons I need to install. I prefer to get as much out of first party code as possible for several reasons.
Obviously, EE and WordPress serve very different purposes, but it is refreshing the way that you can just install WordPress and get building straight away, instead of having to change loads of settings and also install several add-ons.

Comment #19

Leslie - Cool, looking forward to seeing what you add.
And I agree, EE is a bargin compared to somewhat robust alternatives - Not necessarily the right tool for a very low-budget site but with Mojo that’s covered.

Comment #20

“We spent a lot more time then anticipated on EE 2s development and it was at the expense of the typical new feature/enhancement cycle that the people expected from us.”

I think this is the core of the issue. I would like to see EL start integrating some “necessary” functionality into the core code… wysiwyg editor, matrix like field, tags, nGen like field, meta tags…

Comment #21

Just FYI, I’ve marked this post for internal review at EllisLab, so the discussion here will be heard by EllisLab. Thanks Jason & everyone else.

Comment #22

Don’t get me wrong.. I respect alot of the add-on developer’s work and it should be paid for. They make all our lives easier. God bless Brandon, Solspace and Levi.

I just don’t see why there can’t be a free core version available (maybe even more stripped down, with just very basic functionalities), for mum’s website and yes, to be a stepping-stone for any beginning beginning developer, who’s probably stuck in Wordpress and/or Drupal hell at the moment.

Comment #23

MediaGirl and Tommy bring up good points about certain third party solutions becoming a part of the EE core.  I have often thought this myself in regards to tag functionality, amongst other things.

Out of curiousity, I’d like to see what other third-party functionality people use on almost every site, and whether or not they believe that these should be a part of the EE core, or remain third-party options.  I have started a quick blog post about this, inviting your responses as comments:

Comment #24

I think EL is kind of in a tough spot.

On one hand, they can take time to spend on integrating select add-ons natively.

On the other hand, they can take time to spend on extending the codebase and creating more hooks that will ultimately allow third party developers to get more creative with their add-on development.

Personally, I like the latter approach which has really been (from what I’ve seen over the past two years) EL’s mode of operation. I like EL giving 3PD’s the tools they need to push the envelope. Just look at how much the EE experience has improved since custom field development has been made easier (kudos to Brandon Kelly too). That is the type of innovation that I expect from EL.

I think of EE as a framework that I can build my own CMS with. I know what paid/free add-ons I need for my clients to have the best experiences, and that is truly a benefit for me. It gives me an advantage because my clients know that the experience that they are getting is not something straight out of the box and they end up valuing my knowledge of EE.

Just my two cents.

Comment #25

Let’s forget about the third parties for a moment, and pretend that all the third party addons were made by EllisLab and included in the core of EE. I’m pretty sure the price would be a helluva lot more than it is now. When I think of it that way, it seems like leaving certain functionalities to the third party developers actually keeps the cost down. Right now, you only pay for what you NEED. And that’s what’s so great about a truly modular CMS.

Comment #26

Integrated modules and extensions should be those that are vital to most installs. Tags are certainly not a given for every site, I’ve only used them on 1 of the 8 or so EE sites I’ve built. But the same can be said for Simple Commerce, and that was integrated by EllisLab, so maybe there is some confusion on our end as to what is considered assumed basic functionality to be integrated, and what has enough features and extended functionality to support in a paid third-party add-on.

I also must say to anyone charging only $1000 for a CMS-driven web site - you are killing our business. In this age of Squarespace and other package hosted/design/development solutions cannibalizing web design and development, real designers and developers should not be assisting in the decline of what we do having value. If grandma wants a site, or you want to get the small change work from people only willing to pay $1000, do yourself a favor and customize a boxed, subscribed solution for them. They don’t need more that that, and we don’t need you diminishing the value of our work any further.

