I'm looking for some advice from veteran theme developers regarding home page best practices. I often see sites, like the following, which list featured services on the home page in a column-like fashion:
For example, the top link says "solutions", "analysis", "strategies", "support". When you click "Read More" on one of these, it goes to a page that has a different title/picture/text etc., so the content on the home page isn't just a standard excerpt of a page/post.
My question is: What's the best way to implement this in WordPress? I realize you'd create a custom home page file, but are people hard-coding the content of these content columns? Or are these widgets? If so, is there a particular plugin/widget that is best suited for this job? Or do I need to create my own custom plugin/widget to accomplish this?
I haven't spent a lot of time looking through the code of commercial themes. I usually develop my own themes based on the TwentyEleven code, which doesn't include a fancy home page with multiple content areas like those listed above. I also don't like hard-coding content into template files because that makes it difficult or impossible for users to change the content themselves.
Any design advice is appreciated!