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Perch - in the sweet spot for small projects - 11.08.10

With the last update of my portfolio, eagle eyed readers will have spotted one of the projects is managed with Perch. The makers (the lovely people at edgeofmyseat.com) describe it as “A really little content management system”. For me, this is a good thing!

As you know, I’m a bit of an “Expression Engine aficionado” – I love it, and there’s very little I can’t make it do. But sometimes all that power is just overkill, the back end interface can be overwhelming for new users, and sometimes, let’s face it, it just costs too much to use on a small project (with add-ons, it could add-up to half the budget). So while Expression Engine is great, it’s not for every project.

So what’s so good about Perch?

For a start, it comes with a really little price tag – £35 +VAT. Would it take you more than an hour to build your own CMS? Then you’re already quids in, I’d suggest.

Secondly, the setup is super-simple. If you’ve got an HTML page, just include a few tags in the appropriate places, and you’ve made that page editable. Simple as that. I reckon it would only take me a couple of hours to CMS a simple site.

Thirdly, it’s flexible. Each page can have a different set of editable regions – sometimes each page has just one column, in which case, there’s a case for using Wordpress, or Textpattern or something like that. But often a page will have two columns, a call out box, and a banner introduction. Then, it’s really rather helpful to be able to have multiple editable regions, called whatever you like, on the page.

Fourthly, you can have an “image” field type, to let your clients upload images, and Perch will automagically resize them. This is a great boon. Quite a bit easier than managing images in, say, Textpattern.

Fifthly, whenever I’ve had a problem, I’ve found the support to be great, whether via Twitter or their dedicated support area, Drew and Rachel are generally pretty responsive.

It’s also brandable (you could even let your clients believe you built it just for them).

What’s not to like?

If the site you’re building is a blog site, then Perch probably isn’t for you. (That’s not a criticism of Perch – it’s a case of choosing the right tool for the job). The nightmare situation, of course is that you choose Perch for the site and then the client asks for a blog to be added later. Then you may be left to either rebuild the site in Wordpress/Textpattern/Expression Engine, or leave the client with two different logins for different areas of their site.

I should say that with the “Perch Content Custom” tag, more should be possible, in terms of a news section where each article can have its own page, but this isn’t going to match a blog with RSS etc.

If the site requires a contact form, you’ll have to roll your own – this isn’t a problem for me, but it might put a few people off. Maybe someone will write an “app” for that (did I mention that Perch is extendable via “apps”?). If it had an optional CAPTCHA, then it would be super-awesome.

One other thing I’d love to see, is the option to Javascript encode email addresses – something Expression Engine does really well and can prevent spam. I know there’s a case against doing this, for accessibility reasons, but I often think it’s worth the trade off to hide your email address from spammers.

Summing up

I’d thoroughly recommend Perch to anyone building a simple website, or wanting to retrofit a CMS to their existing brochureware site.

As an Expression Engine devotee, I should probably try out MojoMotor – Ellislab’s younger, smaller brother to Expression Engine. It does look pretty neat, and the option to import your content to Expression Engine does appeal (in theory at least, not sure how it would work in practice). So that might be an option down the road, but I dare say I’ll be sticking with Perch for the time being.

Of course, if you’d like me to build you a site with Perch, I’d be more than happy to!


Contact

Paul Bell
Boiler Room Digital
Work 35 Abbey Road
Nottingham
NG17 7NH
UK

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