Traditional content management systems (CMS) like WordPress or Joomla is great but if you build a small website or a personal blog, you probably don’t need the rich functionalities offered. What you need is a simpler, more elegant and lightweight solution

I have been using WordPress  for my websites. I love it 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 Lightweight CMS Engine . 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.

Grav CMS

grav cms

The flat-file CMS known as Grav isn’t well known compared to WordPress. However, it is a smart choice for dev-friendly webmasters who love working with the command line.

It’s worth mentioning that Grav’s flat file system is lightning fast. This is basically a method of storing data inside files that are organized into folders on your server. It completely removes the need for a database engine since everything is stored in files.

Is this better than MySQL? That’s for you to decide. But with Grav’s caching methods you’ll see improvements in load times by following this method.

Grav also has its own package manager that you can run from the CLI. It’s really a developer’s CMS, so I only recommend it for coders or people willing to get their hands messy in code.


drupal homepage

Last, but certainly not least, is Drupal. This massive CMS is probably the heaviest alternative I’ve mentioned in this entire list. But I feel it deserves a spot here because, with Drupal, you can build anything.

Yes, it’ll take some time learning the ropes and figuring out how to code themes and such. But once you understand Drupal, there’s really no going back.

You can control entire page hierarchies and URL structures by defining routing inside your Drupal app. The environment is so much different than WordPress that it’ll leave you pretty confused for a while. Still, it’s a great option for those complex projects that really need a powerhouse CMS.

October CMS

october cms

Laravel is perhaps the best free PHP framework for web development. October CMS is the only platform I know of that is taking advantage of Laravel to build an incredible content management system.

October is totally free and open source with a modular build. So if you don’t need a blog, you are able to take it out. It’s super easy to work with – especially for developers.

Their team releases updates frequently and provides a nice library of free assets like themes and plugins. Not to mention they have a desktop app called Pond, which lets you manage all of your October-powered sites from one program. I haven’t seen anything like that from the WordPress core (yet).

To learn more, just check out their features page or download a copy from their GitHub repo for local testing.

Fork CMS

fork cms

I first tested Fork CMS a few years ago when it first appeared on my radar. It’s another PHP/MySQL content platform made for content-heavy websites.

Typically, I wouldn’t launch a brand new blog on the Fork system just because of its size. However, if I were building an evergreen content website, or maybe a corporate site with a blog, then Fork is a pretty nice choice.

It’s totally free and comes with a bunch of free themes to boot. The only issue is the fairly small core team working on this CMS. This means updates do occur, but progress doesn’t move as quickly as a behemoth like WordPress.

But even as of this writing, I can see that Fork CMS’ latest version update was only two months ago. So they’re definitely making progress.


ghost cms homepage

One of the coolest new CMS engines that has bloggers raving is Ghost. This open source platform is lightweight and easy to manage with dozens of free themes on GitHub.

The backend is actually very simple to use, so it feels a lot smoother than WordPress. The only downside is that Ghost hasn’t been on the market as long – so it doesn’t have the same following.

It’ll be more difficult to find plugins that mimic WordPress’ many features. However, this is definitely one of the better CMS engines in regards to support and the size of the community.

It may never rival the size of WordPress, but it’s fair to say that Ghost has carved a good chunk of the market for itself.

Bolt CMS

bolt cms homepage

One nice thing about Bolt CMS is how the dashboard mimics a lot of features that you expect to find in WordPress. It does have its own feel and unique experience, but transitioning from WordPress into Bolt shouldn’t be a challenge.

This CMS uses something called ContentTypes to filter different types of content. You might consider this like categories or folders to help organize everything you write. But it also has taxonomies for custom tags/groups which offers plenty of customization.

For developers, you’ll be working on the Twig templating system. It may feel more complicated than the WordPress backend, but it’s still a solid structure.

Bolt is easy to setup, easy to theme and perfect for anyone familiar with the Symfony development environment.

  • License: Open source
  • Server Language: PHP 5.3.2+
  • Database: Yes. SQLite, MySQL or PostgreSQL.
  • Self-Hosted: Yes
  • Support Plugins/Extensions: Yes


pico cms lightweight

Pico lets you create websites easily and blazing fast. You create content in .md files, then upload it to the content folder on the installation directory. That file will become an accessible page on your website.

You can create your theme with the Twig template engine. There are also available plugins for pagination, slider, meta tag, and others to extend your website functionality.


RazorCMS v3

Razor is a flat file CMS that is easy to use even if you cannot code. To start up your site, after installation go to /login on your installation URL and insert the default credentials to access the dashboard. From there you can adjust the overall settings in your website, including adding or editing pages.

The in-page editing with rich text editor is such a cool feature, which lets you edit the content just in one place. You can create your own theme to add flavor to the website.


Dropplets cms

Dropplets is a simple CMS for easy blogging, with no database and easy installation in seconds to run on any server. It has an administrator page for setting site preferences, but not for editing content. To create content, write your post in Markdown format and upload it to the server from the dashboard by clicking Public or Update Posts.

Dropplets comes with a free template, but if you want more, you can buy premium template from the dashboard. If you are designer and prefer to create your own theme, there is no special template engine, just use regular PHP.


Kirby cms

Flat file CMS, Kirby has comprehensive features but is dead easy to use. Although you can add the content manually, like with other flat CMS, there is also a web interface named Kirby Panel, which lets you post your content as a page, blog, or gallery, as well as to manage the users and roles.

Kirby lets you write content in Markdown format by default, but there are visual markdown editor plugins to make writing fun. You can browse more plugins to make your web more powerful and awesome.

Kirby comes with an asynchronous media modification API. Resize, crop and convert your images right on the fly in your templates. Start prototyping with different image formats in the browser. Make sure that every visitor gets the perfect image size.



WonderCMS is the smallest CMS in the world (their claim). Its size is quite small (just 74kb on 6 files) yet it shas cool feature such as editing content in place. You can grab themes, and get plugins to add features to your site such as adding a gallery and a WYSIWYG editor.

  • PHP version 7.2 or greater
    • cURL extension
    • mbstring extension
    • Zip extension
  • mod_rewrite module enabled


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