I have been working on a Magento based webshop and found the templating engine flexible and well thought.
I know you guys did extensive work on it since the first version of Magento and it have greatly improved.
Although it still is *very* time consuming creating a unique layout based on the Magento css and layout’s (boxes.css mostly)
Since I have been working on another application for a customer and did extensive research on templating engines I would suggest to make the template engine smarter and lift it above “ edit template and edit css files “
My suggestion would be to create a solution where it would be possible to faster create a distinct lay-out.
A ajax web-based editor where the designer can select and place these blocks and place these in the general layout, making it easy to customize the order of the blocks without extensive coding in the .phtml files. This ajax based webeditor should be able to save directly the correct generated .phtml files.
What also would be nice is an option to rename the CSS tags within this editor where the correct css files would be updated accordingly.
This way we could speed up theme development, and also make it more available to non-programmers making it possible to deploy new themes faster, also for the non technical userbase of Magento.