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
Petru 6 years ago
I think you are missing http://textpattern.com/ from your list!
Reply
dennis iversen 6 years ago
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 .)
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Matt 6 years ago
Is that because it's your CMS? ;-p
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Evert 6 years ago
I can really recommend Bolt.
Reply
Chinu jhon 6 years ago
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
Fahad 6 years ago
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
Mohammed 6 years ago
Nice collection.
But missing http://gpeasy.com/
Reply
Bianca 5 years ago
+1 for adding gpEasy
Reply
Bertan 6 years ago
I really recommend Chyrp (http://chyrp.com ) as an extremely lightweight and viable alternative.
Reply
gogu 6 years ago
razorcms no database
Reply
J. Raben 6 years ago
Please also check our new HTML5 / PHP5 CMS here:
http://www.virtualcreations.de/en/webproducts/visionary-html5-symfony-cms

Thanks!
Reply
Brian Zerangue 6 years ago
Checkout Phile CMS, A flat file CMS with a swappable parser and template engine.

https://github.com/PhileCMS/Phile
Reply
Boern 5 years ago
Another very simple CMS is http://cms.libe.net
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Mac 5 years ago
Tried elite cms of elitecms.net, nice and easy to use.
Reply
Alex M 5 years ago
You could try TinyCMS from tinycms.eu if you find a few minutes
Reply