Potato-Proof: Content Management Uncomplicated with CouchCMS

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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.


The Prelude

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.

The Details

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

Sufyan bin Uzayr writes for various magazine and blogs, and has authored several books. He is the guy behind Code Carbon. You can learn more about him or friend him on Facebook.

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I think for designers this is the best: http://www.secretarycms.com


With so many free CMS’s on the market I would not use this one solely due to the fact you have to give a backlink. I was going to download it and try it but not any more…


Possible one of the simplest yet most flexible CMS’s out there. Couch is both a designer and developers dream, no compromise on either front. The support is fantastic, I’ve built several sites with it this year, as a developer the learning curve is minimal and the developer has really thought this through. I’ve tried to push the boundaries and not once has it caused fuss, you can bend this CMS but it dont break.

Super easy to train clients on, it’s become my first choice CMS for brochure sites right through to more complex businesses.


Great CMS! Easily themeable for any HTML template website.

I’ve used Couch CMS on ten or so websites thus far and am very glad to see it reviewed here! :) I get it that there are people who are looking for free solutions only and that is perfectly fine. As Peter said, there are numerous free CMS solutions available out there. I myself have used such solutions (WordPress, Joomla, e107, Concrete5 – to name just some of them) before I was finally fed up with the lack of stability and even more so – without any kind of serious support. Being a web designer who builds websites for a… Read more »
While I’m still playing around with the tool, I really like, for the sole reason of it’s adjustments. As a starting web developer, which actually sells and makes websites for companies, I needed a quick and easy tool to get into business. I disliked all the general solutions, because, they’re not unique, are cluttered with useless info – doesn’t scale to individual projects. I realized, I wanted something that could be like Expression Engine, that delivers, but also for the client – so it would be easy, and I could specify, what client can access, and what not. EE smaller… Read more »
I discovered couch a couple of years ago..it changed my life. There is ONE HUGE PRO in using it: it’s idiot proof. Basically this CMS gives you the freedom to make the website editable little by little. If you want the title of a page to be there and always in that style you create a space for clients to edit just the text. You want them to have more freedom? Create a wordpress-like editable zone. All my clients begged me to switch from their CMS (wordpress, joomla, adobe ecc) to couch as it’s UNCOMPLICATED more for them than for… Read more »
Hello, I just recently made a website for a client that wanted to edit text and images on his website. I already knew of wordpress etc but they all restricted my design and the admin interface is bloated. So I searched for an easy cms and found couch. Since I didn’t know anything about it I posted a general question on the forum and got a very quick response politely telling me how to do what I wanted. It seemed easy enough so I downloaded the cms and after that I never looked back. The feature set is amazing and… Read more »
I am a web developer, whom, despite CouchCMS being marketed towards designers or non-coders so to speak, I find CouchCMS an absolutely amazing CMS to use. The easy usability it gives to clients when creating new posts is amazing, and the support for it is also top notch which goes alongside a great documentation. The reason I prefer to use CouchCMS rather than Concrete5 or WordPress is due to how lightweight it is, and what it is capable of in such little time spent writing out the small amount of ‘code’ for it to work. As for the pricing, me… Read more »

Spent ages trying to find a CMS that would best suit both me and my clients. CouchCMS was simple to set up, use and has amazing use.

i have used many cms systems before in the past, from enterprise solutions which cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to free open source systems like drupal, wordpress and co. one day i was surfing around tring to find a drop-dead simple solution for my cms needs and i found it in couch cms. it’s fun and intuitive to work with and the documentation is great. if you get stumped with a problem, then all you need to do is go to their forum and make a post. in most cases you will get an immediate solution to the problem… Read more »

I have used couch on a number of sites and am highly impressed with the ease of use for myself as a designer and my clients.

The interface is down to earth and easy to understand/use while the setup and integration is equally as easy.

The backlink can seem somewhat intrusive, but I find the price of the licence to be affordable and worth every penny.

I highly recommend this software to anyone looking to create a CMS website, or wanting to convert their current site to a CMS driven website with ease.


I’m looking for a lightweight CMS solution. I been looking into Perch, then came across this. They seem similar in many ways. Perch seems to have more addons which might make it worth the extra license fee.
Anyone have experiences of both Perch and Couch CMS?

I’ve had the same dilemma when first looking for a simple CMS. I guess you can’t go wrong with choosing either Perch or Couch. It is probably just a matter of personal preference. I’m sure Perch is an awesome product, but I’ve played with it only for a very short while so I’m not really in a position to compare it to Couch in any way. Perch’s license price is however double the price of Couch’s license, but even that might not be something too relevant to someone. Personally I found Couch CMS UI to be more straightforward, which I… Read more »

CouchCMS is one of the best things that has happened to me as a freelance web designer. WordPress is a powerful tool to create website but in my opinion it is a challenge for client to understand it. This is not the case with CouchCMS. CouchCMS takes your already made html website and makes it SUPER client friendly. It should not take someone more then 2 min to master CouchCMS and the best part……….IT’S FREEEEEEEEEEE!

