Is there any alternative to Panels that can be used for smaller websites where Panels may be a overkill?
I recently took up DP development again, haven't worked with DP7 for approx a year now, did lots of work on DP7 earlier.
When settings up a new site I always feel blocks are sufficient, if only the configuration had been made "correct" from the beginning - sorry for being biased.
But is the only alternative to blocks full blown Panels and mini panels if you want to be able to configure blocks differently depending on the the context in which they appear?
after having tested Context and Display Suite I have to admit they fit perfectly! As stated by @j-reynolds in his comment, the Display Suite makes it possible to create column based layouts in which you can determine what data you want to see eg. splitting your node into a 2 column stacked view where body is in the left region and tags in the right, title goes into the header region.
Using the Context module you can control which blocks or regions are being shown based on eg. term view or node view.
Combining the 2 and you have something easy to work with and manageable without going full blown Panels.
Both modules can do a lot more, I am just mentioning a few of the options.