10 Fantastic Lightweight CMSes You Should Try

Sometimes less is more. When it comes to content management systems there’s a huge selection of feature rich, powerful and incredibly complicated options, but what about the lightweight jobs? Many of today’s popular CMSes are overkill for small, basic tasks where the extra frills just aren’t needed.

Today we bring you 10 fantastic lightweight CMSes that’ll get the job done without the extra bloat.

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1. CushyCMS

CushyCMS doesn’t require any self-hosted server-side processing since it’s hosted for you and it doesn’t need a database or anything else. Simply integrate the CMS with CSS classes and you’re good to go. The CMS accesses your files via FTP to make the changes. It’s really simple and incredibly fast to get setup (in minutes).

  • Price: Free, Pro: $28 per month
  • Server Language: None
  • Database: No
  • Self-Hosted: No
  • Plugins: No
  • Developer: Stateless Systems
Wolf CMS

Wolf CMS

2. Wolf CMS

Wolf CMS is for slightly more advanced users as PHP knowledge is helpful, although not required. This CMS uses a simple interface, flexible page templating, file management tools and user management options. If you need more power, plugins are available and if you have the skills you can extend Wolf CMS to fit your own specific needs relatively easily.

  • Price: Free (Open Source)
  • Server Language: PHP v5+
  • Database: MySQL v4.1.x or SQLite 3
  • Self-Hosted: Yes
  • Plugins: Yes – Visit Repository
  • Developer: Wolf CMS (fork of Frog CMS)
GetSimple CMS

GetSimple CMS

3. GetSimple CMS

XML based GetSimple is a CMS with the right set of features without the unnecessary bloat. You’re able to “undo” your actions incase you goof up, a much appreciated feature. Setup and templating is a breeze and its interface is clean and uncluttered.



4. Symphony

Symphony is a XSLT-powered (on PHP) CMS with an elegant and simple interface, engineered for flexibility while also being easy enough for non-programmers to implement. Although this is a lightweight CMS, it’s definitely more focused towards more experienced users. There are also a good number of high profile sites using Symphony such as Virgin media, BBC and MTV.

  • Price: Free (Open Source)
  • Server Language: PHP v5.2+
  • Database: MySQL 4.1+
  • Self-Hosted: Yes
  • Plugins: Yes – Visit Repository


5. MojoMotor

MojoMotor was developed by the crew at EllisLab, the same developers of the wildly popular CMS ExpressionEngine. MojoMotor is EE’s little brother, taking on the simpler CMS tasks EE isn’t needed for. It’s not free but it’s certainly easy to use and seems to do the job quite well, so it may well be worth the price for you (plus there’s a 30-day money back guarantee). If you’re looking for requirement information, it’s a little hidden but can be found within the User Guide documentation.

  • Price: $49.95 per license
  • Server Language: PHP v5+
  • Database: MySQL
  • Self-Hosted: Yes
  • Plugins: Yes (Third-party) – View Repository
  • Developer: EllisLab, Inc.


6. Perch

Perch is a very simple CMS that is super fast to setup and start using. The interface isn’t as elegant as some of the other options listed here but it’s clean and effective. Templating is very easy, although it does require some PHP knowledge.

Surreal CMS

Surreal CMS

7. Surreal CMS

Surreal CMS is another content management solution that isn’t self-hosted, which means you don’t have to worry about server language, databases or installation. Just design your website and integrate Surreal in a few easy steps with CSS classes (like CushyCMS). To use your own branding, domain and manage unlimited websites, you’ll need to go Pro at $25 per month. This CMS solution also has quite a few additional options for image resizing, Google Analytics, repairing and validating markup, etc.

  • Price: Free, Pro: $25 per month
  • Server Language: None
  • Database: No
  • Self-Hosted: No
  • Plugins: No
  • Developer: A Beautiful Site, LLC.


8. PageLime

PageLime is another CMS solution that you don’t have to host (although this one is optional), yet offers a very strong selection of features and flexibility. Of all the hosted CMS solutions, this one is probably the most appealing and offers the most value, especially for those running multiple sites for others (like web designers & developers). The interface is well thought out and really easy to use also making good use of AJAX for a more fluid experience.

