From October 24th – 26th, all manner of developers, designers, businesspeople, and then some descended upon “Music City”—Nashville, TN—for EE Conf 2018 to experience three jam-packed days of workshops and presentations regarding all things ExpressionEngine (and beyond).
The proceedings got off to a strong start on the opening day of workshops, with Robin Sowell from EllisLab—the makers of ExpressionEngine—breaking down the benefits of the Fluid fieldtype. Introduced with EE 4.0.0, Fluid fields are essentially a collection of fields within a field—thus allowing the style of flexible, on-the-fly, component-based content-building that clients adore. Our CMS team has been so busy upgrading sites to ExpressionEngine 4 as of late that we had yet to fully explore the full potential of this incredibly powerful fieldtype, so it was extremely exciting to learn more about the possibilities that this new feature provides, and it’s sure to be a go-to development method from this point forward!
The first official day of the conference followed, and no time was wasted putting jaws on the floor, as EllisLab founder Rick Ellis announced early on that—wait for it—ExpressionEngine will become open source in November, and is—as of October 25, 2018—a freely available CMS. Yep, you read that right: Free. As in: $0.
To refer to this as a “big deal” would be an understatement, to say the least. Some would contend that competing CMSs—such as the dreaded WordPress, etc.—have in part achieved such market share for precisely those reasons: they’re free and they’re open source. So, it would certainly be wonderful should this move—arguably the most significant in ExpressionEngine’s 17-year history—rightfully aid in making a far superior CMS such as EE increasingly competitive in an overcrowded landscape.
Also announced—independent of EllisLab—was the formation of the EECA: ExpressionEngine Community Association. Still in its nascent stage, this membership-based, volunteer-run nonprofit has initially defined its mission to “connect, grow, and educate the international community of ExpressionEngine professionals,” so it will be interesting to monitor how the organization continues to take shape in the coming months.
Presentation-wise, some of my personal favorite speakers from Day 1 were EllisLab’s Chief Creative Officer James Mathias with the super entertaining “ExpressionEngine and UX, What Was I Thinking?,” and TJ Draper with a noteworthy discussion of ExpressionEngine performance tweaks and tips on achieving the ever-elusive 100% score from Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool.
On Friday morning I opted to deviate from the Development Track to the Business Track for a spell, where I was quite impressed by Brad Nietfeldt’s “Building, Growing, and Sustaining a Successful Digital Agency”; as well as Susan Snipes with “UX & You: A Simple & Practical Approach to UX Design.” Toward the end of the day, Focus Lab’s Erik Reagan delivered a surprisingly moving talk with “Creating Your Culture”—another conference highlight from my perspective.
Throughout the week, my teammates also spoke rather highly of sessions from Luke Summerfield (“Growth Driven Design: A Retainer-Based Web Design Model That Will Transform Your Agency”), Reuben Johnson (“Maintain Your Innovative Edge by Being Different”), and Brandon O’Hara (“Using ExpressionEngine and Vue.js to Power Your Web Application”), so... I’m hoping to peruse some of that content on video in the near future.
What does this all mean for the future of ExpressionEngine? Your guess is as good as mine, but it certainly feels like a nice dose of positive momentum for the EE community at large. I’ve long held a soft spot for ExpressionEngine as my preferred CMS of choice, so I sincerely hope that the continued annual presence of the EE Conf (2019 already announced!), the newly-formed EECA, and especially ExpressionEngine’s transition to free/open source will provide a renewed sense of legitimacy for EE as a top-tier option for CMS-driven websites.