ImageWorks Creative Blog

Understanding Web Design, CMS, and the Costs Involved

Posted by Scott January 30, 2013

The number one question we get asked is … How much does web design cost?

It’s impossible to answer this question accurately until we have the opportunity to gain a full understanding of the client’s wants and needs. We can design a $500 website, or a $500,000 web site, all depending on the needs, functionality, and complexity of the site.  If we asked you how much a car cost, you would need to know what kind of car we were asking about, right?  The same principle applies to web design.

How Sites are Created and Structured:

Let’s start with an understanding of how web sites are created. 99% of all web sites today use what we call “styles”.  A style is a visual and eventually a coded representation of how certain types of pages will look and function.

A home page, for example, will set the style for how your header, menus, banner area, content areas, interactive areas, footer, and other page elements will appear.  This includes the font they’ll use, as well as the colors and backgrounds.  Your home page usually represents your most complex and interactive style.

Styles & Templates:

Here are the other popular styles that make up most modern web sites:

  • Your subpage or interior page style
  • An alternate, maybe more visual subpage style
  • Your blog style
  • Your form style
  • Cart styles as needed
  • Styles for interactive components such as tabbed areas and carousels
  • Portfolio styles
  • Back end styles for database and third party applications.


Once the design of all of these styles has been completed and approved, each style is coded and becomes a template which allows an unlimited amount of pages to be created that follow your style guidelines.  Maintaining your site’s style throughout your internal pages is an important way to maintain brand consistency and build trust with your visitors.

Themes & Content Management Systems (CMS):

Once your templates are ready, they are assembled into the CMS  of your choice (we use Drupal and WordPress primarily) which then creates your own unique “Theme,” setting forth all colors, styles, fonts, layouts, and other elements in alignment with your brand strategy and image.  Custom web design is NOT the same as using the pre designed themes that allow you to change colors or drop in text in a mass produced theme.  In this case, “theme” is just a technical term for how a website looks, feels and functions.

Pre-designed website “themes”:

Pre-designed themes are ready-made websites that have been designed without any consideration for your unique brand’s image or strategy. They are created for the masses, allowing small startups with small budgets to quickly get a site online.  The danger of using a pre-designed theme is that your visitors’ brand experience will be severely lacking.  In addition, the same style that is used on your pre-made theme will be duplicated across the web, preventing you from developing and promoting your own unique brand identity.  For these reasons, ImageWorks does not recommend or create any pre-designed web templates.

Web Design / CMS Design costs:

Here are two good articles on web design costs and setting an appropriate marketing budget:

How to Budget for a Custom Web Design

How to Set a Marketing Budget for Your Business

Generally speaking, planning a website based on a sound strategy and designed pixel by pixel for your unique brand requires a proper investment. After all, your site is your most important brand asset and will affect your perception more than any other media. We recommend that customers who are planning a full custom web site, with working components such as blogs, forms, videos, animations, copywriting, and other elements plan to spend 2-5% of revenue in brand building & rejuvenation and an additional 2-7 % in marketing and advertising your brand.  

NOTE: These percentages change based on your industry and margins and are just a general guideline recommended by sources such as the SBA, SCORE and other business associations and publications.   

Want to learn more and receive an exact quote? At ImageWorks, we are passionate about what we do, and we would love to discuss your brand and strategy with you!   Just click here!

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