  • Price: Free, $19+ per month (depending on plan)
  • Server Language: None
  • Database: No
  • Self-Hosted: Optional
  • Plugins: No

What do you use?

If you use a lightweight CMS, which did you choose to go with and why? Let us know via comment below. Also, stay tuned for our roundup of ultra-lightweight CMSes that use flat-file storage (or similar).

Fantastic Reader Submissions

Pulse CMS

Pulse CMS

9. Pulse CMS

Pulse CMS is a super simple CMS making use of PHP includes that you “embed” in place of blocks of content. The client then uses the WYSIWYG editor to edit the content in those blocks. A Pro version is available which offers quite a few more advanced features such as image galleries, blog or news engine, document uploader and more.

  • Price: Free, Pro: $15 per domain
  • Server Language: PHP
  • Database: No
  • Self-Hosted: Yes
  • Plugins: No


10. PyroCMS

PyroCMS, while a lightweight CMS, is more so on the advanced end of the spectrum for this roundup but is none the less great. It’s powered by CodeIgniter and you’ll need to know some PHP to integrate your themes. Unfortunately the documentation for this CMS is very limited, so don’t expect to find too much direction in that area.

  • Price: Free (Open Source)
  • Server Language: PHP
  • Database: MySQL
  • Self-Hosted: Yes
  • Plugins: Yes


Add Yours
  • I think a very overlooked CMS is Pulse CMS. http://pulsecms.com/

    It has a free version and a Pro version (only $15, much lower than most of the ones mentioned on the list). It’s clean, small and easy to use.

    • I think if we are talking about security and portability and realiability
      and open source and most importantly user customization supports I think SageFrame® is the best with ASP.NET platform and much extensibility supports so http://www.sageframe.com can be browsed for free downloads Thanks

  • MojoMotor does have plugins/addons.

    • Thanks Jason, I’ve added it in the roundup. :)

  • PyroCMS http://pyrocms.com is another lightweight CMS

  • I’ve used FrogCMS before and found it very simple to install and use:

    • The WolfCMS is Frog’s fork and it’s in constant development. Frog wasn’t updated more than a year so most users crossed over.

  • Great roundup, I’ve recently been googling for a simple CMS to use for client websites.

    @Melissa, thanks for the link, Pulse CMS looks pretty slick.

  • I recommend you to give TomatoCMS a try: http://www.tomatocms.com
    It is free and open source CMS powered by Zend Framework, jQuery and 960 Grid System.
    Also, it’s 1st runner up of Most Promising Open Source Award 2010 (http://www.packtpub.com/open-source-awards-home)

    • 960GS is a farce. Websites need to be developed for any screen resolution, not some 90s-like fixed pixel width.

  • We are very happy with our Edicy CMS. Easiest I have ever tried. http://www.edicy.com The only downside is that they don’t offer self hosted version.

    • Edicy isn’t really a CMS as much as it is a website creator.

  • I myself enjoyed working with Textpattern, Indexhibit and Cargo in the past

    all of witch are free and easily modified.

  • Another lightweight, easy to use, but powerful IzzyWebsite CMS, which comes with installation machine – installing and configuring files directly on FTP server, no manual copying, setting permissions, etc is required.

    Template system is very easy, unlike Joomla or WP where 1 template is set of php files, in IzzyWebsite it’s just 1 html file with few tags inside

  • I’ve used GetSimple a bit which is great for me because they mimic WordPress with some of their functionality and since I use WP for larger sites it makes an easier transition for me when I flip from one to the other.

  • http://staceyapp.com/ → Light & clean CMS without DB.

  • my current cms http://berta.lv is quite nice, it’s geared towards a portfolio solution.
    there’s also http://subfolio.com, which acts as a simple, yet sleek folder indexer. don’t forget http://staceyapp.com.
    all of em don’t require a database, just php and a webserver.

  • How about a non-PHP one, like Refinery.


  • Highly recommend Symphony – it’s fast and extremely flexible. I honestly think once you ‘get it’, any other CMS seems rigid and annoying. Plus the community is really helpful.

  • I’ve used cushy for smaller sites. The drawback with Cushy is that you have to import each page one by one…so it’s tough to use it for larger sites.
    PageLime is my favorite and I’ve used it on multiple sites. it allows my client to update SEO (title, keywords, desc) for each page via the CMS. You can also code using include files and the client can edit them in the CMS. HUGE for me.
    I found PageLime after InContext Editor went away (Adobe), and PL is even better. I’m so happy with it.

