Searching for a new CMS

512 words, 3 mins

There are a couple of new projects coming up and I want to find a simple CMS for them. Both projects will need a user interface that is very simple and easy to use and the sites are basic enough that I don’t need a lot of bells and whistles. It needs to have the following; a simple user interface for entering and changing entries, simple API so that I can add in some custom stuff, self hosted, good documentation and strong community.

I’m comfortable enough with Drupal and Wordpress, but the user interface has been a bit daunting for first time website owners. Of course, with both of them I can put in the extra work to create an admin/editors interface that is stripped down and simple, but I’d rather play around with some alternatives. And there are a lot CMS available.
I’ve also worked with CMS Made Simple, which our users have found simple to work with. The big down side is that everything, including style sheets, is in the database and this makes it a little cumbersome to version control and to migrate files and data between dev/staging and production servers.

Expresssion Engine gets a lot of recommendations but also a warning that it is complex to setup and use. I’ve used CodeIgniter a lot (from the same people) and I’m impressed with it. However, it seems to be more in the Drupal/Joomla camp.

After a fair of surfing around and reading opinions of people in the business there were two CMS that sort of floated to the top: Perch and Statamic. They are both very different birds, Perch is database based with it’s own micro tag language and Statamic is text based with templating done with handlebar tags. I’ll probably have to try them out before I make a decision, but I’m leaning towards Perch… slightly! Not sure why… they both have nice websites, they both seem to have pretty good documentation and a vibrant community.

A text based CMS like Statamic is very tempting, in particular because it allows for full versioning of the content, makes it very simple to keep dev, staging and production servers in sync and very simple to setup.

Perch has been around a bit longer, they are on V2 (V1 is usually the throw away version) which is probably more stable and bug free.

There were also some subscription based services, which I have an aversion to as I like to have control over the site and logs etc. but I do understand that it is also a viable solution, particularly if I just wanted to hand off the site to a customer. They were squarespace, lightcms, convergencecms off the top of my head.

I’ll get ahold of them in the next days and kick the tires a bit and see which one feels best. One can tell a lot about the software by how smooth the installation is and also how well the code is written. More later.