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
Everina 5 years ago
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
Johnny 5 years ago
Wery good and simple to use: http://silverstripe.org , try.
Reply
Joeri 5 years ago
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
RobertSF 5 years ago
My favorite is Wolf CMS. It has just the right balance of simplicity and features.
Reply
Mariana 4 years ago
Nice post but Why to pay?. There are many CMS non-database for free
sitemagic.org, testPress, Pico, blitzhive.com
Reply
Bernhard 4 years ago
here is another very simple CMS which does not need a database: http://cms.libe.net
Reply
cmsfaridabad123 4 years ago
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
Michael Frankland 4 years ago
Let me add Dropkick CMS to this list:
https://www.yuzoolthemes.com/dropkickcms/

Cheers
Reply
BlackFalcon 4 years ago
Great article, thanks, and also to the commenters who provided other alternatives.
Reply
raja 3 years ago
nice post...
Reply
Jérôme 3 years ago
Another great CMS just got updated and made mobile optimised not just fully responsive is CMS by JAKWEB.

https://www.jakweb.ch/cms

Check out the demo I'm sure you will love it.
Reply
Kevin 3 years ago
I am in love with Tiny Admin (tinyadmin.net). Super lightweight and great for quick small websites.
Reply
farid silva 3 years ago
Searching for a lightweight alternative to joomla I found your post and I wish to thank you for share your experiences.
Anyway in other post I read about pyrocms too, so I decided to give it a try.
Using suggested composer way to install it i got al files in my machine in no time, ready to deploy an installation.
I got shocked when I see that pyrocms folder is 81.676.400 bytes (120,8 MB in disk) for 18.246 items
Obviously that make no sense to me when a full joomla installation is "just" 30.641.072 bytes (43,3 MB in disk) for 6.454 items.
Regards.
Reply