Upgrading from ExpressionEngine 1.x to 2.x

I have upgraded six client sites from EE 1.7.1 to 2.3 or 2.4 in the few months, and in all cases we have had to rewrite code (EE or PHP), remove or change existing functionality, or have had to work with the folks at EllisLab to get the upgrades to complete. The good news is—we’re pretty good at this now!

If you have been running an ExpressionEngine site for a long time, then you already know the upgrade process for an EE site can be a challenge at the best of times.  Though it seems straightforward, when your site includes third party modules, plug-ins and extensions that don’t always integrate smoothly, or a large database that doesn’t always upgrade without “bonking”, the upgrade process is not always a quick and easy job.

A “normal” EE upgrade say, 2.2 to 2.3, takes from one to two hours when all goes well, but in our experience, the upgrade from EE1 to EE2 (depending on the complexity of your site) could take 5 to 10 times as long. If your basic site doesn’t use any add-ons, then your upgrade should go fairly smoothly but if you do and there isn’t an EE 2.x version of that addon then the challenge begins.  Do you rewrite the code yourself, find an alternate functioning EE2 addon, wait until the EE2 version is written or modify your site not to use that addon?  Not all of these options are acceptable to your client.

Does your site have customized forums? Does it use any PHP code in its templates? Does it have left-over code from EE 1.3 or earlier? Are you using Solspace’s Tracker? Or the original Snippets plugin? Or the photo gallery module? Do you know how to deal with the URLs on your site changing slightly (they will no longer end with a slash…) Did you use Mark Huot’s File extension, or nGen’s File extension? Will you miss having Gypsy? Do you use Pixel and Tonic’s Matrix? Are you upgrading to the latest version of Playa? Did you remember to re-sync the File Manager directories? Are you running MSM? What about any stand-alone entry forms? For goodness sake, you didn’t try to do a UTF-8 site in EE 1.x did you? Have spammers been dancing all over your member registration form?

In some instances, we have postponed upgrades until the Expression Engine addon is released because the modules offer such excellent functionality, but then we are working with beta or X.0 versions, and that is its own set of exciting challenges.

With each upgrade the process is getting refined and with each separate client there is a different gotcha.  But the clients that we have moved to EE2 find that it’s worth the effort—in order to harness the newest developments in the add-on community, in order to have easier site development, and a control panel that makes more sense.  The new entry form functionality is especially appreciated, and when EE 1.x support ends soon, there will be even more reason to take the plunge.

So far, we’ve done Filmradar, The Greater Good, ourselves (no small job!),  Sam Harris, Stanford Social Innovation Review, and the University of British Columbia School of Journalism. Add in the sites we’ve built directly in 2.x, and we think we’re getting pretty good at this. If you’re thinking of updating a site and have questions, we’d be happy to help even just with friendly advice!


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