This is for the Department Chair of PGE at the University of Texas. It's common for professors to make small websites to display their work so they can show grantors and peers. They need to display their research areas which can be several different topics, members of their group including students and staff, publications, and classwork.
A lot of times professors's first language wasn't English, so many time they didn't have the vocabulary to describe their needs. I always tried to show them examples of sites from design/CSS/Drupal galleries so they can pick a layout, design or functionality off the shelf. It was about the easiest way to manage expectaions from the client and create a deliverable that can be measured.
This professor wanted a visual layout, but lacked the subject matter in the images necessary for such a design choice. We took what he had and tried to break up the text as much as possible with this "portal" layout and colored boxes containing recent titles.
I set this up in Drupal and coded the theme from a bare responsive starter theme and all the modules are customized to show the most recent content from each "view". I try to use starter themes to eliminate repetitive work that only wastes time- the real task is in making it your own.