Lately I’ve been caught up in Totally Unnecessary Work.
What did I do? I changed the menu bar colors on my website. Wooo, yay, right?
I had no business tinkering with the website. It looked fine, and I have zero applicable skills. Changing structural elements requires knowing CSS, an aspect of programming I never learned because I taught myself basic website HTML before CSS came into wide use. (Why, yes, I AM old.)
The project started early in the week. I was doodling around online and discovered internet resources on changing CSS. Since I have wondered, off and on, if I could change website colors off I went to investigate the possibility. It didn’t take long to find answers other people got from experts, and it looked simple enough.
So I copy-pasted the suggested codes into the CSS editor on my site. Did it work as written? Of course not.
First, changing CSS gets complicated behind the scenes. It’s full of what I’ll call dialects and accents and slang. How a change works on a specific site depends on a ton of structural elements already in place. There are things like “child themes” and cascading consequences to changing a single element (hence the name) plus the order in which commands are entered can differ by site too, and some codes have to be overridden with other commands…
Second, I can’t see any of the original code because I’m using a training-wheels/bumper-car/TOTALLY UNBREAKABLE website. Basically I pay people to maintain the big, complicated chunk of programming that runs the site for me. The price is that I’m locked out of all the dangerous parts of the code and can’t see any of it. It’s a fair trade, but it does complicate an already-complicated process.
And third, there’s the ever-present finicky complication common to all computer programming: one wrong space or punctuation mark can mess up everything. True confession: I am Not Good at spotting finicky mistakes when I make them (whereas I am Very Good at making them.)
Once it was clear that changing colors was a complicated issue involving skills in which I had zero expertise, did I stop fumbling around in the dark like a sensible person?
OF COURSE NOT. I kept tinkering. Partly because I’m stubborn–but mostly because I knew I had that nice, cushy safety net. I can poke and play with code all I wanted without ANY fear of breaking my website. Freedom to play and learn is priceless.
So I played, collecting tools, finding more code online and comparing the pieces to see how they differed and making minor changes to see how they connected. Then I went all hyperfocus on it and hammered at things until they WORKED.
Now, instead of a white menu bar with black lettering and blue/white highlighting color scheme, I have a gray menu bar with black letters, with a black & red highlighting scheme.
Was that worth 20+labor hours? Of course not. The defaults were fine. SERIOUSLY. They were fine. So why did I bother? I have a list of reasons. (Of course I do.)
1) In the future I can change menu colors to anything I want. Black/red/white is a horrible highlighting scheme from a design standpoint. Honestly. I know that. But I’m leaving it like this for a while.
2) It was a nice lesson in CSS vocabulary, names of elements & operations etc. The knowledge may come in handy again someday. Who knows?
3) I learned a ton about how the CSS codes interact too. Once again, new skills are never worthless.
4) Working out hierarchy, coding grammar, naming quirks & overrides for my site’s theme by brute force experimentation WAS FUN.
I had fun and made a thing and learned things: these are the justifications I throw at my conscience, which is muttering about the wasted time. Not great excuses, perhaps, but they’re what I have. (And I like the colors, too, boring though they be.)
Anyway. That’s a wrap.