Review of LightCMS

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Chris Coyier on (Updated on )

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Back in the summer of last year, I did a little roundup I called The “Light” CMS Trend. Ironically enough, one that wasn’t included was LightCMS. I’ve been checking it out (yes, this is a sponsored review) and it definitely fits the category, with some features that set it apart.

LightCMS is a Light CMS

Really easy updates. That is the whole point of a “light” CMS. They don’t have as many features or as much extensibility as a “full” CMS (e.g. WordPress), but they do make the job of editing content on a site more intuitive, especially for less technology-inclined clients.

For example, to log in to your site, you append /login to the URL, and you’ll be presented with a login screen directly in the skin of your site.

Any client can appreciate that.

Some of what LightCMS does is common to many CMSs. It is for managing content and building websites. It lets clients do this themselves (literally every single client I’ve had in the past many years has wanted this, whether they actually do it or not). There are users. There are templates. Some features of LightCMS are unique to it, which I’ll cover later.


The most important part, the editing of content, is a nice clean process. Content is kept on the page in modules. The modules can be drag ‘n dropped around (or manually moved) as well as of course editing and deleted.

Drag and drop modules

Module menu

I enjoy how clean and polished all of this is. There is a lot of detail in an app with this many features and options, and it easily could have been half-assed.



A common approach to the “light CMS” thing is to either give the CMS access to your site via FTP credentials, or put files on your server which do the job of editing. Either way, it’s your server. That can be a good thing, I know a lot of times I like having things under my control a lot of times. However, none of them are free, so it’s an expense you have on top of what you already pay for hosting. LightCMS is fully hosted.

They have a bunch of plans (literally 6) from free to a premier $99/month plan. The plans vary in number of users who can access the account, number of pages you can control, and the storage.

Some of the pricing plans

Fully hosted means that, by default, your site lives at a subdomain on lightcms, for example: That may work for you, but probably not. Not very professional and all. You can easily use your own domain name though, with a simple CNAME change.

Fully hosted also means no manual upgrading. Not to mention customer support.


Even with the hosting, and the otherwise kind of clean/sanitized environment, you can get direct FTP access. Nice.


Another unique feature is how they give you functional bits you can add to pages as modules (I think they call them “elements”) just like your own custom ones. For example, a blog element, calendar element, a robust form builders, photo gallery, donations buttons, etc.


They have kind of a white label option, where you can have your clients pay for the service, and you earn money from that. They charge $19/month, and you can set the price at whatever you want (you earn whatever on top of 19 you charge). Might be nice for some folks, but probably not something I would use. I prefer billing my own clients, so I’ll just pay for it and mark it up in my own invoices, but hey whatever works.

Your own designs

It should go without saying, but you can use your own designs with this. Basically you create a template with HTML files in a specific naming convention (Home.html, Inside.html, Admin.html, etc). Inside those templates you declare editable regions with “tokens” like this:

<$region$> <$/region$>

Once you got it all together, you just zip it up and upload it and your new design will be available as a template.

Try it

I think it’s a pretty decent little system. Go check out their Why LightCMS? page (and the tour) for a more thorough overview of what it does than what I presented.