What should I charge for web designs using CMS?


I've been asking myself this question for a while. If a client doesn't want me to handle the maintenance of their website, but rather do it themselves, I should probably use a CMS like Joomla or Drupal.

But my question is, how much should I charge to design a website using a CMS? It obviously reduces the difficulty of the job, so I'd expect to charge less than I would for a full coded design.

Web Design CMS

asked Jul 1 '11 at 05:04
147 points

5 Answers


I think as web designers/developers sometimes we forget that most clients don't know or care what a Joomla is. They just want a website that accomplishes their goals.

That is, most clients are buying the final product, not the technology to get them there. If you can use tools that make it easier/quicker on your end, and maybe nicer on theirs, you *might consider passing some of those savings on to them. Remember though that what they're really buying is a solution to their problems, and your expertise to help them get there. Be open and honest about what you're doing (without boring them with too much technical detail, if they don't care) and take really good care of them, then charge them a price that makes it worth your time to do that.

answered Jul 1 '11 at 23:28
Carson McComas
1,023 points
  • Thanks for the answer! You're right, I forgot that most clients won't have any idea what Joomla (or any other CMS, for that matter) is. So you're saying that I _could_ charge the same if I wanted to since they're paying for the same expertise? How I create the site is meaningless if the final product is up and working, and that's ultimately what the client is paying for. – Purmou 12 years ago
  • Of course you could. The key in pricing for something like this is to find a number that the client, and you, both think is worth it. At least that's how I would do it. There are other schools of thought (competing on price, for example) but I've found the above the be the most satisfying approach for all involved. Remember to be open, honest, and take really good care of them. They care much more about that than what underlying technology you use. – Carson McComas 12 years ago
  • Very good point. Thanks for all your help! – Purmou 12 years ago


Avoid charging by the hour if possible. It is not a scalable business model and sets a bad precedent.

Instead, charge for solutions to problems and achieving goals. A website should never be an end itself; it should be a means to an end. Whenever I quote a website for a client, we create a list of three to five "outcomes" they want from their site. These include things like purchasing a product, scheduling and appointment, downloading an ebook, registering for a webinar, signing up for a newsletter, etc...

When you frame the project in terms of the end benefits they will receive, you can charge for those instead of an hourly price. For some small businesses, this may only be worth a few thousand dollars. For others, it may be worth a hundred thousand dollars. But you see that nowhere in there is any mention of either the hours spent or the technology used. Both are irrelevant.

answered Jul 2 '11 at 02:57
Jon Di Pietro
1,697 points
  • Interesting advice, Jon...this system would really help me. I'm still pretty young, so school and other things will limit my ability to keep track of hourly work. Deciding on one final price based on the goals and outcomes of the design would give me room to balance my school and my jobs. Thanks for the answer! – Purmou 12 years ago


Keep charging per hour, just reduce the price a bit.

Also, think about creating a good set of documentation, and charge a flat one time fee for it.

Basically outline the modules, how to log in, how to use the modules, etc. Keep it clear and concise.

You may also want to put together some tips and tricks as well as sample posts / pages / media so they see how it can be laid out. Think of it as a more complete template sale.

answered Jul 1 '11 at 11:52
Chris V
21 points
  • Okay, that sounds like a good plan. Thanks! What should I do if they ask me for help with something in particular? – Purmou 12 years ago
  • I completely disagree with reducing your hourly rate just because you are doing work in CMS and not static HTML+CSS. Your time is worth the same amount. We are not 503c's. If you expect to make a certain amount per hour, charge it. If you are working with CMS and it takes you less time to get it done, that is where the savings to the client comes in. If you want to charge the same amount whether it is CMS or raw coded HTML, the client will not know the difference and the savings for them will be in being able to manage their own content. There really is no wrong answer to this. – Need A Geek Indy 11 years ago


You should charge what the customer is willing to pay for your work.

Here are some points to consider:

  • There are thousands of templates available which push down the perceived value of your work.
  • The more customized the theme or template you develop the more the
  • There is a significant dearth of quality template designers that think "outside of the box" -- someone with a command of three dimensional thinking and CSS will always be in demand.
  • The field of design and the field of UI are intimately connected. What makes a pretty website does not make good design. Design relates to function. And the function of the site relates to the business purpose. A designer that fails to understand the business purpose -- and ensure that their resulting website design supports that picture are . . . .well, frankly -- a disaster.
  • As long as what you are providing is simply the design of a website you will be a marginalized commodity. Identify what solution you are providing and why you are uniquely qualified to provide it.
So what will the customer be willing to pay? Less for a four page brochure than a multi-view commplex webstore. More for a Fortune 100 branding site than a start-up launch page. More for a consumer-driven social-media tie-in than a B2B distributor support portal.

Good luck in the launch of your new web design practice.

answered Jul 2 '11 at 02:03
Joseph Barisonzi
12,141 points
  • So whether we decide on an hourly rate or a final price, the value of the job decreases because of the lack of custom work being put in in the first place? Carson makes a good point in saying that, essentially, since the client is paying for the same expertise that would go into a custom coded design, I could charge the same for it. Though I agree with you completely in that we have to think about providing solutions to people, not just pretty websites. Thanks for answering. :) – Purmou 12 years ago


Start from the end and work back towards the beginning. Since the customers wants to maintain their own site in the end, that is the place to begin your planning.

If the client will be editing a bit of text now and then you could select most any platform and then show them the ropes (how to login, edit text, etc). If they'll need to make more substantive changes then make their life easier by selecting the platform by ease of use. Personally, I'd lean more towards Concrete5 over Joomla and other CMS solutions. Much easier for a non-technical user.

You might want to also offer the client a shopping list of services. Something like:

*Basic setup and installation plus 5 web pages - $600
*Each additional page - $50
*Tips and tricks documentation - $100

This puts the client in the driver's seat and allows them to pick and choose the services they feel they need. If they change their mind along the way they already know the pricing.

answered Jul 5 '11 at 21:12
309 points

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