Getting Back Int WP Dev – Best Approach for custom post widgets (drag/drop)

At one point I was a fairly solid WP dev (at least I thought I was), but have not done a lot with the platform in about 6 years.

An old work friend has a job and was asking me to help out. I downloaded WP today and boy, was I shocked at the changes.

Here is what I am trying to do.

The project my friend has designed is pretty straightforward, outside of the home page.

On the HP, he wants to have dedicated areas where the client can drag and drop posts from various categories, BUT they all have custom layouts – ie in one section a post widget looks different than another, additionally, inside that section there needs to be some conditional logic – ie if the post has no image, don’t have the image tag etc.

Based on what I am seeing I should be using something like elementor, But, unless I am mistaken, even though customizable, the actual widgets or elements are limited in terms of fine tuning the contents – ie, you can manipulate them a bit, but ultimately they only can be customized so much.

To illustrate: Here is an example from his design:

enter image description here

All items here are standard posts, albeit in different categories.

What he would be looking to do is have a template where these posts can be dragged in. And be styled according to the section.

Back when I was building WP, it would have been a little more rigid, the sections would be hardcoded into the HP template and I would pull the posts in based on a query result (most recent, have a custom field checked etc etc). However, it would have been fool-proof and the content would simply flow.

I know the Gutenberg block editor allegedly will eventually allow this I would ideally be able to build a template with editable areas that the user could just drag items onto, BUT THEY NEED TO LOOK LIKE THEY DO IN EACH SECTION! Ie, could I build a template with those areas hardcoded in, and then have the user drag/remove custom post widgets into each, one at a time? Based on what I am seeing with the current state of the block editor, this is not doable.

Questions:

Can this be achieved with Elementor, Divi, or any of the other new editor tools – ie a completely custom single post element?

Ideally, can this be done with the current block editor – seems like it is still a bit off.

One more thing to add: this is not a new site, I actually built the original version in 2013, and it currently has 4k posts, so we’re kind of stuck wp here.