A Small Improvement for Joburg Expat

For some reason I woke up today with the strong urge to give my blog a face lift.

As you may have noticed, I have neglected Joburg Expat just a tad the last few months. It could have to do with, well, not actually BEING a Joburg Expat anymore. Although I still have a long list of topics to write about, it’s just not the same as living there and having your car break down in the middle of nowhere and then writing about what happened next. Not that I want my car to break down anytime soon.

I”ve also been working on getting a book published. Or probably rather self-published, the cheesy alternative to real publishing but at least nowadays endowed with the sheen of respectability via Amazon self-publishing. And I promise it won’t be in the dinosaur erotica genre as recently seen on the Colbert Report. I can’t find the clip right now, but it was funny.

Anyway, despite big plans to crank out entire book chapters today thanks to the rarity of a day entirely spent at home without errands (and possibly without cooking, sorry kids!), I started tinkering with my blog. Or rather, having gotten smart after near-disasters in the past, tinkering with my testing site.

Although I really like my blog header with the Joburg skyline, I felt like it needed a new image. I had some ideas of pictures that might work. So I set out to delve into the depths of my photo folders. There are a TON of photos in there. It can take you all day to just look through them. Which it pretty much did. A few hours later, I had decided that there were too many good pictures to make a choice for a single one. So I wondered whether I shouldn’t incorporate a slide show instead. So then I started trying to figure out how to do that. But every slide show gadget I checked yielded either too small a slide show, no option to randomize the pictures, or no clear way to keep people out of my Picasa web albums once they clicked on it. I dabbled in using Dropbox instead but that didn’t have an option for captions, which it did in Picasa but I would have had to add them in painstaking labor. So I put the slide show box on hold and turned my attention to menu design.

What I didn’t like about my menu bar (right under the image, the one I started out wanting to change) was that there were no sub-menus, and therefore not enough room to put all the tools out there that let my visitors navigate. Wouldn’t it be great, I thought, to have something like “Joburg” in my menu bar, and then have a sub-menu with “Joburg with kids” and “Joburg with visitors” and “City of Joburg website” or something similar pop up? Sounds easy enough, but it needed for me to do some HTML programming. Because having the menu in the first place was a major endeavor a couple of  years back, when I learned how to make labels into pages in Blogger.

The thing with HTML code – which you do have to at least somehow understand when you want to customize your blog – is that you can totally get into a topic and think you totally understand it, but then once you’ve incorporated that snippet into your webpage you totally forget about it and have absolutely no recollection of what you did. It works, thankfully, but making any changes would involve having to find out what you changed before and where you changed it, and with something like 3000 lines of code, that is a major pain.

After delving into dozens of blogs promising how to teach me sub-menu design, and after opening about 20 new tabs on my browser – several of which then had to be dedicated to Googling “my browser has become unresponsive” – I gave up on the sub-menu project as well.

In the end, I made a minor change, but one that I think is the best compromise between me wading knee-deep through HTML code for weeks and you getting more usability out of my blog. I took the “Labels” widget, which I had previously half-hidden under a tab in the “About me” box, and put it at the very top right corner of my blog, as a drop-down box called “Joburg Expat Topics”. Using a drop-down box saves space so that I don’t push all the other stuff way down to the bottom of my blog, and still gives you the ability to quickly find blog posts by topic. Oh, and I took the “Blog Archive” from way down below and tucked it into the “About me” box to replace the topics/categories that now stand on their own. Seeing as I’m the only one who will likely ever have the urge to look at my archives, and even that is a stretch, I could probably have done without that change.

So as not to inundate you with all the labels I’ve tagged my blog posts with, I made a selection of labels I think are going to be most useful to you (Blogger doesn’t give you categories, so you have to work around it using labels which you then “categorize”).

Below is a list of those categories. An entire day later, one small improvement. I really should just focus on that book.

  • Alexandra Baseball
  • Around Joburg
  • Book Reviews
  • Bureaucracy
  • Cape Town
  • Charity
  • Crime & Security
  • Culture Shock
  • Dainfern College
  • Domestic Help
  • Expat Life
  • Expat Tips
  • Funny
  • Health
  • Hiking
  • History
  • Joburg with Kids
  • Language
  • Mount Kilimanjaro
  • Nelson Mandela
  • Photography
  • Safari
  • Schools
  • Shopping
  • Sports
  • Transportation
  • Travel
  • Weather
  • Welcome to Africa
  • Wildlife
PS: Of course I couldn’t let tinkering with Photoshop go. So I did produce one new image, which now graces the top of my Facebook page. Curious? Take a look here, and while you’re there, go ahead and LIKE it.

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