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For the first time website owner, determining a budget for a new website can be confusing. As with many things, when it comes to website development, you get what you pay for, so it helps to educate one’s self in the basics.

There are two general components to a modern website that you should be aware of: The theme and the CMS (content management framework). The theme consists of the graphics and formatting information that determine how your website looks. The CMS is the software that allows you, the website owner, to log in to your website and add or edit content, and is responsible for all kinds of other underlying tasks, such as generating navigation menus and aggregating and summarizing articles. The CMS is like the engine and transmission in a car, while the theme is the interior and body style.

Most websites are created with a unique theme. Creating a unique theme requires both a talented graphic artist and what is called a ‘front end’ developer. The cost of your unique theme depends upon the complexity of your website and the number of different kinds of pages you will have. For websites with only standard functionality, a unique theme is usually the most costly part of the initial website development project.

For website projects with limited budgets there are options other than a unique theme. Your website developer should have access to a number of pre-build themes you can chose from. These themes will not be unique to your website, but they are less expensive because they only need to be modified, not created. Also, the least expensive option is the use of a customizable default theme. Default themes are not unique, but colors and images can be modified to make them look unique enough for a low budget project.

Which CMS your website developer uses is important. A CMS is nothing like Adobe’s Dreamweaver or Microsoft’s Expression, which are HTML editors. A CMS is the software that runs on the web server and provides the functionality specifically to your website.

Unless your website requires highly unique functionality, which it likely does not, your developer should use a popular and modern CMS that you’ll have no trouble finding other developers to help you maintain in the future.