9 Lightweight & Flexible PHP CMS

9 Lightweight & Flexible PHP CMS

9 Lightweight & Flexible PHP CMS

I used to write my own CMS (Content Management System) with PHP and MySQL. It's not an easy task because you need to plan the structure of the CMS, its logic, testing and future enhancement. CMS development can get really complicated if it involves users with different roles.

To cut it short, unless you have plenty of time, otherwise, it's a wise choice to use off-the-shelf CMS.

Using existing CMS has its benefits, for example:

  • Well-tested. They usually being written by a few developers and have a good community to maintain it.
  • Save times. You do not need to reinvent the wheel. Features that you need for your website? Someone might have written a plugin for it.
  • Documentation. Well, most of the times, we don't document what we wrote but for those CMS, it's designed for you and me, so a good documentation is a must.
  • Templates and Plugins. They are built to save times!

Personally, I have been using WordPress as a CMS for a few websites. I love WordPress mainly because of its documentation and community. Everyone would have agreed with me that WordPress' documentation is well-organised and easy to understand. Secondly, its community. Large group of developers, high quality themes and large number of plugins. Also, whenever I encountered technical issues, simple search with relevant keyword would return solutions, even though the solution is dated a while back, but it will still work because WordPress core engine are pretty consistent.

This time, I have a list of new PHP CMS. Most of them has database and some are using flat file system. If you are thinking to adopt a new CMS or switching, you might find something useful in this article.

Anchor CMS

Anchor CMS

Just like its introduction says, Anchor has a very simple UI. The installation takes literally less than a minute. It support Markdown editor, custom field, multi languages and simple theming.

  • License: Open source
  • Server Language: PHP 5.3.6+
  • Database: MySQL 5.2+
  • Self-Hosted: Yes
  • Support Plugins/Extensions: Yes


Pico CMS

Pico CMS

Pico is another really simply CMS. It doesn't have a backend to edit (there is a plugin to enable that). It doesn't use database queries therefore making it super fast. It support Markdown formatting and twig templates.

  • License: Open source
  • Server Language: PHP 5.2.4+
  • Database: No. Flat file CMS.
  • Self-Hosted: Yes
  • Support Plugins/Extensions: Yes



Bolt CMS

Bolt is a tool for Content Management, which strives to be as simple and straightforward as possible. It is quick to set up, easy to configure, uses elegant templates, and above all: It’s a joy to use. Bolt is created using modern Open Source libraries, and is best suited to build sites in HTML5, with modern markup.

  • License: Open source
  • Server Language: PHP 5.3.2+
  • Database: Yes. SQLite, MySQL or PostgreSQL.
  • Self-Hosted: Yes
  • Support Plugins/Extensions: Yes



Monstra CMS

Monstra is a simple and light-weighted Content Management System written in PHP! Monstra has a good collection of plugins available to download.

  • License: Open source
  • Server Language: PHP 5.2.3+
  • Database: Yes. SQLite, MySQL or PostgreSQL.
  • Self-Hosted: Yes
  • Support Plugins/Extensions: Yes. Plugin Repository


Wolf CMS

Wolf CMS

WolfCMS is slightly more advance than the rest. It has a great collection of plugins and it support per page customization, flexible page content and reusable snippets.

  • License: Open source
  • Server Language: PHP 5+
  • Database: Yes. SQLite, MySQL.
  • Self-Hosted: Yes
  • Support Plugins/Extensions: Yes. Plugin Repository




PyroCMS is used by individuals, small & medium-sized businesses, and large organizations worldwide to easily create & build a variety of websites & web-enabled applications. It has multisite manager and powerful addons.

  • License: Open source
  • Server Language: PHP
  • Database: Yes. SQLite, MySQL or PostgreSQL.
  • Self-Hosted: Yes
  • Support Plugins/Extensions: No.




Kirby CMS is a easy to use, easy to setup and very flexible CMS. No database setup, it uses flat file system. WIth its jQuery inspired API, it's easy to learn as well. It supports MarkDown syntax, templates, plugins and most importantly, good documentation..

  • License: Free to try. $30 per website.
  • Server Language: PHP
  • Database: No. File-based CMS.
  • Self-Hosted: Yes
  • Support Plugins/Extensions: Yes. Plugin Repo


GetSimple CMS

GetSimple CMS

GetSimple is an XML based, stand-a-alone, fully independant and lite Content Management System.

  • License: Open source
  • Server Language: PHP
  • Database: No. XML Based CMS.
  • Self-Hosted: Yes
  • Support Plugins/Extensions: Yes. Extensions Repo


CMS Made Simple

CMS Made Simple

CMS Made Simple, an open source content management system, allows for faster and easier management of website content. This CMS is scalable for small businesses to large corporations.

  • License: Open source
  • Server Language: PHP
  • Database: Yes.
  • Self-Hosted: Yes
  • Support Plugins/Extensions: Yes. Modules list

Author: Kevin Liew

Kevin Liew is a web designer and developer and keen on contributing to the web development industry. He loves frontend development and absolutely amazed by jQuery. Feel free to say hi to me, or follow @quenesswebblog on twitter.

