Four Lightweight Content Management Systems You Should Know About

Content ManagementAs a content management system, WordPress seems all-conquering. It is by far the most popular CMS on the web, with 26 percent of CMS-based sites using WordPress. That seems like an impressive number, but the remaining 74 percent leaves plenty of room for competition.

As web development technology advances, new content management systems are developed, so it pays to keep an eye on the state of the CMS market. That’s especially true if you’re a developer who builds sites for clients. WordPress is a phenomenon, but it’s not suitable for all scenarios.

It’s important to ask what we want from our content management systems. For many developers, it’s a CMS that combines flexible templates written in a standard web language combined with a graphical interface that allows clients to make modifications without having to pick up the phone.

Let’s take a look at four content management systems that fit the description, each of which makes a point of being being both client and developer friendly, while maintaining excellent performance.


Among the options we’re discussing here, Kirby is probably the most well-known. Kirby is a flat-file CMS, which means that it doesn’t use a traditional database like MySQL. That’s not always the best choice, but for many sites, a full-blown database is overkill that introduces unnecessary complexity. Using the filesystem to store content in plain-text files makes them easier to manage for non-technical people.

Kirby is quite flexible, and can be used for most site-types, not just blogs. Its templates are built on PHP and HTML, but they’re less complex than WordPress templates. The project boasts that no prior PHP knowledge is necessary.

Kirby is fast, and it offers an excellent graphical interface for clients.


Perch is a nice compromise between static site generators and full-blown content management systems. It’s friendly from the developer’s perspective because Perch “templates” are simply HTML into which Perch’s tags are inserted. Developers can use whatever technology stack they prefer to build the templates, and then Perch takes care of making the site editable for clients.

Everything in Perch can be thought of as a custom field added to an existing HTML structure.


Siteleaf is another post-SSG content management systems that bridges the gap between the static sites that developers like to build and the GUI content management systems that clients prefer.

Siteleaf can be thought of a CMS layer on top of the Jekyll static site generator, with which it is fully compatible. Like Jekyll, it uses Liquid templates, which are simple to learn for anyone who is familiar with HTML, although they are somewhat lacking in power compared to template languages like Jade. Nevertheless, Siteleaf offers everything developers need to quickly build fast client-friendly sites.


Dropkick is a variation on the same theme that Siteleaf plays well. It’s designed to integrate well with any HTML / CSS frameworks, which means developers can use any free / premium HTML theme, or develop their own in Bootstrap or Foundation.

Dropkick’s major selling point is that it makes it easy to create a white-label site with no Dropkick branding at all. Developers can brand the CMS in any way they choose.

One drawback of these content management systems is that none of them are free. That might be a problem for some developers, but I think that the ease of building a custom site, coupled with the reduction in client-caused headaches is probably worth paying for.

Matthew Davis is a technical writer and Linux geek for Future Hosting.

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