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Building with Perch

Date: 25 July 2013

Building with Perch

In the past I’ve tried a few content management systems (CMS), but in all honesty I’ve just found them hard to get my head around. Chris Coyier and Laura Kalbag are big fans of Wordpress and they’ve done some great work with it. Back when I started getting involved with web design I even dabbled in Joomla!, but I won’t go into that.

Recently there’s been a lot of chatter about Perch (excuse the pun), and for good reason. Rachel Andrew and Drew McLellan are the brains behind Perch, and they call it “the really little content management system”, and it really is. If you’ve never used a CMS on your sites before, and are used to just producing static sites in just HTML and CSS there is a little bit of a learning curve (but not a big one). Perch is PHP based, but you don’t have to know any PHP to use it. Rachel and Drew have done an amazing job of providing documentation so you can set up your first project with relative ease. There are even some video walk throughs for the parts that can trip some people up.

The best part about Perch, and what makes it “really little” is that after installing it on your server, you only use what you need. If you want a contact form, but don’t want a blog that’s fine, just install the Forms App. If you later decide you want to host a blog on your site, just download the Blog App and install it on your site. You have complete control over what features you use, and because Perch is designed from the ground up to be plugged into your existing sites, it will never dictate how your site will look and work. This was really important to me, because when I design my sites I don’t want them to be dictated by what CMS I’m using. When building this site, I built everything in HTML and CSS using Hammer for Mac and then plugged Perch in at the end to make everything work.

You do have to pay for a license if you want to use Perch on your sites, but it is well worth the £50 per project. The support you’ll receive, should you need it (I haven’t had to ask for any yet, but hear great things about response time if you do get into bother and need to contact Rachel and Drew) is second to none, which makes the license fee worthwhile. If you’re not sure though, and would like to try before you buy there’s a demo available where you can see sample sites to test drive what’s possible with Perch.

Another great little feature about Perch is that if you’re working on client sites you can brand the interface to make it client-friendly. The basic options that make all the difference are things like being able to show client logos instead of the Perch logo, tweak the colours and even more. Clients will love the user interface because it’s so simple to use once you’ve set everything up for them.

It’s a great little CMS with a lot of power behind it. I know I’ll certainly be using it on my projects going forward.