This weekend saw the launch of Perch, an easy-to-use lightweight CMS put together by British web development agency edgeofmyseat.com. Perch is perfect for those situations where you would like to be able to set up a web site with some editable content regions for a client, […]

perchThis weekend saw the launch of Perch, an easy-to-use lightweight CMS put together by British web development agency edgeofmyseat.com. Perch is perfect for those situations where you would like to be able to set up a web site with some editable content regions for a client, but don’t want to have to install a full-blown CMS or try to hack a blogging system in order to do the job.

Installation is straightforward, although you do need to be a little tech-savvy to get it up and running. You’ll need a server running PHP5 or later. (Check if you’re using a shared host — I found mine was still running PHP4, but could flip to PHP5 easily.) Download the zip from the Perch web site, unzip, and FTP the Perch folder to your host. Run the setup script, insert your license key, and fill out your database login details. Most of the installation legwork is done for you, although you’ll need to FTP a generated configuration file back to the server.

To start using Perch to manage the content on your site, you first need to add some editable content regions into your pages using Perch tags. Once you’ve set up the regions, log in to your Perch control panel.


Perch’s interface is very clean and simple. There are just two tabs at the top of the page, “Content” and “Users”. Under “Content” you’ll find the regions that you added to your pages. Click on a region to initialize it by selecting a content template to use. Perch has templates for many types of content included out of the box (file, image, contact, text block, article and text), but you can create your own templates using simple markup.

If you’re building a site for a client, it’s now just a case of setting up user accounts for your client under the “Users” tab. (There are only two levels of access: “Admin” and “Editor”.)  They’ll then be able to log into the control panel and edit the content as required.

Because Perch has a simple, clean and easy-to-use interface, it shouldn’t be too hard to train clients to use it, which makes it a good choice for web sites that have some changeable content but don’t require a full-blown CMS. Perch should also be a great choice if you want to retrofit some editable regions into an existing static web site. However, it is very stripped-down, so if you require, say, an inbuilt WYSIWYG editor, you’re going to need a more heavyweight solution like ExpressionEngine.

Perch costs £35 ($57) per domain (you can switch between domains as required), with no ongoing fees. Unfortunately, there’s no free trial available, but you can download a Compatibility Test Suite to check that it will work on your setup before purchasing.

Have you tried Perch? Let us know what you think in the comments.

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By Simon Mackie

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  1. I’d recommend Cushy CMS as a free alternative that sounds very similar. http://www.cushycms.com/

  2. Ryan Detzel Monday, June 1, 2009

    Looks interesting, I wish there was a demo though.

  3. rachelandrew Monday, June 1, 2009

    Thanks for the review Simon – it’s great to see people starting to use Perch and to get feedback.

    @Craig Cushy CMS does the same sort of job however it’s a hosted product. The idea for Perch really came to us an an in-house need. We wanted something simple that was quick to set up yet didn’t mean making compromises with the quality of the site. One thing that is important to a lot of our clients is that software is on their server – rather than hosted elsewhere and that they don’t need to give away FTP details to a third party.

    Obviously having something you install on your server does mean you have to do some setup but we have put a lot of work into making it as easy as possible.

    @Ryan Detzel we’ve thought a lot about the trial/demo issue. We may well put a demo online of the admin however the admin is really what you can see on the screenshots, it’s very, very simple. The power of Perch is in the templating and the speed in which you can take a site from static to editable. You can only really see that by downloading and playing with the software yourself.

    We are trying to think up better ways of demonstrating Perch though. We’re web developers and usually sell services, so marketing a product is a new territory for us.

  4. Perch sounds great – I initially thought “but this sounds like CushyCMS” so thanks Rachel for clarifying the nature of Perch.

    A hosted solution would make a lot of sense for some of my clients.

  5. I would look at Snippet Master as well. I have been using it for quite some time for my clients and have been very happy with it.


  6. Troy Peterson Monday, June 1, 2009

    Great idea! I’ve been waiting for someone to create something like CushyCMS but hosted… however I’m probably not going to be buy it right now… here’s why:

    1. There’s no WYSIWYG editor. A lot of clients want the ability to change simple things like text bolding, links, etc… not just the text. Most clients that need a lightweight product like this have little-to-no budget, so they want to do as much as possible.

    You may have an option for this, but see question #2…

    2. There’s no Demo or 30 Day Trial. As a solo designer, $50 is a little too steep to pay to “try something out” to see if it’s going to work or not.

    But, Great idea and keep it up! Us little guys need something like this.


  7. Phil Matthews Monday, June 1, 2009

    I really like Cushy CMS but have been eagerly awaiting the release of Perch! Perch looks superb for those smaller client sites that only need a few parts to be editable. I can’t wait to try it out when a suitable client site comes up.

    Another big plus point for Perch is that it is brandable as part of the one off £35 payment which Cushy CMS charge a monthly fee for I believe.

    Because of this I can see Perch becoming very popular amongst web designers looking to give their clients a degree of control over sites without the need for a full blown CMS system.

    Well done Drew & Rachel!

  8. Stefan Drakulich Monday, June 1, 2009

    I recently wrote an article about a much better alternative, Cushy CMS…with pretty much the same features, as well as lower upgrade fees to receive the little advantage Perch offers.

    Also, one of the comments on my blog told me of SurrealCMS, which is much cleaner, as well as fixed some minor bugs in Cushy CMS.

  9. I too would like some sort of demo. The screenshots are not answering all the questions for me – is how hard is it for clients to new pages? can images be uploaded and added to posts? do they need to be sized? etc.

  10. Simon Mackie Tuesday, June 2, 2009

    @Darrin – Agreed that an online demo at grabaperch.com would be a good idea. However, if you need that sort of functionality I think you’ll need to look at a more heavyweight CMS solution. Perch is good for those sites where you want to make a few areas editable by the client so they can make updates themselves without having to come back to you all the time. If you want them to be able to add new pages, resize images, etc, I would look at ExpressionEngine, Drupal, W etc..

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