Web Development

13 Lightweight & Flexible PHP CMS (Updated)

Written by Kevin Liew on 03 Mar 2016
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56 comments

I used to write my own CMS (Content Management System) with PHP and MySQL. It's never an easy task because you need to plan the structure of the CMS, its logic, theme integration, testing and future enhancement. CMS development can get really complicated if it involves users with different permission and 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 already 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.
  • Plugins: A great collection of plugins will allow you to expand your website features easily.
  • Templates: Most of the time, to save time, they provide tags or custom syntax for template or theme integration.

Personally, I have been using WordPress 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 keywords 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

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

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

PyroCMS

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

Kirby

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

 

Dropkick CMS

Dropkick CMS

By claiming "WordPress is overkill", Dropkick CMS is meant to be simple and easy to use but for a premium price.

  • License: $29.95
  • Server Language: PHP
  • Database: Yes. MySQL
  • Self-Hosted: Yes
  • Support Plugins/Extensions: No.

Textpattern CMS

Textpattern CMS

Textpattern is an elegant content management system that is free, open source software. Web designers, developers, publishers and bloggers love its flexibility and extensibility. It has a powerful, sophisticated engine that can be infinitely tuned to suit whatever type of web site you can imagine.

  • License: Open source
  • Server Language: PHP
  • Database: Yes. MySQL
  • Self-Hosted: Yes
  • Support Plugins/Extensions: Yes. Mod, plugins and templates

ProcessWire CMS

ProcessWire CMS

ProcessWire is designed to have an approachable simplicity that is retained regardless of scale.

  • License: Open source
  • Server Language: PHP (jQuery Inspired API)
  • Database: Yes. MySQL
  • Self-Hosted: Yes
  • Support Plugins/Extensions: Yes. Modules

Tinyadmin CMS

Tinyadmin CMS

Tiny Admin let's your clients make changes to their website quickly and easily, with no technical knowledge required.

  • License: $10
  • Server Language: PHP
  • Database: No. Flat files.
  • Self-Hosted: Yes
  • Support Plugins/Extensions: No.
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56 comments
chris mccoy 5 years ago
dropplets and kirby are 2 others that are good
Reply
Kevin Admin 5 years ago
Hi Chris, thanks for letting me know. Dropplets is a blogging platform, so I added Kirby instead.
Reply
Connie 5 years ago
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 5 years ago
Thanks for the info. GetSimple is now in the list.
Reply
Farooq 5 years ago
Hi where is get simple cms it create xml file to save data check http://get-simple.inf o/
Reply
ozzy 5 years ago
No CMSMS (CMS Made Simple)?
Reply
Kevin Admin 5 years ago
Yep, added.
Reply
Peter 5 years ago
loremipsum 5 years ago
A nice small cms " Lepton cms " ;)
Reply
Goncalo Espinha 5 years ago
Great list! But Processwire is definitely missing from this list!

http://processwire.com/

Thanks ;)
Reply
Robert 5 years ago
You're a pro web designer? The GetSimple links, except for extensions, refer to kirby!
Reply
Kevin Admin 5 years ago
Not a pro designer. Focus on frontend development. Anyway, updated the link. Thanks
Reply
lb 5 years ago
CouchCMS is easy fast and flexible. Best cms I have ever used.
Reply
Ethan 5 years ago
You need to know Desamaru cms too. I love it but this cms is not free!
Reply
Vasily Bezruchkin 5 years ago
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:
http://www.intelliants.com/devblog/announcements/6-subrion30-release-annoucement.html

Thanks!
Reply
Miley 5 years ago
Desamaru (http://desamaru.com/) just cost 5 dollor. It's like free!
Reply
Pak 5 years ago
Look that cms:
QuickCMS
opensolution.org
Reply