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chris mccoy
Mon, 19th August 2013
dropplets and kirby are 2 others that are good Reply
Kevin Admin
Mon, 19th August 2013
Hi Chris, thanks for letting me know. Dropplets is a blogging platform, so I added Kirby instead. Reply
Mon, 19th August 2013
Well, GetSimple for sure is missed on your list!

It uses flatfile, no database, has a strong community, and many more advantages.

See here: www.get-simple.info or the german site: www.get-simple.de Reply
Kevin Admin
Tue, 20th August 2013
Thanks for the info. GetSimple is now in the list. Reply
Tue, 20th August 2013
Hi where is get simple cms it create xml file to save data check http://get-simple.inf o/ Reply
Tue, 20th August 2013
No CMSMS (CMS Made Simple)? Reply
Kevin Admin
Tue, 20th August 2013
Yep, added. Reply
Tue, 20th August 2013
Wed, 21st August 2013
A nice small cms " Lepton cms " ;) Reply
Goncalo Espinha
Wed, 21st August 2013
Great list! But Processwire is definitely missing from this list!


Thanks ;) Reply
Sat, 24th August 2013
You're a pro web designer? The GetSimple links, except for extensions, refer to kirby! Reply
Kevin Admin
Sun, 25th August 2013
Not a pro designer. Focus on frontend development. Anyway, updated the link. Thanks
Sat, 14th September 2013
CouchCMS is easy fast and flexible. Best cms I have ever used. Reply
Fri, 4th October 2013
You need to know Desamaru cms too. I love it but this cms is not free! Reply
Vasily Bezruchkin
Tue, 8th October 2013
Hey Kevin,

Nice collection of CMS. I'd also like to recommend one more to add to your list:
Subrion CMS - free open source CMS with both free/paid plugins & templates

You can see more information here:

Thanks! Reply
Thu, 10th October 2013
Desamaru (http://desamaru.com/) just cost 5 dollor. It's like free! Reply
Wed, 30th October 2013
Look that cms:
opensolution.org Reply
Wed, 6th November 2013
I think you are missing http://textpattern.com/ from your list! Reply
dennis iversen
Thu, 7th November 2013
Nice list. I like the unknown CosCMS found at http://www.coscms.org which is also simple to use and extend. It currently only runs with a MySQL database, but it has a lot a cool features, where the most cool is that your mom would be able to use it. I also like wordpress but it can be quite messy to modify sometimes .) Reply
Mon, 6th January 2014
Is that because it's your CMS? ;-p Reply
Mon, 11th November 2013
I can really recommend Bolt. Reply
Chinu jhon
Tue, 17th December 2013
As mention above Most of these popular PHP CMS are community driven and they provide an excellent up-to-date documentation in place. They also provide us fantastic support, whenever needed through various means such as blogs, forums, FAQs and so on. I like Wordpress as a PHP CMS. Mostly <a href="http://www.technocracysoftwares.com/">Softwares company Ajmer</a> uses these CMS. Reply
Mon, 23rd December 2013
It doesn't use database queries therefore making it super fast? But Cathrine Richardo says file system are old and slower than DBM's. ?? Reply
Sun, 29th December 2013
Nice collection.
But missing http://gpeasy.com/ Reply
Tue, 6th January 2015
+1 for adding gpEasy Reply
Thu, 2nd January 2014
I really recommend Chyrp (http://chyrp.com ) as an extremely lightweight and viable alternative. Reply
Sat, 1st February 2014
razorcms no database Reply
J. Raben
Sat, 1st February 2014
Please also check our new HTML5 / PHP5 CMS here:

Thanks! Reply
Brian Zerangue
Thu, 13th February 2014
Checkout Phile CMS, A flat file CMS with a swappable parser and template engine.

https://github.com/PhileCMS/Phile Reply
Wed, 26th March 2014
Another very simple CMS is http://cms.libe.net Reply
Sat, 29th March 2014
Tried elite cms of elitecms.net, nice and easy to use. Reply
Alex M
Thu, 10th April 2014
You could try TinyCMS from tinycms.eu if you find a few minutes Reply
Wed, 23rd April 2014
You should try out Desamaru cms.
They have lots of plugins and may be the most light weight cms till date.

http://desamaru.com/ Reply
Mon, 5th May 2014
Wery good and simple to use: http://silverstripe.org , try. Reply
Thu, 22nd May 2014
You should try Perch,

It looks beautiful for costumers.
Small and easy to code for, as it is mainly just html.
Great support by the developer.

The only thing is it is closed source,
so you have to buy a licence.
for €59/$79 you get one of the coolest little cms there are.

http://grabaperch.com Reply
Tue, 1st July 2014
My favorite is Wolf CMS. It has just the right balance of simplicity and features. Reply
Tue, 23rd September 2014
Nice post but Why to pay?. There are many CMS non-database for free
sitemagic.org, testPress, Pico, blitzhive.com Reply
Tue, 21st October 2014
here is another very simple CMS which does not need a database: http://cms.libe.net Reply
Mon, 10th November 2014
Nice article! All the Content managent System are Lightweight & Flexible but I like Perch CMS alot as it has Simple hosting requirements and No PHP knowledge required - basic use is copy and paste.
Thanks for posting!
For more details please login to our website http://webcarton.in Reply
Thu, 29th October 2015
I am in love with Tiny Admin (tinyadmin.net). Super lightweight and great for quick small websites. Reply

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