While it could be betterand has limitations. "programmatic control of color and visibility, at least" is indeed possible.
Conditional formatting can control visibilty for text objects and text and fill colors can be set for fields, layout text and FileMaker buttons. A script can then manipulate a field or varible value to trigger a change in how the conditional format evaluates.
Other tricks using Portals and tab controls can hide/reveal other layout objects.
Not trying to say that this couldn't be a lot better and fully agree that direct access to object properties wouldn't be very nice to have...
Tricks on everyday needs is not a mature system. Wait untill you reach my age and the problems still exist. You will, like me, lose patients waiting for others to wake up. I heard these words since 1960 when computer tubes glowed!
I'm not disagreeing with you, just pointing out what is currently possible.