Comment #27

The pricing structure as it stands for both EE and the majority of the add-ons is pretty reasonable. I agree with @RobSanchez - you don’t want to pay for functionality that you would never use.
My only concern, coming from a country (NZ) where our currency is worth jack, would be if the prices were to rise, I couldn’t afford to use EE anyomre.
A standard instal for me including a couple of ‘can’t be without’ add-ons sits at just under NZ$1000!! Now that’s a huge hit straight up.
How about country specific pricing :))

I love using EE, am constantly impressed with the community and will continue using it for as long as I can.

Comment #28

It is disappointing to hear that @Kate had such a bad experience with the EE community. The community is one of the main reasons I started using EE in the first place! Unlike the communities around other CMS’s (that shall remain nameless *cough*WordPress*cough*) I have ALWAYS had an excellent response from the EE community, on both the official forum, and the individual developer forums (like Solspace’s for example).

As a developer of add-ons myself, there is NO question in my mind that it is well worth the money to buy some of these add-ons (as required) rather then build them yourself (however you choose to do it). @LeeviGraham’s point about saving hours (which costs $$) by just buying an add-on is definitely my experience.

The fact that not everything is built into EE is also a bonus for me.  Like with MojoMotor, I don’t want EE to be everything to everybody… this is what Microsoft and Adobe try to do, and you end up with the most expensive, bloated products.  he flexibility of EE and its add-on infrastructure is a key selling point for me.

Just my two cents.

Comment #29

Whilst the 2 cents are rolling in - I just wanted to +1 Leslie’s comments.

The cost of a web project is not just the software, it’s also the infrastructure and man-hours of planning, design, development and support.

I’ve been involved with EE projects for a couple of years now and the very smallest one I worked on I think the license fees might have got to 10% of the budget. But in most cases it’s insignificant.

Add to that the efficiency savings that well written, well supported software brings and EE+add-ons is looking like a bargain.

If you’re working at the lower end of the budget scale and the license fees are a barrier then Wordpress, Mojo, Perch etc. have got you pretty well covered. But if your time has a value I suspect EE will pay for itself.

Comment #30

The biggest value of a CMS engine like EE, from my point of view, is in creating a website that lots of people (developers, etc.) could work on efficiently. Some of this my own efficiency in creating the site, but then it’s also efficiency beyond this, through the lifespan of the site.

For example, someone wants to add an XML Sitemap to their site in EE, and not only are there add-ons that help with this, but there are pretty straightforward ways to do this in EE itself, and, in any case, a large number of web pros could do this on pretty much any EE site. So, the website has no lock-in to a single developer, and many or most changes can be done without big, custom-from-scratch, development project.

When I pay for EE and the various add-ons I use on any project, I always think of it in terms of: this is the cost for getting my client’s site done efficiently and then serviceable by people other than just me, including a lot of talented people in the EE “community,” and also including EllisLab. The talents and integrity of that community is what I want to “build” into many sites, say over Wordpress (which I think is great for certain types of sites).

But, that said, my concern is that EE isn’t getting more efficient to use, quickly enough, relative to its increase in cost (EE plus commercial add-ons), and relative to the way both content management and website features are evolving. And, in this context, it’s natural and necessary for me to look at other CMS engines as alternatives. Because there are other CMS engines that aren’t bad, have good communities in their own ways too, and also are serviced by lots of web pros.

The extra cash cost of EE is fine if EE gets more efficient to work with. But, right now, the cash cost is just added on to the cost of transitioning from EE 1.6.x to EE 2.x as well as the cost of finding, getting good at (and when applicable, buying) EE add-ons that are, imho, more and more necessary for efficient EE site development.

So, I can also develop some sites in Perch or Wordpress or whatever. Six months ago, I was trying to get all my new clients on EE 1.6.x. Now, it’s less clear that this will continue.

I am not thrilled with EE 2.x yet, and I think that’s really where the concern lies: EE 2.x is giving me more headaches than EE 1.6.x—headaches cost me a lot! That its cash-costs are more (with EE plus commercial add-ons) is another, albeit smaller, headache. But, altogether, how much I keep using EE over time is going to depend a lot on EE 2.x making my work (and my clients’ content management tasks) more efficient.

