Well, I hope I answer this correctly cause I”m still learning…sorry. Not using a CMS, I am working in the code and I am only using PHP in the navigation and footer so that I don’t have to repeat the same html 15 different times. So far that’s all I really know how to do with PHP…. I don’t have any includes. My header looks like this….
I have had a similar experience. I am a graphic designer learning to code my own sites but I had a client who wanted to control her backend so WordPress became a better option. What i did was explain that I was going to use a template and purchase the bundle to customize the css so that she would be able to control her text but I would control the design, even if a small amount of it. I was honest and explained that she could do the process without me and save some money or I could do it, and then train her on it. She went with that and I charged $350 to set the whole thing up and then do WordPress training too. Really she paid me for the hand holding but sometimes that is all a client wants.
I am also new to the responsive design realm. Something I have found very helpful with my own introduction into responsive web design is using the 1140 grid system. I downloaded from this site here… http://www.columnal.com/ Included in the download are css files for IE issue fixes that are ready for you to drop your own css in. Just as a side note, i had some issues understanding their files in the beginning an had to email them a question. They responded very quickly and were really helpful. Hope this helps you.