After researching Drupal, Joomla & WordPress, all of the feedback seemed to agree that WordPress was the easiest thing for a non technical person to manage a website.
On that point, I agree. I have a number of non-technical clients who manage their own sites quite well using WordPress. Most of them would be positively overwhelmed and terrified by Drupal or Joomla.
So, I've been looking at it as a CMS and not a blog. Without much luck!
Now that's where we differ. 75% of my clients use WP as a CMS - not a blog. In essence, it's just about switching the focus away from posts/categories and towards pages. Most clients are not that interested in changing the design of individual pages, so WP's focus on simple content editing (as opposed to design) alongside pre-configured themes/templates works very well.
Trying to get the backend editing area to resemble the front end of the site, though, is a non-non-starter, in my opinion. WP is specifically built to allow for drop-in, fully-functional, themes & plugins. Given that there must be thousands of themes, and probably twice that number of plugins, now available, any sort of emulation is going to be pretty poor compared to, say, Contribute. It's like comparing apples and oranges.
Is the lack of a real-time editing interface the only problem you're having? Or are you perhaps approaching WP from too much of a Contribute-skewed perspective? Unlike the latter, you can't use WP to completely maintain a pre-existing site - though you may be able to get halfway there.
Ideally, though, the entire site needs to be built within WP. I think once you start doing that, you'll being to see how the process works and the benefits (and disadvantages) that it does have.