Perch: An Ultra-Lightweight CMS

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.

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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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