Basically I have around 20,000 items that I want to build out pages for. They do have a category and a single subcategory. So far I have had a nightmare time trying to import them into EE categories and subcats. There are too many issues with the slug and they have to be unique as well as other items.

Overall my question is whether I can just keep them in fields and then and then build categories and filter them on the fields? Would this be a major disaster if I don't use categories? Will performance suffer?

As another option, perhaps just create the Main Category which is around 150 categories and then filter the subcategories on the subcategory field instead of trying to map it in the nested subcategories.

3 Answers 3


It might be more helpful if you describe what the pages are for. However, in general, my rule is that I'm going to have lots of entries and entries can belong to multiple categories, then I use categories.

However, we're aware that categories is still an area of EE that we need to review and look at updating. There are still some limitations with categories vs entries with relationships or other options.

Other options include having each category as a channel entry of sorts and using relationship fields to associate related entries. Then you would just loop through the relationship field to list all entries. However, at 20,000 entires, that just seems pretty cumbersome to me.

To keep them as fields, then it sounds like you need to do some sort of searching (https://docs.expressionengine.com/latest/channels/entries.html#searchfield_name) to list entires and search those entries by a keyword (category name) and in that custom field. I do think you would take a slight performance using this method though, but it could work.

All that to say, from what you describe, I would stick with categories.

  • My usage is really no different than any "product" based usage. Product information, images, links, specifications, etc. The entries would just belong to a single category/subcat.
    – Jeff
    Commented Jun 15, 2021 at 20:50
  • The other problem I have though is the importer. There are constant updates that I can feed from JSON. I have trying to work with DataGrab and Smart Import Export (both are pretty identical), but both fail when dealing with parent/child mapping. So even if I manually type out the 1100+ cats/subcats, I think the product updates will be bad, but I guess I can just leave that part out of the process and set the categories manually. I am happy you know categories need some love, hopefully it can find it's way into a build soon. Please build your own importer as well
    – Jeff
    Commented Jun 15, 2021 at 20:57

Another thing to think about would be to create a custom data structure that suits your data and build an add-on to handle access to this information from within EE.

How this might work would of course depend on how you plan to use the data on the site; add-ons are not so complicated to create and there may be some processing efficiencies obtained by manipulating the entries using custom code rather than relying on EE's general purpose structures.


Two things I can think of:

Low search module https://eeharbor.com/low-search

You could use this to organise content into collections, do search/filtering on categories and/or custom field values, shortcut URL's for predefined sets of results, as well as using as a general keyword search.

It's possible to build a complete filtering system with it.

Tags https://eeharbor.com/tag or https://eeharbor.com/tag

Would tagging of entries help?

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