Detail

International Polar Foundation

25th July, 2013 ✭ by Jérôme Coupé.

I had to find a CMS that would be easy to use, while being powerful and flexible enough to cater for the needs of the various websites. With a solid foundation and a wealth of well developed and well supported add-ons, ExpressionEngine empowers front-end developer / designer hybrids like myself to design, maintain and develop custom content-heavy websites without having to write much back-end code. You can be confident it will handle nearly any feature request that gets thrown at you.

The International Polar Foundation is a non-profit organization that communicates and supports polar scientific research. The Foundation designed, created and and operates the wind-and-solar-powered zero emission Princess Elisabeth Antarctica station, provides logistical support to scientists working in Antarctica, and manages several content-heavy science and education websites, along with several other projects.

That’s where ExpressionEngine comes in. We are a small team and I am the sole web employee. I had to find a CMS that would be easy to use, while being powerful and flexible enough to cater for the needs of the various websites. With a solid foundation and a wealth of well developed and well supported add-ons, ExpressionEngine empowers front-end developer / designer hybrids like myself to design, maintain and develop custom content-heavy websites without having to write much back-end code. You can be confident it will handle nearly any feature request that gets thrown at you.

Such websites often ask for relatively complex data-structure, which ExpressionEngine lets you create with ease, instead of shoehorning you in a predefined model. It also provides a nice user experience for editors. I did a demo of the system to the team before starting the design and development phase and all of them were really impressed! The control panel is very approachable out of the box and can easily be customized to serve the needs of the pickiest of content providers. Several people are using it every day to feed our five sites with content and they very rarely ask for assistance.

For lonely web workers like me, the ExpressionEngine community is also a big asset. Being able to reach out to peers, talk with add-on developers, read in depth blog posts and tutorials and attend conferences like EECI or EEUK was really important. All these people helped me meet the various challenges along the way. I owe them quite a few Belgian beers!

On the more technical side, this third incarnation of the site is built using a mobile-first responsive approach that is the standard these days. Since ExpressionEngine - unlike some other systems - only outputs the code you want it to output, it didn’t get in the way, but rather facilitated the process. I used Stash by Mark Croxton quite heavily: DRY template partials approach, Stash caching and embeds to reduce the number of MySQL queries. The site also runs a beta version of Mustash (also by Mark) to manage Stash cache breaking rules. Apart from that, it is a pretty standard build in terms of add-ons.

Since 2007 ExpressionEngine has served me, my clients and the company I work for very well. I really hope EllisLab continues to improve and evolve the product. It is a fantastic string to add to any web developer’s bow.

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