I am new to Drupal. I am struggling to create a web site, and I'm looking for some basic advice.
Some background: I'm fairly technical . . . I have passing familiarity with a variety of programming and scripting languages, and at one point, when the web was young, I created a handful of web sites. (Didn't we all?) I'm not an expert, but I'm not afraid of any aspect of the Drupal technology stack.
I would like to create a fairly basic web site with two types of dynamic content in it and several static pages.
The dynamic content essentially boils down to articles and calendar information. Drupal looks superb for that. I've looked into how to import and structure the data, how to create views, how to create links outside of the site. That all looks really promising. That's where the real work is.
What I can't manage to do is create a web site that is at all laid out how I want. I have very basic requirements. I've drawn a diagram here (http://i.imgur.com/q8dAZ.png).
And it is not just layout. I'd be willing to go with some default layout if I could just get a look and feel that looked at all decent. I realize that "decent" is in the eye of the beholder.
At this point I've spent many, many hours at this. I've read hundreds of web pages, installed dozens of modules. I've perused a number of books. I believe I have a reasonably good understanding of the fundamentals of how Drupal works.
I believe that my problem is themes. I naively started with the top themes in the themes list. I've installed at least AT, Bartik, Fusion, Garland, Omega, Pixture, Seven, Stark and Zen. And no doubt others that are lost to memory at this point. I've made subthemes until my fingers bleed. I've made subthemes of subthemes. I've gone down strange paths that led to dependencies on modules that don't exist or don't function, or generate strings of errors. I've gone down paths that led to non-existent or abandoned web sites.
I have even . . . shudder . . . watched videos. Okay, not many. I would generally rather stab myself with a toothpick than watch training videos. Even well-made, free ones. Maybe it is just me. But . . . if that's what it takes . . . I'll do it! Sorry, I digress.
Anyway, I've come to realize that "starter theme" and "base theme" do not mean what I originally thought they meant. I assumed that a starter theme is a good theme for beginners.
I've come to appreciate some of the themes as really well designed abstraction layers that give the designer great flexibility. But that flexibility comes with a serious price in terms of learning the "language" of that abstraction layer. And often a series of additional technologies, sub-themes, and modules. Pretty heavy lifting.
Sorry for the long lead-in. Here's my question.
What themes would you recommend for someone new to Drupal, who would like to produce something useable without a great deal of customization, or that can be customized easily?