CouchCMS – A simple CMS solution for web designers

CouchCMS is a self-hosted simple CMS that has been created specifically with web designers in mind.
It allows a designer to take any HTML/CSS templates and convert it into a fully content managed site, quite literally in minutes.

Unlike most other CMSs out there, Couch works by being retrofitted within an existing design or static site and not vice versa. This gives unparalleled creative freedom to designers who will no longer need to design their layouts around the limitations of whichever CMS they use.

No knowledge of PHP is required for using it, as everything in Couch is done using the familiar XHTML like tags.
There is no learning curve, no ‘a-ha moment’, no ‘light-bulb moment’.
Everything that needs to be known for using Couch can be learnt in a very short time.

Screenshot Home Page

Create as many editable regions as required

Any region of a template that the web designer wishes to make editable for his clients can be made so simply by marking it up with some Couch tags. As simple as that.
Any number of such editable regions can be marked up within a template and each region can be defined to be of a certain type – richtext, plaintext, image, file, radio-button, checkbox, dropdown etc.
This allows the designer to decide how simple or complex an interface they wish to present to his client.
As an example, the following screenshot is what the user sees when only one editable region is marked out in a template -

Simple Entry Form

And this screenshot is what you will get with a slightly more complex template where multiple editable regions have been defined:

Complex Entry Form

Notable point is that it is the designer who has the option of how many editable regions a template will have and of what types.

Create Cloned Pages

Any HTML template can be declared as being clonable and this will allow the clients to create multiple pages out of that template. This feature can be used to easily create blogs, news, portfolios etc. Comments can also be enabled on these pages.

Create listing of pages

Couch makes it a snap to create a listing of cloned pages of any template. For example, the home page can be made to show a list of the latest five blog entries, the first three portfolio pages and the latest comments using simple tags.
Archives of pages can also be created with similar ease.

SEO friendly links

SEO is something that simply cannot be ignored nowadays. Couch provides nestable virtual folders within which a page can be placed. The URL of the page will contain the entire hierarchy of its parent folders and this can be used to produce super SEO friendly links like –
http://www.yoursite.com/grills/gas-grills/portable/weber-q-200.html
where grills, gas-grills and portable are virtual folders and weber-q-200 is the page.

While we are discussing the topic of SEO, let me mention an interesting feature of Couch. Pages seldom remain at the same location. If, for example, the page mentioned above is moved to some other folder at a later date, the URL will change and the entire PR garnered by the page so far will be lost. Couch, however, senses this change in URL and when the old URL is visited it sends back a ‘HTTP 301 Permanently Moved’ header and redirects the visitor to the new URL, thus preserving the page’s PR. I am sure you’ll agree that this is a very useful SEO feature.

Web Forms

Web forms have always been problematic to code. While the markup for the form and its inputs is straightforward enough, the same cannot be said about the server side code that processes the posted form and validates all the inputs before taking action.
Once again Couch saves the designer the hassle of writing messy server side code. They simply have to convert the regular HTML tags of a form to their counterpart Couch tags and the CMS takes over all the form processing responsibilities.

Events Calendar

Creating a calendar of events is something that is regularly required. Couch again provides simple tags to create these.

Events Calendar

The list of features is extensive – RSS feeds, custom 404 pages, URL cloaking, Email cloaking, PayPal integration, Google maps, etc. The important point, however, is that all this functionality can be achieved without writing any PHP code at all. This single feature is what makes Couch truly a CMS for web designers.

Finally although Couch claims to be a CMS built for designers, the truth is, it perhaps was built even more for their clients – the end users. It is eventually the end-users who have to deal with the CMS more than anybody else and if they find the interface over featured and complicated, everything else comes to a naught.
Take a look at what Couch’s admin panel looks like when it is first installed:

Empty Control Panel

I can wager you haven’t seen a control panel as empty as this.
Don’t be alarmed by this near empty admin panel though. This, in a way, is the blank canvas that Couch offers the designer who then can mould it any way they like.
Following is a screenshot of how the same panel will look in a finished site:

Finished Control Panel

Getting Started with CouchCMS

You can find a comprehensive tutorial at the CouchCMS website, where it is used to build a full-fledged commercial site from scratch.

In Conclusion

Couch is simple indeed. But by simple, what is meant is simple to use and not that it is suitable for only simple sites.

The project is still in beta with the final version due for release in the New Year.
It is free for use in personal and non-commercial projects.
The price of the commercial license has not yet been finalized but should be considerably lower than the comparable products in market.
The aim of its creators is to make CouchCMS a viable solution for the designer to use on even the most tight budgeted sites.

You can follow CouchCMS on Twitter @couchcms or email them at support@couchcms.com.

Author: (588 Posts)

Paul Andrew is the editor and founder of Speckyboy Design Magazine.

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