Interestingly enough, I'm coming back to web dev from a different but related direction. I've hand coded forever, but when speed is an issue i always appreciated WYSIWYG editors, even if the code they generated was ugly.

But I'm also a programmer among other things, that has recently been laid off. As it turns out I have some savings and don't need to panic, and would like to try to market some of my inventions. Well, as i'd like to spend the bulk of my time on the actual development of those projects, I thought maybe I'd give myself a break from hand coding and see whats out there to make life easier. I started the wordpress thread because it also seemed to me everyone was going that way, but rapidly became disillusioned. I'm also investigating Joomla, whijh looks good, but I'm just not getting a "warm fuzzy" about it. After some weeks futzing, this is what i conclude now, and bear in mind my opinions are changing daily right now, so don't HOLD me to any of this...

1) First of all, it does not seem to me that any CMS system will save me time. At least not initially. A WYSIWYG editor MIGHT save me some time, but maybe not so much a CMS. because while they will create a site rather quickly, I find myself endlessly trying to get pages to look as i want them too, switching themes and then ending up wanting to change things the theme or template never exposed for me to change. I really got quickly tired of fining that "bacground color" never changed the background of the area I wanted to change, and dozens of things like that plagued me. In the end I wasted days and got nowhere but to the "compromising". On the other hand, ans a hand coder of a page or template, I know exactly what to do in these cases. Why? Because the code is MINE. Good luck picking through the CSS files of a computer generate theme or template. You can, but don't count on it saving time!

2) While I still will consider a WYSIWYG editor for quick and dirty page content, maybe even some simple "restaurant" style sites, or if I need to compose a temporary page for an e-bay add. But I've come full circle and right now, it seems my time is far better spent refining the skills I already have as a hand coder. CSS has come a long way. Javascript is getting more cross compatible and less frustrating as the DOMs have gotten a bit more standardized. AJAX has apparently made interfacing with a database very easy (though I've only scratched the surface there). And there's tones of free tutorials on line for anything new or improving. Plus, tons of free online tools to generate page features like CSS or javascript based navigation menus and such. And since I get to paste the code right into my own templates and page code, I'm learning more in each afternoon then I ever would have using tools that insulate me from the code.

3) If I need to start churning out sites as a paid service, I probably will start use a CMS tool. That way I'll learn on somebody else's dime. I may even use one for a section or area of my own sites eventually. But what someone told me earlier in this forum is absolutely true... the more I can bring to the table improving my ability to work with HTML, CSS, and Javascript, the better I'll be in the long run. At least if I do need to pick through some computer generated style sheets in the future, when I DO start using an CMS, I will have a LOT better chance of getting the affect I want.

4) If YOU are good at graphics and layout, I can almost guarantee your sites will look better than other peoples, regardless of what tools they use. No, everybody is NOT an artist, no more than "Guitar hero" and Kerioke made everyone a musician (LO!). But... if you think any of these CMS tools are going to give you the layout freedom you probably insist on, you're going to be tearing out lots of hair and cursing at your screen a LOT. I know I was! There are some good layout tools that give you all the freedom you want, but I'm still looking for that, and I suspect I'm going to have to PAY a LOT for anything really good.

Good luck. Since you have graphic and layout skills, I may want you you to look at some of the pages I'm working on at the moment. At least I'll be able to fix things that could be improved, because the problems won't be burried in some huge chunk of computer generated code! :-)