Comment #31

As an end-user with an ecommerce site built in EE, I think Jay Fienberg makes the most relevant point concerning EE’s future. The price of EE + add-ons etc is a total non-issue to me, and always has been simply because: it rounds to zero when you consider the total developer cost (internal or external). Further, I think asking Ellis to bundle-in features (PXLated’s suggestion) is 180 degrees the wrong idea and exacerbates the deeper problem, reflected in Jay’s observation, that stems from the competitive CMS marketplace.

Namely, time is not only a cost, but to some end users, development time is a critical variable. Increasingly, the platform must integrate/outsource various (eg., social) services and APIs. Jay’s “efficiency” is critical to me, as an end user, and some of the other platforms are just quicker to deploy/tweak. In my conversations with my peers, WP is winning b/c of it’s ability to quickly deploy and re-deploy. In that vein, if EE 2.0 and CI enables third-party add-on development, that is a move in the right strategic direction. IMO, this business about the few hundred dollars of license cost—a drop in the bucket re: TCO—distracts from the deeper disruptive threat to EE’s long term desirability.

Comment #32

In fact this is a difficult discussion on many levels. First developing add-ons yourself, even if only for your own clients. You have the risc of bugs, goofs and gaffes, which an add-on-dev can more easily act upon, bug-tracking and constant, swiftly updates. We… we build websites and need reliable tools. So that’s a first trade-off, buy or build. Besides, i can imagine, if you poke (and pay) for a specific need, it might even roll into the next, new version of said add-on.

Secondly, i’m tempted to agree with moonbeetle, as developers we’re in a different boat than the single users, who buy add-ons for their particular private or business EE-website. Web-designers push many websites. Like in my case: we directly support our clients ourselves, and currently they don’t even contemplate contacting add-on-devs themselves. This could be a great opportunity for some form of volume discounts, like ellislab already does for EE. (heck, maybe even a usage-only or reseller license for webdevs). Such a volume-license might even, for webdevs, lower the threshold for the small-business (2000 - 3000) website-market.

Third. core functionality. It is interesting to follow where this will be going. Tags, meta-data and navigation have already been mentioned here in the comments. Personally i think ‘user’ and ‘relation-fields’ are areas where third-parties stepped in, and offered improved basic functionality that should be in core. How difficult would it be, in the foreseeable future, for Ellislab to implement these features, and not step on third-party toes. In this regard, I always wondered why, when what started as these great elementary added functions and ideas, which were (those days) mostly offered for free, were not picked up earlier and incorporated into core.

Comment #33

I only use EE for personal websites - never for clients (I don’t have any) and nor for my day job (I don’t design our website) so everytime I buy an add-on I’m putting my hand into my own pocket.

This makes me think very carefully about which add-ons I really need/want. Many add-ons I have bought are to add additional functionality to the site or make the design/admin easier.

I personally have no issues at all with paying for add-ons. Sure there are some add-ons I think should be naturally included within EE core but that’s life.

What I do have some issues with is when it comes to buying multiple licenses of the software. This is probably because I’m paying for each copy and they are for my own sites but to be honest, if I spend $50 on an add-on I would like to be able to use it on all my personal sites. If I have 3 sites that could cost me up to $150 - the support requests are unlikely to be 3x the amount as if I have issues with one copy I’ll have the same issues with all 3.

Comment #34

Re. @Euan’s comments: I wonder if any third-party devs have ever considered volume pricing similar to EllisLab’s. Specifically, once you buy a certain number of licenses of a particular add-on, you begin receiving discounts on future licenses.

I know that this helps, at least in my own mind, offset some of EE’s costs. That I can get a discount because I’ve used EE so many times is also a nice selling point with clients.

Comment #35

@Jason - I think volume pricing works for developers/designers who are buying for clients. At the end of the day the add-on developer will still potentially have to support the various ‘clients’ when they ask questions.

I’m more interested in inidividuals like myself who develop our own sites and have to buy multiple copies of licences. For 3 site my costs can seriously begin to increase for what!?!?

