Developers, designers, small business owners: this is the beginning of a series of ongoing articles about using ExpressionEngine (my CMS of choice) to build everything. Sure, you could just use EE as a content management system, but where’s the fun in that? You bought the license… let’s take it out and get the dust off of it! If you have a little patience (OK, a lot) I will show you how to build web based applications using little more than ExpressionEngine and a little elbow grease. Some of the techniques are straightforward, and will benefit light EE developers, and others are pretty involved. Each one will get you a little closer to building everything with EE.
Here at Barrett Newton Interactive, I started playing with EE as an app platform because I want lots of cool tools (bug trackers , time trackers, to-do trackers, estimate generators) but frankly, I don’t want 10 different non-integrated web-based applications. Not to mention the nightmare scenario of losing my data to some other idiot (if an idiot is going to lose my data, that idiot better be me.) I got tired of maintaining the same data on multiple sites & apps like Cashboard, Basecamp, Studiometry, Quickbooks, Address Book, you get the picture. Also, my team is spread across the country, and I myself like to travel, so we need web access to all of our tools. Those problems could be tackled any number of ways, but I had the unlikely idea of making my CMS address those issues for me.
Using EE as an application framework might be a bit convoluted sometimes, but for the non-developer, it’s a great tool for creating and interacting with dynamic data without knowing a lot of code. For a hard-working developer at a small company, it’s a great way to offload at least some of the work on someone else, without the fear of crumbling the entire system. EE strikes a nice balance between depth & simplicity, and because of these factors, we’ve chosen to use it to its fullest potential.
Next week, I’ll post the first in a 4 part series dedicated to our most used app: the Time Tracker. Once I roll that series up, I’ll move on to series detailing our bug tracker, estimates , reporting, to-do tracker, and a few other cool little things as well. Keep coming back, and don’t hesitate to drop me a comment!