Author Archives: Christina Cauterucci

It’s not over yet!

The class overall

In some ways, I’ve learned more than I expected to in this class, and in some areas, I’ve learned less. The local server/FTP setup was way, WAY more complicated than I expected it to be, and I still feel in the dark about the whole process, and surprised every time it works the way it’s supposed to. Part of me just thinks that, with legions of programmers, designers and UX experts using the system, somebody would have been able to devise a more intuitive way to make the interwebs happen. Still, I feel like I’ve internalized the WordPress editing process/taxonomies/codex far more than I thought I would. I feel confident going ahead with editing the CSS of my site, at least, and at least I know I’m capable of learning this stuff.

What I learned

I learned a great deal of CSS stuff that I’d never been exposed to before. I also learned the basic structures that make up the JavaScript and jQuery languages, so if I look at some script, I can probably figure out what it’s doing. I learned how to open the hood of WordPress and edit stuff outside the admin. I learned a lot about how computers and the interwebs work with each other.

Why what I learned matters

It matters not just because I’ll be able to do more and better web projects, but because a person who is web-literate is better able to find and distribute information – an integral skill in a democratic society.

What I’ll do with the new knowledge and skills

I’ll be able to make and edit websites without simply settling for the default options WordPress offers. I’ll be able to better communicate with the developers on my team at work and suggest new solutions to the problems we face. I’ll also be able to offer informed opinions on the quality and effectiveness of our web projects.

Thoughts on re-reading the initial readings

When I first read these a couple of months ago, I enjoyed them on a philosophical level, but still got the sense that I was on the outside looking in on something I didn’t quite understand. Now, I feel like I count as the target audience for these readings, like part of the “in-crowd.” It feels great.

What I want to learn after the class ends — either new skills/tools/platforms, strengthening current ones, a mix of both, a list of problems you want to solve, etc.

I want to continue learning jQuery, improve my CSS literacy, and look into Ruby on Rails at the suggestion of the developer I profiled. I also want to make a more complicated site on WordPress, try to emulate some cool online projects I’ve seen and try using some social media APIs.

Plans for my site

I usually try not to compare my work to others’ — it’s a fast way to feel inadequate — but I truly enjoyed our sharing exercise last week. I was relieved to see that my site was on the same “level” as everyone else’s, of course, but even better was the inspiration I got from all of your sites. It’s amazing the kinds of creative things people come up with when you arm them with some code know-how and a simple WordPress parent theme.

Now that our class is almost over, I’ve started thinking about how I can use what I’ve learned to continue to improve my site. I definitely want to work through some more Codecademy lessons, keep studying the WordPress Codex and find more tutorials on CSS. So far, I think my site looks about average for a portfolio site, but I want it to be impressive. There were a few changes you all suggested that I didn’t get a chance to make this weekend, I want to make my heading stand out more with a shadow (with the plan to eventually design a graphic logo out of my name), find a better way to make my clip photos into a visually appealing grid (maybe using a plugin?) and make my site more mobile-friendly. After seeing how helpful it was to get feedback from the class, I’ve also sent the link to a few design-minded friends to get their thoughts on the layout and user-friendliness. I’m looking forward to seeing how everyone else’s sites progress even after our class ends!


It feels pretty good to be coming up on the deadline for this project. Without a deadline — and this goes for all projects of mine, not just coding ones — I’m prone to second-guess myself and keep changing or adding into eternity. Having a set date when we were meant to be “done” with our site means I had to reach a point where I was happy enough with the site to call it finished.

But, because my site functions as a personal portfolio, I’ll never really be done with it — I’ll keep adding elements as I complete work I’m proud of, and deleting others that start to feel elementary as my skills improve. I’ll change the design as trends and technology evolve, and I might even add a new page or two if a career move or personal project demands more space on the site. All of which is to say that, although the deadline hits in just over four hours, I don’t really feel the sense of relief and pride that I usually get when I finish a project at class or work. I do feel excited by what I’ve learned and what I’ve been able to do, but more of my mind is focused on what else I want to do with the site once this class is over and I have some more time to put into it.

Most of my work this past week was spent on finishing touches, which, for me, meant adding more content to my posts. I spent way too much time sizing and positioning images in my “Clips” section, and I’m still not happy with how they stack up as screen size shifts (which is especially relevant for mobile optimization). But all in all, I’m pleased with how the site looks and I kind of can’t believe I figured out how to change the theme to suit my needs! I’m really looking forward to seeing everyone else’s sites on Tuesday.