Comment #36

Why on earth would developers grant volume discounts when there is absolutely no competition for the add-ons they are developing? At least not for the ones that matter or took a lot of time to develop. Seriously, what volume discount can you expect for add-ons in the $15 - $30 range? Two or three bucks? Express your gratitude and buy the man who just saved you so many hours of work, every time you use his intellectual property, a beer or a coffee instead!

Is the Add-on becoming too expensive?

Comment #37

Really good post, as pointed out everything has a cost especially time taken to get things up and running if you were using other software that would needed a lot of custom coding. Adds ons save time and therefore money, and anyway id rather make less money a day than be working long into the evenings multiple times a week.

Comment #38

I see value (for developers) in packaged pricing (multiple add-ons for a price break), but not really volume discounts.

Comment #39

@Moonbeetle: The idea of volume discounts might not make sense for add-ons that are under $30, but there are add-ons that are far more expensive than that. For example, Solspace’s “Super Search” ($99.95), “Friends” ($129.95), and “User” ($99.95); “CartThrob” ($99.99); and Leevi Graham’s “NSM Publish Plus v1.1.1” ($89.95). So EE add-on costs are not necessarily a trivial item.

Furthermore, I don’t think the idea of volume discounts, in and of itself, shows any disrespect or ingratitude to the many kick-ass developers out there making EE a better platform day in and day out. But I could be wrong: if any developers are still following along, what do you think?

Comment #40

What I do have some issues with is when it comes to buying multiple licenses of the software. This is probably because I’m paying for each copy and they are for my own sites but to be honest, if I spend $50 on an add-on I would like to be able to use it on all my personal sites.

A big part of the reason EE and add-ons only have per-site licenses is because each site is unique, and each site will have its own unique set of support issues/feature requests/etc.

Of course, the more you use a product, the less likely you’ll need support. That’s reflected well in EE’s volume discount model, where the cost goes down as you purchase more and more licenses. So that’s something I’m going to be looking into, once I have the time.

Comment #41

At first glance I would imagine that volume discounts wouldn’t make much sense, since there is such a relatively small pool of purchasers of these addons.  I would perhaps be interested in a bundle of sorts, but that only makes sense if I need all of those addons and would have purchased them separately. 

At the end of the day, I’m still happy to pay (read:have my clients pay) full price for the addons each time.  I’ll leave the pricing of the addons to the developer’s discretion.  If something is too expensive, I’d better hope that I can create a work-around for cheaper.

Comment #42

A quick story…

I’m no PHP guru so once upon a time I was getting some quotes for some custom PHP work for a dynamic site I was building. It was going to cost around the $2k mark for all the work but was going to blow my clients budget.

Then I discovered Expressionengine, and for around $300, I found I could build the dynamic site with all the features it needed for a fraction of the price.

That was amazing.

Not only can I now build dynamic sites for people, I have a rock solid platform that I can do nearly anything with. That is worth it’s weight in gold!

EE *sounds* expensive but it’s only when you realise the possibilities and what you can do with it, that you realise how cheap it is.

Comment #43

I have no problems with third-party add-on developers charging for their add-ons. It simply means they have to really impress me for me to download their add-ons. But for me, someone who didn’t use EE for client work but for my personal site, dropping a free core version for EE2 means I’m not using EE2. I probably won’t use EE2 because I don’t want to pay for a license just to blog.

I use PHP to customize my site. I’ve done Wordpress and EE and, really, if you really know PHP and you really know how to develop for both platforms, there’s no difference in “difficulty”. You can do the same thing with both, using the same amount of resources.

There are also arguments that you pay for support when you get an EE license. I can pay for support using Wordpress too, and personally, a pay-as-you-go approach to support is better to me than paying it all in one go.

All this talk about it not being expensive as long as you pass the costs on to the client is completely forgetting the little guy who only uses CMS’s for personal purposes.

Comment #44

Like GDmac I too:

“... always wondered why, when what started as these great elementary added functions and ideas, which were (those days) mostly offered for free, were not picked up earlier and incorporated ...”

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