10 Cool Things You Can Do With ExpressionEngine

Recently I saw a blog post about 11 Cool Things You Can Do With WordPress (But You Probably Aren’t). I thought it was really cool idea and figured I might try doing the same thing for ExpressionEngine but I am feeling a bit lazy today so here is my take: 10 Cool Things You Can Do With ExpressionEngine (Some of You Probably Are).

1) Landing Pages
One of the things many web development shops neglect is the lead generation aspect of a website. Landing pages are something that are quite easy to set up using ExpressionEngine, and they are quite an effective tool when used in conjunction with a back link strategy, or ad words campaign. Depending on the industry you would have landing pages for the different services that you provide, and then whenever that subject is mentioned you would link back to the landing page versus the homepage of your website. This gives people a very specific bit of information and action that you want them to take without having them get distracted with non-essential content. 

2) Image Gallery
Here at Blue Fish we've done several websites recently with image galleries in them. I’m always surprised at how easy this is, especially when you use an add-on like Channel Images. It allows the client to bulk upload images to an entry and specify specific bits of content and even a description for that image. You can also associate other custom fields with that entry for background regarding the images. Channel Images will take care of resizing all of the images for you and then all of you have to do is incorporate some mechanism on the front end that allows the visitor to view the image and your done. We like to use various versions of light boxes so that the viewer can click on a thumbnail and see a larger version of the image. 

3) SEO 1.0
I really don't understand why WordPress gets all of the attention when it comes to Search Engine Optimization(SEO). Because quite honestly I find that ExpressionEngine has all the same functionality and then some. It takes no time to add a custom field for your clients to add a title tag. With ExpressionEngine you can even set up conditional logic in your templates that says if the client has not entered content in the title tag custom field then you can pull in the title of the actual entry so there is always a Title Tag. This gives the client ultimate control but has a failover in case they forget.

4) SEO 1.1
And don't forget alt and title parameters for images. That's a sore spot on our own site and we are rectifying it slowly. Most of the add-ons for handling images in ExpressionEngine will allow you to specify an alt and title parameter separately so that you can get very specific with what you were sending to the visitor or Google. The main benefit that I find with ExpressionEngine over WordPress is that the workflow for all of this information can be the same as the workflow for the content versus having to specify all this stuff in different areas of the control panel.

5) Social Media Meta-tags
Most of our clients have some sort of social media strategy. Some are a little bit more organized than others (if you need help with that contact us), but one of the things that we try to take into consideration are the different tags that are necessary for the social media networks in order to display content properly on the social media network's website. These super-meta-tags ensure that when your clients paste a link into Facebook that they get images that are appropriate for the article that they are posting. 

Moz has a great article on the code that is necessary for some of the different social networks. And since ExpressionEngine makes it extremely easy to add custom fields, you should be able to incorporate this in, at least, the blog articles or news articles on your clients’ websites.

6) Forums
Are forums still a thing? Well if you have need for a forum and want tight integration with a website then you might want to consider using ExpressionEngine. ExpressionEngine allows you to not only use the membership capabilities for the forums but also brings all of those membership permissions into the main website as well. This can make for an extremely interesting set up where you have customized content on the site based on certain levels of achievement in the forms and so on. You can really do some fun things with it.

7) Multi-Site Manager
In the past I have been up front that MSM is not my favorite piece of functionality when it comes to ExpressionEngine. I think it is a specialty tool that should only be used when absolutely called for. This is not because MSM is faulty but rather because the action of linking any 2+ sites together should not be done in a flippant manner. The only time I feel this should be done is when the members information has to be shared between the two sites. But if the requirements call for it this can be an extremely powerful capability.

8) e-Commerce
I've been involved in the ExpressionEngine community for a very long time (2007-ish). So long in fact I can remember when we did not have any e-commerce solutions for EE, and now we have three! BrilliantRetail, Store, CartThrob are the top dogs for adding commerce capabilities to EE. They are full featured too. They integrate with payment gateways right out of the box. They have shipping method capabilities and coupon capabilities and reporting capabilities and yada yada yada. I think you get the point. Commerce in EE, its never been stronger.

9) Backing Up Sites off server
We've not been shy about the fact that we love Eric Lamb's Backup Pro add-on. This is one that I wish was included as part of ExpressionEngine core, not because I want to slight Eric in the amount of money that he receives, but rather, because I think it is important that every site have backup off server. If you have an S3 account or another web hosting account you can configure Backup Pro to push the backups it makes to those external locations. That way if something goes horribly wrong you know you have what you need in order to rebuild.

10) Security
Not sure what I should write here as you are reading an article about ExpressionEngine. EE has one of the best reputations in the CMS industry in regards to security. Since 2007, when I first got involved with the ExpressionEngine community, I have not heard of one install being hacked. That includes 18 months of working for EllisLab where I was one of a handful of people that would have direct access to that information. That does not mean that it is not hackable, it just means that the team at EllisLab takes security seriously and does everything it can to consider security first. 

You can also do simple things like changing the name of admin.php or of the system folder. Doing small things like that make it a little bit more difficult for people to hack the system as they would have to guess the custom name you have given those items. Don't forget to turn the member registrations off unless you need them. That is the one thing that I've seen people forget and when the bots find it they will fill up website with thousands of bogus memberships in a heartbeat.

So there it is. My list of 10 Cool Things You Can Do With ExpressionEngine. If you have others you want to share put them in the comments below.
 

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