Should I choose Perch or Perch Runway?

When is Perch Runway the right choice for your project?

One of the great strengths of building a project on Perch is that as the site develops over time you have a natural upgrade path to Perch Runway. The presence of two different-yet-the-same products can sometimes raise the question of which you should be using and when. If building a new project, should you choose Perch or Perch Runway? Let’s take a look.

The special case for Perch

Perch is a very special product, and is almost completely unique as a CMS in one key area: Perch can be very easily retrofitted to an existing website. That means you can take an existing static website, marketing landing page, manually updated news page or what have you and just drop Perch in without needing to rebuild.

With this approach you don’t need to turn your site into a CMS theme or rebuild your pages to be delivered through a CMS. You just add the CMS into your existing pages.

This ease of integration is unheard of in the CMS world, and Perch has lead the way in making it as simple as possible to make a static page editable. In fact, many customers work this way even with new projects; they build what is effectively a static site and then add Perch in when they’re ready.

So if you have an existing site, or like the sound of that approach, Perch is the obvious choice.

Staying simple for new builds

If you build websites for small business clients, interest groups, side projects or community projects, you’ll know that not every website is a massive project. Many professionally built websites are just a handful of pages. That doesn’t mean that they don’t need a flexible and fast CMS to power them and keep them up to date.

This is where Perch excels. Designed for professional designers and developers to build with, and for non-expert clients to use, Perch was literally made for these small sites. For clients, it offers a simple page-based interface into updating their site with minimal fuss. For designers, it offers complete creative flexibility without battling with built-in markup or themes. When it comes to development, Perch offers a fast, efficient and stable platform that enables you to deliver projects more quickly and reliably.

Room to grow

Not every site that starts small stays small. A number of free first-party add-ons enable you to grow your Perch site without the need to switch platforms. Whether it’s adding a blog, creating contact forms, or selling a few physical or digital products, Perch has a route to make that simple.

If your site grows to something quite different than initially anticipated, you have a natural path to upgrade to Perch Runway.

Enter Perch Runway

If Perch is Bruce Wayne, Perch Runway is Batman. Underneath the core of the two products is the same; same powerful templates, same approach to structured content, and the same powerful add-ons. The differences is that Runway comes with all sorts of powerful adornments that turn it into something quite different.

There are four distinct cases where you might decide to pick Runway over Perch.

Case 1: The overgrown Perch site

As mentioned, Perch is designed for smaller sites. That means the design decisions made within the CMS are biased towards sites with less content to favour simplicity and easy of use. If you have big sets of content, more people editing and increasingly complex pages, you might find yourself bumping up against the edges of Perch.

Runway thinks about things differently. It presumes you might have more content, might have lots of people working on the same site, that you might have more complex workflows and that you might wish to reuse and relate content in ways you wouldn’t with a small site. As it’s the same core platform, upgrading a site from Perch to Runway is minimal work compared to the effort of switching to a different system.

Case 2: The content-based website

Perch does small sites really well, but not every site starts off small. If you’re building a content-rich site, a membership site, or a larger ecommerce store using the Shop add-on, Runway is the tool for the job.

Content Collections in Runway act as big repositories for content that can be structured and reused around your site with powerful relationships between items. Team features like edit history and collision warnings help multiple users to manage the same site in a more controlled way. Varnish cache integration and CDN support help as your traffic builds, and the integrated cloud backup with simple restore keeps your content safe.

Case 3: The developer workflow

Key to its ability to be retrofitted to a static site, pages in Perch are file-based. That means when you create a new page within the control panel, a new file for that page is added to your site. That’s very convenient for less technical workflows, but is not ideal for larger sites.

Runway steps away from this model, choosing instead to serve all pages dynamically from the database. A built-in router maps URLs to page templates, merges in your content, and delivers the final complete page. This decoupling of URLs and ‘pages’ enables you to rapidly develop much more intricate and powerful web experiences.

Built-in support for Amazon S3, Rackspace Cloudfiles and Dropbox makes working across multiple environments much more straightforward.

Case 4: Wide content distribution

For some projects, a website is only one element in a larger digital strategy. Increasingly, clients want to be able to deliver content both to their website and to mobile apps as well as more niche outputs like display screens and IoT devices.

Runway is a great solution for this. Its Headless CMS mode enables you to deliver custom JSON views of the same content you’re delivering to your website. Rather than editing content in multiple places, or needing to develop a website to pull content from yet another third party system, Runway can be your central hub for content that is displayed on your website, mobile apps and everything in between.

As you can see, Perch and Perch Runway are two different but complimentary products that can work on a wide variety of projects large and small. It’s due to this flexibility and the ability to apply skills learned on sites built on either platform that makes Perch such a popular choice for web design agencies.