I want to build a front page in which the site administrator has a lot of control (through the UI) over the layout. Panels is the only thing that comes close, but I still don't think it can do everything I need (and admittedly, I'm not a big fan of panels).
The front page will have a couple of sections; I'll call them "news", "products" and "store" in this example. The administrator must be able to control the order of the sections on the page.
Each section will contain a selection of news nodes for the news section and a selection of products for the products section. (The nodequeue module would be an obvious choice here.) The order of the nodes can be controlled by the administrator too. Also, the admin must be able to choose if a node is rendered full width, or if two are rendered half width, placing them side-by-side.
The "store" section must contain a maximum of 4 blocks (not nodes). The admin must be able to make a selection out of 6 or 7 blocks and gain control the order.
I'm sure I can make this work all by myself, but I'm curious: Which module (or combination of modules, if any) would you use to accomplish this? Needless to say, I would like this to be as easy and user friendly as possible, preferrably with as least different forms and interfaces as possible.