Tiny Perch adds WP import and Feathers

The 'really little' CMS Perch just grew a little with the release of Blog Version 3.5. Requiring Perch 2.0.6, the new release adds WordPress import, simpler ‘friendly’ URLs, performance optimisations and blog example pages. Perch has also introduced Perch Feathers, an add-on aimed at making it possible to manage frontend assets such as CSS, JavaScript and images through Perch.

.net spoke to Perch co-creator Drew McLellan about why the new features were created and how they can benefit web designers and developers using Perch.

.net: Why did you add WordPress import?
McLellan: Due to demand from our customers. We have a lot of customers who used to use WordPress for building client sites, but now find Perch to be a better fit. A good number of those have a history of blog posts, which they understandably want to bring across. The WordPress import feature is our way to help them do that easily.

As Perch uses structured content, we don't intend it for use with WordPress 'pages’, but it’s ideal for bringing across standard blog entries.

.net: How is Perch as a blogging platform?
McLellan: The free Blog add-on for Perch started as a very small app intended for corporate news blogs. Over time it has become popular with our users, and so we've added more features. It's now a very capable blogging system with comments, moderation, and spam protection, using Akismet. We’ve also worked hard on performance aspects to make it blisteringly fast, even under high load.

.net: What was the thinking behind Feathers? Is this the start of theming in Perch?
McLellan: Perch is a themeless CMS. Both Rachel [Andrew, Perch co-creator] and I have a background of being frontend web developers, and we really care about the quality of HTML and CSS that ends up on a site. Using themes is always a compromise where you lose control of the markup. We wanted to provide a way to help manage frontend assets – CSS and JavaScript, mainly – in a way that keeps the designer in control.

Feathers are our way of doing that. A Feather just bundles up some CSS and JavaScript and delivers it to the page. That's useful in a number of ways. For example, we have a Feather that includes Sass CSS preprocessing – it takes your Sass stylesheets and compiles them, linking the processed version to the page. We have another which does work a bit like a theme – it bundles the CSS all our example pages use.

We've also made Feathers easy to build. If you always start off a new project by linking in a particular set of style sheets, JavaScript libraries and shims, you could put together your own Feather that does all that for you. Then when you start a new project, just drop it into your add-ons folder and you're all set.

.net: So are Feathers effectively an efficiency add-on?
McLellan: Feathers are certainly helpful when sites get bigger. They include some basic management of components, and so if you were to, say, drop in a carousel, a video player and a lightbox script that all use jQuery, Perch would make sure that the jQuery library itself was only linked to your page once.

Many people using Perch are building lots of small sites for customers, and so making parts of the frontend more modular and reusable helps them work more efficiently. Those who are building larger sites will find Feathers provide a way to manage more complex dependancies with a little more ease.