That I'm perfectly fine with! The admin panel is for a few eyes only. What I care more about is how the average user experiences the site. With that said, I agree that there's room for improvements on both sides of that bar.
There will be a LOT more in it than there is in SMF's, simply because we've added more to it than we have taken out.
You've said that you see a problem with the look and layout options. What problem do you see? How would you resolve it?
Now I've personally used SMF so much that I'm probably a bit biased. I'll check with what my forumgoers say and try to forward what they've had the most problems with. Some of these things are probably just things I have opinions on, but I'll try to ground them in reason. Some are small problems some are big.
Let's start from the top:
1. Drop down menus. The problem is not so much that there are drop down menus, it's more that thee content in them can be ambiguous. For example, the first time you register, and you want to change your theme, where do you go? In the beginning you'll probably be looking for something called "settings" or "control panel", maybe you'll scroll down to the bottom of the page to check if there's a dropdown menu for it, as it is on many boards. When you don't find it there you'll look further. Could your settings be under "Profile", maybe? Yes. Yes they could. So you click account settings and what do you see?
You're getting confused. Where can I change my theme? If you are an inquiring mind you might just hover over modify profile long enough to find look and layout.
Thank God. You're there. The same problem develops if you want to change the default setting of " Return to topics after posting by default." or "Messages to display per page:"
This problem is to a big extent fixed when you use the "sidebar menus" instead of dropdown menus whenever possible, but there might be better solutions...
I'll be back with more about this later. Right now: Dinner time. ;)
I have my own ideas, some of which are fairly controversial on the subject of pruning the admin panel, so let's start on a smaller area...
I'd love to hear more. Ideas can be fascinating, even though I personally am a firm believer of good execution > good ideas. :)