00 - Building a Small Business Site with ExpressionEngine - Overview
ExpressionEngine from EllisLab is a very powerful content management system that’s been around for a few years now and has thousands of users. However, what’s been missing is a cohesive book or series of tutorials on building a complete site using ExpressionEngine (EE).
After seeing a number of requests in the support forums for such a tool, I started this series on Boyink.com and called it “Building an ExpressionEngine Site.” The series comprises 17 chapters, and took roughly five months to publish end to end – with segments getting completed in between client work and life as we know it. The compiled version with screenshots was compiled into a book and served as the launchpad for the site you are now on (and is still available as such). Since Train-ee.com is now rising in popularity as a source for ExpressionEngine learning materials it made sense to move this content from Boyink.com to Train-ee.com.
Who Is This Series For?
This series was written for someone who is already familiar with building web sites using (X)HTML and CSS, and is just new to ExpressionEngine. If you aren’t comfortable editing CSS selectors, using div tags, or don’t know how to use the W3C CSS and (X)HTML validators then this tutorial series may not be for you. A good share of the issues I’ve worked through with people using this series are straight HTML or CSS related - missing div tags, extra spaces in CSS files, etc. The more comfortable and experienced you are at solving those problems, the easier it will be to make the jump to ExpressionEngine. And of course, the more you’ve already explored the existing ExpressionEngine resources such as the EE support forums, the EE knowledge base, and the EE wiki, etc., the easier time you’ll have grokking the code and build approach in this series.
So What’s the Plan?
In this series we’ll take a free CSS site template and work through the process of bringing it into ExpressionEngine from start to finish. I’m planning on a typical, genericized small-business site architecture of:
Please do not use any of the default templates that install with ExpressionEngine as your basis for the templates in this series. Nothing against them - they just have some advanced features that make it hard to use them as a simple starting point. I also think the practice of using a static, non-EE template is closer to how many EE sites get developed. This series assumes you are using a commercial copy ExpressionEngine 1.6.1 or newer. Most of the series will work with EE Core however.
Before You Begin
The EE integration approach used in this series should be viewed as “one way to do it” – not necessarily the “only” way. ExpressionEngine is incredibly flexible, and there are always at least a couple of different ways to implement the same thing. What I tried to do in this series was demonstrate a good way to build out a small business website, using a simple/clean approach favoring native EE functionality, while also showing some of what I feel are good foundational coding practices that will set you up well for learning more advanced techniques later on.
Also - this series is in no way meant as an exhaustive treatise on ExpressionEngine, and will not cover some portions of the software (such as the Wiki module, Photo Gallery, Discussion Forum etc). The intent was simply to show, step-by-step, an approach to implementing a site using EE.
Let’s get to it.