Back in June, I did a review of ImpressPages CMS, a popular drag and drop Content Management System that has been designed with the end-user in mind. Carrying from ImpressPages, today I shall be taking a closer look at another CMS meant for the end users — CouchCMS.
CouchCMS: CMS Uncomplicated!
CouchCMS is an open source CMS that caters to those folks who intend to build a website but may or may not have excellent coding skills. You need not have any knowledge of PHP in order to use CouchCMS — the CMS can even use XHTML tags to convert static HTML templates into dynamic CMS-ready content.
First up, let us take a look at some of the major features that CouchCMS brings to the table. Be warned though, this is a CMS that targets the non-coders among us, and as a result, the feature set does not talk at length about APIs and extensions or customizations.
- As already mentioned, CouchCMS relies on HTML/CSS templates, and then uses XHTML tags to make certain parts of such templates editable. The CMS further uses cloned pages to create special sections of your website, such as blog, portfolio, gallery, etc.
- Plus, CouchCMS also has a rather modest set of ready-made tools to help you get started with your basic website creation needs: Google Maps integration is just a click away, for example. Also, Calendar Events, comment moderation, Search Engine Optimization, RSS feeds, URL cloaking, custom 404 pages, etc. too are provided for, though CouchCMS’ implementation of most of these features can at best be called above average.
- CouchCMS offers good integration support for PayPal.
- There exists no plugin or theme repository. For themes, you can use any HTML/CSS template, and make it CouchCMS-ready within a few minutes. In terms of plugins, the CMS provides the basic and intermediate set of functionality, and for any advanced feature, CouchCMS is probably not the solution for you.
CouchCMS is backed by a decent set of documentation, which is extraordinarily well laid out: you can browse the basics and core concepts, or head towards the tutorials. Plus, you also have the option to download the entire documentation for offline reading. The forums too, though not super busy, are a good place to seek help and guidance. Considering the fact that CouchCMS currently has a little over 200 Twitter followers, the forums surely are not as quiet as one would expect.
There does not exist a live online demo, but you are provided with a demo website that has been populated with sample content and can be used a tutorial to help you get acquainted with CouchCMS.
Beyond that, and most importantly, CouchCMS is available in two variants: the free and open source version, and the paid commercial license. Let us take a look at both of these versions in detail.
The open source version comes with a Common Public Attribution License 1.0 You are free to download, use, modify and distribute the software, and you can also make use of it in commercial projects. However, you cannot white-label the software, that is, remove the logo or copyright information from admin interface.
But that is not the worst part. CouchCMS requires a mandatory link-back if you are using the open source version. Thus, you must “keep a legible and unobscured hyperlink back to www.couchcms.com on all pages rendered by the CMS”.
Yes, that is right. Your website must shout “Powered by CouchCMS” if you intend to use the open source version. You can, at the most, modify the appearance of the link. To do so, first turn off the default footer link. Open the couch/config.php file, and locate the following line:
define( ‘K_REMOVE_FOOTER_LINK’, 0 );
Now, turn the value to true, as follows:
define( ‘K_REMOVE_FOOTER_LINK’, 1 );
Thereafter, you will need to manually insert the link-back to CouchCMS homepage, across all pages of your website.
The commercial version, on the other hand, happily lets you remove the attribution link, and also allows you to white-label the software in the manner you deem fit. It costs $39 per domain and also comes with free support for three months (which includes forum threads, email as well as IM support). However, there is no refund policy.
CouchCMS projects itself as a CMS for non-coders — end users and designers alike. If you are looking for a CMS that you can use to create your next portfolio website, or probably your next news magazine, and do not wish to spend money on the CMS, stick to WordPress or Concrete5 or whatever it is that you are using. Bluntly put, the open source version of CouchCMS is just not usable in my book: I am fine with giving a link-back to the CMS, and I often retain the “Powered by WordPress” footer link across my websites, but I dislike the compulsion or mandatory requirement of placing a link. You see, I do not need to actually remove the link; I just like the feeling that I can remove the link anytime I want, and there are no rules against this.
In fact, CouchCMS is probably aware of this. The open source version, I suppose, is not meant for you to use across your websites. Instead, CouchCMS is projecting its open source offering as a test rig for you — download it, install and use it as much as you want. If you like what you see, go ahead and purchase the license! Consider the open source version to be an alternative for a live demo.
The question that now arises is: should you buy the commercial version?
If you are designer who intends to create websites for your clients, but either do not know development or just do not have the required time and energy, you should consider opting for the CouchCMS commercial version. The CMS does a good job at helping you build websites without learning how to code, and the fact that you can white-label the commercial version and even download the entire documentation and offer it to your clients is an icing on the cake.
The only drawback is that if you actually wish to use this CMS for multiple clients, you will have to shell out $39 per domain. As far as I can see it, CouchCMS does not yet have a bulk pricing option: something like, “20% discount on our SuperPro License which lets you use the CMS on 500 domains”.
So, to sum it up:
- Easy to use
- Handy documentation
- Zero coding skills needed
- Commercial version can be white-labelled
- Open source version requires attribution link in front-end
- No bulk pricing option for multiple domains
- Relatively smaller user base
What do you think of CouchCMS? Will you be using it for your clients’ websites? Have your say in the comments below!
Sufyan bin Uzayr writes for various magazine and blogs, and has authored several books. He blogs about technology, Linux and open source, mobile, web design and development, typography, and Content Management Systems at Code Carbon. You can learn more about him, follow him on Twitter or friend him on Facebook and Google+.