  • Websitebaker is our favorite. It’s very easy to handle for both developers/designers and the customer. And it’s free and open source. http://www.websitebaker2.org

  • I agree, Pulse Cms http://pulsecms.com is a great little cms for static sites.

  • No one seems to have mentioned Light CMS. http://www.lightcms.com/ HTML & CSS based. I like it :)

  • Another one to check out is ProcessWire http://processwire.com … Lightweight but also very capable with a great template system, strong developer API and plugin module system.

  • There’s also cms.txt
    It’s a cms that uses just text files and it’s 6kb and you can use it for static sites which have several html files, so you can do template changes without downloading a copy of Advanced Find and Replace to use once you’ve downloaded your site with ftp then uploaded it again.


  • don’t forget about concrete5!


    absolutely love it!

  • CouchCMS (http://www.couchcms.com/) is another such light-weight CMS.

    It is perfect for web designers as it accomplishes everything using simple XHTML like tags – no PHP required at all.

    Best of all, it is free for personal and non-commercial sites.

  • i think open source is the best choise for freelancers.

  • I don’t know if I can pull myself away from bigger things, like Drupal (which I love to pieces), but I may give PageLime a try.

  • Hummm
    For the moment i always prefer SPIP

    Never seen a CMS so perfect for webdesigner.. That admin is not the Best. But i can all imagine; its always possible to create with spip.

    I create my structure HTML / CSS, create SPIP code on my structure and it’s good.

    Just playing with items of headings and key words is almost everything imaginable for a talented web designer. The only limit is the SPIP webdesigner.

  • Do you know any web based app similar to Bento for Mac?

  • +1 for http://processwire.com

    its light but does everything

  • As much as I love WordPress… competition improves the breed. I think there’s a big hole in the market right now for an open-source intranet CMS to dominate – seen a lot of businesses who are looking for one.

  • SageFrame at http://www.sageframe.com is a good alternative, they are relatively new but then packed with lots of features. Take a note – SageFrame uses IIS/.Net as a server, MSSQL as a database, C# as a programming language and works on windows operating system.

  • Why not try SageFrame at http://www.sageframe.com ? It is open source asp.net cms. Most important thing is it offer high quality multi portal, multi language, user friendly CMS.

  • ThaNks so ,inch for this post. I currently use WordPress, but am looking for a CMS where I can build sites without knowing php.

  • These are awesome content management system. Very informative information and various function of each cms is attractive for new bie who are developing their website.

  • Check out http://www.zeekwidgets.com It provides a radically simple plugin approach for adding WYSIWYG editing to any existing site. It’s as easy as I’ve seen.

  • Nice article, Symphony is really interesting CMS.

    For those who might be interested, let’s check SillySmart, a MVC PHP5 Framework based on XML/XSL parsing. Born in 2007, it supports today many interesting features like DAO, CRUD, Persistance, i18n, Admin generator, URL Mapping, Query Builder and many more.. http://www.sillysmart.org

  • I just wanna to add information

    texTPress is a web application to publish the information through the website which is created by php using text files as data storage. texTPress is built without the need for setting the database. Once you finish putting the files to the server, this application can be executed directly.

    texTPress has the ability to automatic blogging and blogging manual. You can also change templates with ease and without a complicated setup to start running. Including SEO settings are automatically set

  • Thanks for sharing these!

    Another one that is sometimes overlooked is Convergence ( http://www.convergencecms.co/ ) is perfect when you don’t want to use PHP but still want advanced custom posts, etc. Its inline editing makes it really easy for your clients to edit their sites. There is a free plan as well as a few paid plans with features like custom Item Lists and e-commerce.

  • i use http://cms.libe.net, its very simple and flexible no need for a database

  • Designers might like the http://w3easy.org/ cms that comes with a one-file template.

  • I recommend new cms system, because also people that know only html and css can build on it websites from scratch. Read more at http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/simple-to-use-and-free-cms/x/1881459

  • I found http://aptcms.com, seems like its still in development but looks easy to use and has nice inline editing.