Some developers claim 2014 will be the year of Flat File (or Non-Database) CMS. Personally I do not believe it will replace database-powered CMS anytime soon. To me they have different target users and main functions. If you are comparing of building a custom CMS vs using one of these CMS then it makes sense, but it will not replace WordPress, or Drupal, even though it always surprises me that many people still like using Joomla.
What is flat file CMS?
In very short sentence, as the phrase implies: CMS that queries its data from a text file instead of database like MySQL. Typically, flat-file CMS also has leaner structure compared to sometimes bloated fully-featured CMS. This allows you to focus the customization on the content management, instead of features that are not absolutely needed just because other sites have them.
- Installation can be done only with an FTP access
- Easier to sync content when developing between development/local and production servers
- Fast, because no queries involved
- Lightweight, smaller total size
- One less password to create or remember (your DB)
Flat file CMS is not a new thing. There are dozens of options out there for you to choose. I have hand-picked few that I like most and compare them. Hopefully by sharing this, it will help you in deciding which that would work best for your projects.
|Web server requirement||PHP 5.3.6+||PHP 5.3+||PHP 5.2.3+||PHP 5.2.4+||PHP 5.3+|
as separate module
|Native content syntax||Markdown, Textile, HTML||Markdown||HTML||Markdown||HTML or Markdown|
|Open Source||NO||NO||YES (GNU general public license)||YES (MIT licence)||NO|
|Number of available add-ons/plugins*||~25||~68||~25||~12||~6|
|Support||Forums, Tickets||Forums, Direct Email||Forums, Bugtracker (GitHub)||Bugtracker (GitHub)||Forums, Tickets|
|License per website||$29 for personal
$99 for commercial
|$19 for personal
$99 for commercial
* as of January 2016, based on list available on developer’s website
Which CMS to choose?
Personally I want to get an opportunity to put my hands on Statamic. It is the most expensive, $99 for one commercial website, but it has very simple and nice control panel which is very important. For developers who do not need a control panel, Pico is a very interesting option.
Update May 15, 2014:
I contacted Statamic Team to consult about licensing for a tiny project I was developing. I have not received a reply to this day. I ended up giving Kirby a try because it offered to download the code freely for trial. So far I am liking it and since the license costs less than half of Statamic’s, it is becoming a favorable selection for future projects.
Update October 8, 2014:
With the release of Kirby 2, the team also offer a new pricing model: $19 for Personal license (non-commercial site) and $99 for Pro licence (commercial site). This puts it very similar to the pricing from Statamic. It will be interesting to see which one will be more popular in the near future.
Update January 1, 2016:
Added PulseCMS into comparison table.