This week, I tried uploading my content to my domain through the FTP for the first time, and epically failed. In my class notes, I’d confused “htdocs” with “wp-content,” so it didn’t work, and I Googled frantically for an answer and ended up deleting the entire WordPress install from my domain, leaving me with a completely blank site. Oops.

This led me to what I hope will be a helpful self-realization for the future: I am an impulsive troubleshooter. When something goes wrong, I tend to freak out and start clicking and typing and Googling until I’ve dug myself even further into a hole. It happened with MAMP, and it happened again with FTP. Next time, I think I should step away from the computer for a few hours before I try to fix it, and talk to someone who knows what they’re doing before I troubleshoot myself in the head.

Greg was nice enough to help out from afar, and I retrieved the WordPress install, but still haven’t successfully gotten my stuff up on the site (not just the content: all of my child theme, functionality changes, everything). I’m hoping someone (maybe you?) will be able to help me out in class on Tuesday.

In better news, I successfully designed a toolbar that will stay at the top of my page as folks scroll down, which will allow me to post anchor links (this week!) and keep all of my content on one page.  I feel so much more comfortable with the different PHP files now, that making small changes and additions like this doesn’t feel so daunting anymore. Tiny fist pump!

Wedding bells beget a new color scheme

Before cracking any code this week, I tried to envision my site as a finished product so I could make a list of all the changes I wanted to make in my child theme. I knew of a few functionality add-ons I wanted to try (anchor links, a floating taskbar, etc.), but I was still fuzzy on the basic look I wanted.

Right now, I’m on a train coming back to D.C. after four days on the beach in Rhode Island. My sister got engaged last week, so our whole family plus significant others spent the weekend talking about possible wedding venues, buffets vs. table service and how to whittle four enormous Italian families (two on the bride’s side, two on the groom’s) down to a guest list of 200.

One of the wedding magazines I brought my sister as an engagement gift featured 10 pages of possible wedding color palettes (apparently each wedding warrants an entire palette unto itself?), and as we browsed through, I came across one that I loved—poppy red, teal and gray. It wasn’t until today, three days later, while working on WordPress on the Amtrak home, that I realized I could use it as my website palette. Word is still out on whether Erica will use it for her big day, too.

I know I want a clean, no-fuss, user-friendly site, so a lot of the changes I made this week were subtractions. I took out an icon that was appearing on every post to designate its type; I removed the footer; I hid all the sidebar widgets that made the bottom of my page look so cluttered. Even though I may decide to add some stuff back in as I flesh out the rest of my site, I like starting from a cleaner slate, and it’s looking a lot more like what I’d envisioned. I’m feeling more confident poking around in the code now that I have my child theme with the parent theme as a sort of backup. My only big frustration was in trying to change the border colors on the little bubbles around my posts—I couldn’t change it in the style sheet no matter how many different ways I tried. Turns out I needed to change it in the admin, and it’s not as customizable as I would have liked. I’m not giving up yet, though! Hack hack hack.

Poking through a jungle of code

After a long, frustrating MAMP install, uninstall, reinstall, screw around with numbers and letters, rinse, repeat, MAMP still refused to work on my computer. I started from scratch on my girlfriend’s laptop, and voila! It worked. Now I could finally start playing around with the documents in my chosen theme, Eureka. I wasn’t feeling optimistic after three hours of banging my head against the wall with MAMP, but I’m glad I pushed through. It ended up being a lot simpler than I’d built it up in my head to be.

I was scared to touch the code at first! I did a lot of Command+F-ing for things like “border” and “background” and changing minor things to see if I was working in the right spot. I kept flipping back to the WordPress codex to try and decipher what I was looking at, and it took me a while to successfully make a change and see it reflected on my local host page. But I think the hardest part is over — now that I’m more comfortable with the workflow, I can concentrate on the actual content, look and functionality of the site. And It was cool to see my work show up right away on the page! I think I’ll be comfortable making cosmetic changes to the theme, but less so writing functions in PHP.

I love that the WordPress documents are separated out by their purpose rather than all being shoved into one CSS or PHP file. I think this will make it easy to find and change exactly what I want to, and the WordPress database system makes the PHP files clean enough to understand…kind of. I’m definitely going to keep studying those codex entries.

Christina Cauterucci: portfolio site

My final project site will showcase my professional work and personal projects in a portfolio sort of format. When someone Googles me, I want this to be the first result that pops up. I want the Googler to be able to go to this one website and find all the professionally relevant information that I want them to know about me, rather than letting them peruse links and assign importance to my web projects at random. As I look to a new career start in the next few months, controlling my web presence seems paramount. And why bother building a portfolio website and claiming web coding skills if the website itself doesn’t show them off?

