Spotlight: Lodewijk Schutte - Masters in Leiden

April 6, 2010
by Jacob Russell

This week we spotlight Lodewijk “Low” Schutte and the EE site he built for Masters in Leiden

Our “Spotlight” series of articles gives designers, developers, add-on creators, and just generally great members of the ExpressionEngine community a chance to talk about how they have used EE and its add-ons in their work.

Lodewijk Schutte, known in the EE community as Low, is an ExpressionEngine add-on developer and web developer based in the Netherlands.  He’s known worldwide for his tight pants and incredibly high-quality add-ons, including the recently released Low Variables.  If you haven’t yet you should definitely take a look at his add-ons, and at today’s spotlight site, Masters in Leiden.

What do you do and how do you use ExpressionEngine on a daily basis?

I’ve been working on the web for over 10 years now. After getting a degree in Computer Sciences, I worked for a couple of small web agencies before ending up at a large labour union in ‘04. There I was in charge of building their new web site from scratch, in a team with a designer, editor and a couple of others. After working there for three years, I decided to quit my job and go freelance full time, which might well be one of the best decisions I’ve made to date.

How did you get started with ExpressionEngine?

While investigating CMSs for the labour union I mentioned earlier, I came across ExpressionEngine. I had a couple of ‘must have’ priorities on my list and EE seemed to fit the bill perfectly. Those priorities were:

  • Built in PHP/MySQL and extensible. I already had experience with PHP/MySQL, so if the CMS was missing something, I could build it myself, or find other packages that I could hook into the system,.
  • Clean output. I needed to be in full control of the output the CMS generated, so I could write validating HTML the way I wanted. Back then, EE was one of the few CMSs that delivered. After I choose EE as the new CMS, I spent the next 3 years working with it, expanding my knowledge, creating sites and releasing add-ons.

What is this site, and why is it special?

Masters in Leiden is the second big ExpressionEngine site I did for Leiden University, one of my biggest clients. It’s a site aimed at national and international students who are considering getting a Master’s degree in Leiden. Although the design itself leaves a bit to desire, the EE implementation is top notch and is being developed further as we speak.

What add-ons are you using on that site?

It uses FieldFrame with Playa and nGen File Field, Gypsy, Solspace’s Tag module, REEOrder, Imgsizer, Textile and a lot of my own stuff: File Manager, Low Seg2Cat, Google Mini, Low Random, Nice Date, Replace and Title.

In addition to that, I created a couple of custom add-ons, the biggest being a module: Tuition Fee. With this, they can create matrices to calculate tuition fees for a given group of studies, based on four variables. It also uses two custom field types to relate that info to weblog entries.

Were there any particularly challenging parts of this site that required creative solutions? What add-ons were involved with that?

The trickiest part was the multi-lingual aspect of the site. The whole site is available in both Dutch and English. However, specific information about a certain study could be available in any number of languages. For example, information about German Language and Culture is available in English and German. Not knowing what languages were going to be used forced me to think outside the box to come up with a solution. Eventually I worked it out using a combination of a dedicated weblog, categories, custom fields and a translator plugin that I created for this occasion.

What is the greatest need you have on this site that you wish were met by an EE add-on?

I guess something to better facilitate the multi-lingual stuff, but since I wrote my own add-on for that, there isn’t really a need for it anymore. Also, I need to install my own Low Variables. That will help as well.

There are a lot of add-ons in the EE world now, which ones do you find most useful throughout your work?

Well, yeah, the usual suspects. FieldFrame, FF Matrix, Playa, nGen File and Imgsizer or ED ImageResizer (which I slightly prefer). But ever since I created it, I’ve always used Low Variables. Also, a shout out to SL Field Formatting for saving me from RSI, and the Textile plugin, ‘cause I love it to bits.

What’s next?

This site is never done. Some things that are coming up are the addition of scholarship information and a tighter integration with the e-prospectus, which is a web-app made in CodeIgniter by yours truly.

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