Thoughts on the ExpressionEngine 2.0 Sneak Peek

For me, one of the most anticipated panels this year as SXSWi was EllisLabs’ ExpressionEngine (EE) 2.0 preview. After having our team's flight delayed due to weather, we finally managed to make the last of three panels where EllisLabs revealed what they have been working on so diligently for months now. In my opinion, they didn't disappoint. I've been an EE user for more than a year now and have quickly grown to love it. The flexibility it offers is far superior to most every other CMS (Content Management System) on the market. But as in every great product, it's not without quirks. What is encouraging to me is that it seems EllisLabs has really made an attempt to tackle most of these issues head-on, having taken the user's feedback into account for their next release. Here's a list of some notable things mentioned: 2.0 will now run off of CodeIgniter, their open source PHP framework image While I don't fully comprehend the intricacies of this announcement, I can understand its benefits. CodeIgniter will now be an open-source project giving PHP gurus the chance to submit patches and make updates. This, much like most open sources projects, creates a more stable and community-driven/backed project. EllisLabs' Derek Allard also mentioned features such as abstract querying, better session support, html, and form generation. 2.0 will now have jQuery built in. (my personal favorite, w00t!) image When this new feature was announced, I actually cheered. (I'm such a dork). I was encouraged because I’m a huge jQuery advocate, so the possibilities here are endless. Much like the way Rails seamlessly works with Prototype and Scriptaculous, we’ll now be able to create complex jQuery actions, both visual (DHTML effects) and functional (Ajax), with a few simple lines of code. jQuery will also be fully supported inside the control panel, enabling geeks like to me to customize their experiences by writing plugins. I also assume that they've cleaned up a lot of the extraneous JavaScript that currently clogs processor power, slowing your CP loading times. Once 2.0 is released, I’m certain it will only be a matter of time before we see some extremely innovative plugins and extensions leveraging the power of jQuery. 2.0 will include a brand new control panel (CP) interface and layout The majority of the preview time was dedicated to showing users around the new control panel. This included some very dramatic and much needed changes. It's apparent in the redesign that EllisLabs is very concerned with streamlining some of its time consuming actions. This includes things like sorting, searching, and custom field creation. Actions that now use ajax, meaning no long page loads? Sweet! My only criticism is about the design and layout of the control panel. (The official screen shots have generated some heated conversations). I think the design should be more neutral and utilitarian than its new playful self. I was a bit surprised that EllisLabs hadn't given the CP redesign to Jesse of 31Three, who designed the current EE site. His talent in wireframing and architecting complex data is evident. I would think hiring him for this redesign would be a natural extension of the great work he has already done for EllisLabs. With that said, Rick Ellis, the CEO, had a great response to some of the criticism the design has received. This is _just_ a preview after all and I'm sure we'll see numerous custom themes before long. Maybe even one from Jesse? All-in-all, I'm stoked for the 2.0 release. EllisLabs has addressed flaws in EE and is moving forward. I can't wait to see what else they’ve got in the pipeline.
Rob Soule

Posted in Article Category: #Design & Content