I haven’t decided whether I want my site’s homepage to be a blog with frequent updates on my professional and personal projects or a graphic grid featuring the portfolio items of which I’m most proud. Either way, the site will include both of these pages in addition to an “about me” page, a CV/resume, links to my web projects/embedded videos and ways to connect with me on Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. I hope to make the site sleek and edgy and involve some interesting interactive movement with Javascript/jQuery.


Description: This site will house the work I’m most proud of and offer a glimpse of the “professional” me with links to clips, my resume, etc.


– Control my web presence
– Make it easy for folks to find information about me
– Offer a proof point of my limited web coding skills
– Create a visually appealing array of videos and images

Audience: I hope that potential employers, clients, partners and people who are interested in my work and side projects will visit the site.

How I’ll achieve my goals:

– Make some kind of grid or slideshow of my projects
– Include an “about me” page and my resume
– Have an “in the news” page or tab for photos or clips of instances when my projects have been covered in the media

Theme: Eureka

Planned modifications (ambitious):

– I want to make each “post” bubble into what would normally be a page (about, clips, etc) – creating essentially a one-page website with anchor tags to move up and down the page. I would need to learn how to make a floating taskbar, so…we’ll see.
– Cosmetic revamp: changing up the color scheme; making the post bubbles wider, a little less round and maybe have a thinner border; getting rid of the tabs on each post that have an icon of a piece of paper on them or whatever media the post contains.
– Create a grid of some sort with uniform icon-sized images that expand when clicked, for visual/video projects.

The MAMP behind the curtain

Learning about how websites are developed and launched from the back end has been — like most things I’ve learned in this class — simultaneously empowering and disappointing. On one hand, I am excited to try setting up my website and developing it on my local server so I can “break” it without affecting what the public sees. On the other hand, the internet seems so much less magical now! Maybe it’s because I haven’t tried navigating the GitHub-MAMP-Cyberduck trifecta yet, but it seems a lot messier and more complicated than I thought it would be. I’ve managed a handful of websites on different CMS platforms and I currently edit another WordPress blog, but I’ve never used a local server before so it’s all been a simple online system. This new local server thing seems more appropriate for a site that I’ll be experimenting on and building independently, so I hope the complexity is worth it.

As far as Codecademy goes, I was pleased to find that PHP was very similar to jQuery and it wasn’t starting all over from scratch with a new language. I still haven’t looked behind the WordPress curtain, so I’m not sure what I’ll find and if I’ll feel comfortable working on it. My goal for the next phase of this course is to try new things and not be afraid to mess up the code. The few moments of true learning and clarity I’ve had with Codecademy have come when the code failed and I’ve had to go back and figure out what I’d messed up.

Another swing at Javascript and jQuery

I think I’m starting to get the hang of this jQuery thing. Last week felt like I had jumped into the deep end of a swimming pool after taking a single lesson on land. This week, I found a noodle to float on. jQuery seems a lot more straightforward – but I think I would feel more comfortable if I had a list of the most common commands or terms jQuery uses (fadeOut, slideToggle, etc.). How do programmers know if jQuery can do something on its own or if they have to write a whole new function for it? Obviously I’m not building anything on my own right now, but I would like to have a broad view of what the language is capable of so I can start envisioning what I want my future site to do (right now, I’m thinking it will be a personal portfolio website). Right now, I kind of feel like I’m still just obeying simple instructions from the Codecademy lesson, not testing to see if I actually know anything.

Last week, Greg half-jokingly suggested that we compare our weekly assignments to dancing – one of my favorite sports – in our analysis posts. I thought, “Why would coding ever remind me of dancing?!” Of course, I spoke (thought?) too soon. Yesterday, my girlfriend surprised me with tickets to see Anything Goes at the Kennedy Center. The first act ends in a show-stopping tap dance number (I LOVE MUSICALS), and it occurred to me, as a former not-so-great tap dancer, that tap dancing is kind of like coding.

There are really only four or five sounds you can make with tap shoes, but the way you put them together can result in infinite steps and rhythms. Javascript has only a few basic commands, but combined in different ways produces all kinds of cool effects. Also, if you mess up one little part of a step, you’re kind of screwed for the rest of the dance, because it’s hard to jump back in at the right time. A wrong tap that stands out from the group makes the whole ensemble sound messy. One little coding mistake – a misplaced parentheses or errant semicolon – can prevent an entire webpage function from happening.

Hopefully I’ll end up a better coder than I ever was a tap dancer.