Martijn Bokma
After reading an article ( http://goo.gl/rWvcBj ) about CouchCMS creator Kamran Kashif I decided to give CouchCMS a try. I started with the tutorial ( http://goo.gl/w9Lt9C ) and I was very impressed with how easily you can set up a website with CouchCMS. You can use any HTML/CSS template and set it up with CouchCMS. It’s very easy in use and also very client friendly. Most of my clients don’t understand WordPress or other CMSes, but when they see the CouchCMS Admin for the first time most of my clients understand it immediately. I’ve tested a lot of CMSes over… Read more »
I have always been a fan of web design and over the past 4-5 years I have been creating web pages for fun, never really hosting/publishing them. When I read about CMS’ and how they greatly assist with managing Web content, I decided to give them a go, 1st WordPress and then Joomla, then I realised something wasn’t right, I code my own webpages from head’ to foot’ (I prefer it that way) I needed a CMS that could maintain my design but do it’s magic only on specific areas… I came across Couch CMS and I am still shocked… Read more »
Martijn Bokma
After reading an article about CouchCMS creator Kamran Kashif I decided to give CouchCMS a try. I started with the tutorial and I was very impressed with how easily you can set up a website with CouchCMS. You can use any HTML/CSS template and set it up with CouchCMS. It’s very easy in use and also very client friendly. Most of my clients don’t understand WordPress or other CMSes, but when they see the CouchCMS Admin for the first time most of my clients understand it immediately. I’ve tested a lot of CMSes over de last few years and CouchCMS… Read more »
It’s easy to get lost in words to describe what couch could do for you. Since most is already written, I’ll try to break it down in the most necessary information and leave the choice up to the user. If you have a basic understanding of HTML/CSS, know your way in a code editor (not a WYSIWIG) and want to develop more dynamic, then couch is just the next best thing to learn. Whereas WordPress comes with a higher learning curve and depends on php to master it at some level, couch rules it out in using more xml/semantic driven… Read more »

Just a small correction: The founder of couch cms is Kamran Kashif (KK on the forums). I mixed him up with another person…

Background: I’m a British designer/developer based in the UK. I was looking for an open source CMS system to use for a new client website. Since I had never built a theme for WordPress or even really used it as a CMS I decided to scour the internet for a CMS which would require minimum PHP knowledge, I hard code HTML, CSS and use JavaScript so PHP wasn’t in my toolkit of code languages. Cost: I stumbled upon Couch CMS and on reading about it was very pleased that I had finally found a CMS built for designers and front… Read more »

it look like joomla. i want to use for my car site. but it support too less language.

I love CouchCMS based almost solely on the fact that it DOESN’T use plugins or addons. I like to create websites from scratch, and spending my hours trying to tweak and manhandle my sites into template based systems is a pain I hate dealing with. It’s been a deal breaker for a lot of the systems out there with me. The only other solution is a hosted platform (like surrealcms or pagelime, which presents it’s own fee table). And honestly, when I’m charging 1500+ for a website, $39 is a small price to pay. We pay for domains, we pay… Read more »
Mirko Zagami
A couple of months back I was looking for a cms solution in order to create a developer manual for my company’s API. We needed something quick to setup, but that would allow us to expand its functionality without having to get plugins or go through convoluted steps in order to do it. I started researching all the major players like wordpress, joomla, etc. But they were all too “bloated” a solution for what we where looking for. Enter CouchCms. I played around it for a weekend in my spare time, and once I got back to work on monday,… Read more »
A couple of years ago I realised that CushyCMS /PageLime weren’t an adequate solution for enabling clients to take control of their website content. I started looking for a CMS that would suit my clients (self-employed/small businesses) and fit with the way I create sites – which is on an individual, non-templated/non-themed basis. Like many web designers I know HTML and CSS, will probably use a responsive framework (e.g. Foundation or Bootstrap) and will integrate carefully chosen jquery plugins (flex slider, BX slider etc) if needed. I did loads of research and lengthy trials of Joomla, WordPress and Concrete5. The… Read more »
I first encountered CouchCMS a number of months back and was immediately impressed with its simplicity and ease of use. To start off I followed the tutorials and it soon became clear that it wouldn’t take long to convert a HTML/CSS template into a working website. The first website I done for my client was warmly received when he found the CMS to be simple and uncomplicated. Always with web development there comes a time when you want something but can’t figure out how to implement it. This is where the fantastic CouchCMS support forum comes in. I received unrivalled… Read more »
It’s user base is rather small but very helpful. The greatest dissapointment of most cms systems is the lack of documentation. Here couch got you covered as well. However it could benefit from more video tutorials and it really surprises me that bloggers don’t make video’s for this since it’s open source right now. This said, I hope it doesn’t come too complex like wordpress where you need to update every so because of exploited security issues and have to work your way around several plugins that stop working. I hope Kareem keeps respecting its core idea on which couch… Read more »
Karen Menezes
Hi! I’m soon to complete my first project in couch. For small to medium websites for PHP based projects, I think this is it. It’s exactly what you need – excellent documentation, the guy who created it is absolutely amazing and he will help you out with EVERYTHING. I think the amount of help and support he gives you is worth much more than the one-time license fee (which is an option, and not essential). In its category, I think it’s the best. WordPress is generally overkill for half the sites its used for (especially those without a blog) and… Read more »
Mirko Zoric
I’ve been using CouchCMS for two years now, creating both simple webistes and e-commerce websites. I tried many other CMS solutions, like Concrete5 or WP, but none of them compares to this little gem. Where should I start, first, the documentation is absolutely great, which is absolutely vital for any novice. Everything is well documented, and the support that Kamran(creator of Couch) offers on the forum is second to none. It is a designer’s dream, but really I don’t see why some PHP developer or similar wouldn’t want to use this, all you need is some logic, and eveyrthing is… Read more »
In simple words “CouchCMS ROCKS!!!”… Coz: 1. Probably the smallest CMS in size. 2. In other CMS, we need to install the CMS and then use the Templates provided therein or for use with the specific CMS (Mostly the Templates are paid). Whereas in CouchCMS, just select any Template you like (Good and Free Templates are available in abundant), customize it according to your requirement and FIT CouchCMS into it. That’s it. You are good to go. 3. CouchCMS may be the for the non-programmers as has been quoted here, but that doesn’t stop the immense possibilities of its application.… Read more »

I ran into another one which claims to be the smallest called wondercms.com. I think it’s lacking plugins.