I am in the process of deciding if ExpressionEngine can be used for a project where I am creating both a website and a native iPhone App.

I would need cron background worker jobs, to pull data with JSON, Geocoding, and Ad Tracking. Also API integration with Urban Airship would be a plus?

I know there are mods from researching Devot-ee.com that may work but I don't know to what extent.

Has anyone attempted this? I don't what to get too far into development only to find EE won't work for this.

Thanks for your time.

  • I am faced with a similar problem. I am thrilled about EE and it will support a main website. However, I want "ease-of-use" so think writing native IOS and Android Apps to CRUD parts of the DB will be a complement to EE driving the main site.
    – Boydee
    Commented Jun 12, 2014 at 6:35
  • This does not really answer the question. If you have a different question, you can ask it by clicking Ask Question. You can also add a bounty to draw more attention to this question once you have enough reputation.
    – Sobral
    Commented Jun 12, 2014 at 12:57

2 Answers 2


You should regard ExpressionEngine as a delivery mechanism for web content. You can use its templates to output any format of content or data you want, including JSON. You can use PHP within templates for server-side processing, or write your own plugins/extensions in PHP to output data.

You can schedule cron jobs on the server to import data directly into the database, using your own tables or directly into EE's channel_title and channel_data schema.

I used ExpressionEngine as a backend to Flash website once, populating AMF output.

So, yes, ExpressionEngine would be very suitable to provide the web-based backend that the iPhone app would consume. It can output anything, and provide a user-friendly control panel for your project's admins.

Whether you use EE, another system, or custom develop the backend, you should consider that EE will work for this, but how can you maximize your efforts? Are there sufficient add-ons that accomplish goals that you can minimize development time? If custom development using a different framework or just PHP is in your skillset, can you optimize the application by housing your custom logic in your own EE add-ons?

EE will work. It's more a question of where you can leverage 1) expertise and 2) already-developed tools to optimize your efforts.

  • Thanks for the response. After much discussion, we decided to roll our own CMS. I just wanted to know what was possible and if anyone had tried this before. Commented Jan 30, 2013 at 20:08

ExpressionEngine can certainly be used for things like this, but I wouldn't go down that path.

Why? Because to do things like display your channel and entry data as JSON, with even a moderate amount of customization, you will end up writing custom PHP and your own database queries. At the point where your site is more than 50% custom PHP vs ExpressionEngine templates, it's going to be easier to just write your backend from scratch (in PHP, or whatever else).

The only exception I would make to this is if you already had an existing website with content in ExpressionEngine. In that case it's much easier to work with what you have (and what your content editors know how to use). You would only need to write some methods to pull data from your existing content. But if you're starting from scratch, and you have the ability/expertise to write a fully custom backend, then it will probably make your life easier in the long run to do so.

  • 1
    Using the EE Control Panel can be a compelling argument as well. Commented Jan 31, 2013 at 12:40
  • Thanks for the advice. I really appreciate it. We are looking at using Ruby on Rails to get it done now after much discussion. Plus the model we are shooting for ended up being a violation of the EE license. So, this way is best all around. Commented Jan 31, 2013 at 14:52
  • Rails is great, but I try not to say that too loudly around here :) If you need a nice simple CMS-style interface for your client, check out RailsAdmin. There are a couple others too but I haven't tried them. I better stop before I have to moderate myself for being off topic! Commented Jan 31, 2013 at 16:23
  • @MarkJ.Reeves Yes, the EE control panel is definitely a major plus. It's an unfortunate fact that when you roll your own CMS you end up spending hours on really mundane things like multiple image uploaders, which take just seconds with EE and a plugin or two. I guess this is one of the trade offs you need to consider. Commented Jan 31, 2013 at 16:25
  • Sorry @AdrianMacneil didn't think about that when I posted it. I am an avid EE supporter and argued adamantly for using it for this particular project but ultimately after talking to someone at Ellis Labs, the licensing issue was what kicked EE out of the running. Commented Jan 31, 2013 at 18:54

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