We knew from experience that CTools and Views would play a big role in the site. The extended functionality they provide always comes in handy whether it's a custom View used to help manage the backend or custom AJAX routed through CTools, we're always using these two modules. Modules such as Libraries API, Pathauto, LESS, Add Another, Admin Theme and Backup and Migrate are par for the course. I can't imagine not using Libraries to manage all my jQuery plugins or creating a custom theme without using LESS. The biggest surprise was a module I'd only heard about, but never played around with, Panels. Where were you all my life? We used panels for every single front-facing page on the site. It was so easy to setup and customize that I can't image ever going back. The best part of Panels is being able to leverage the API to create custom Panes. Since discovering Panels, it's become my go to module for page building.
As far as themes go, we created our own custom theme from scratch. Because the site is responsive, it was important to start with a solid responsive framework, so after much trail and error, we chose Skeleton Framework by Dave Gamache. We only made one major tweak which was to add 1200px support for larger desktop displays. The combination of Skeleton and Panels couldn't have been more perfect. Being able to add custom classes and IDs in panels allowed us to take full advantage of the specific class structure within Skeleton. Also, by using the Breakpoints module we were able to establish size ranges that would toggle panes on and off depending on the device and its orientation. Ultimately we ended up with 5 breakpoints to satisfy a variety of devices. Doing something like this without being able to add classes or leverage integrated breakpoints, would have been a nightmare.
The LESS module was an integral part of our workflow and allowed us to establish some ground rules such as Fonts and Colors used throughout the site. Once we created these variables, we were able to plug them in wherever we needed the reference without having to remember any details beyond "Highlight Color", "Hover Color", "Sans Serif Font" and "Big Font." The greatest advantage to using the LESS module versus a client with built-in LESS processor, was that I was able to do all my coding and testing on a remote server without having to save and upload compiled LESS files each time a style change was made. This meant that I could work in my preferred IDE, Coda.