ThemeShaper v. 2016

Yesterday, my colleagues and I on the Theme Team at Automattic redesigned our blog, ThemeShaper. I say yesterday because we really did it in about a day. The project was part of a hack day at Automattic. We hold a few each year, and they allow us to work on projects that we normally don’t have time for, need attention or experiment with something risky.

I’m really happy with how it came out. Fellow Automatticians Kathryn Presner and Laurel Fulford helped make the idea a reality. The thing that excites me the most about the new look is that it’s so flexible. We have plenty of space to iterate and add creative flourishes over time. Wow, hack days are fun!

Speaking at WordPress D.C. on Themes and UX

On Tuesday, I’ll be speaking at WordPress DC, giving an encore of my WordCamp U.S. talk – Themes are for Users. You should come out if you’re in the area and want to learn more about WordPress and mingle with the local WordPress community. Plus, as a new wrinkle to my talk, I’ll dive into Components, a new project from the theme team at Automattic. Hope to see you there!

Meet Components

Today, Automattic’s Theme Team launched Components, a toolbox for taking your WordPress themes where you want them to go, faster. I’m really excited to work on Components because I believe it pushes theme development toward becoming more centered on who really uses themes – people.

With Components, a theme developer gets a everything they need to create something focused on a particular use case. The people who use those themes hopefully get more themes that just work, with minimal setup, less options and no meaningless buzz words. We have big ideas for Components, and this represents just the beginning. If you look closely at any part of the project, you’ll likely find unfinished work and rough edges. As we prepared to release the project, I reread Matt’s post called 1.0 Is the Loneliest Number, all about shipping your work. Matt says:

… if you’re not embarrassed when you ship your first version you waited too long.

I’m embarrassed, but more excited than anything because we finally have this idea out there, and can keep iterating on it to make it better. 🙂 That means better themes for everyone.

If you’re interested in Components, be sure to check out the post, and the Github repositories.

WordPress 4.4 and More

The last few weeks have turned out to be a pretty amazing stretch for me professionally. I attended WordCamp U.S., my first “big” WordCamp, and gave a talk there called Themes are for Users. You can watch it on WordPress.tv. I also got invited to the Community Summit and helped out at Contributor Day. Plus, a few days ago, WordPress 4.4 came out, which included a new default theme, Twenty Sixteen that I helped build. It’s on WordPress.com too.

That doesn’t even count all the great people from the WordPress community I met in real life at WordCamp U.S., putting faces and voices behind the Gravatars. I can’t wait for the next year in WordPress.

Accessibility Weekly: One Month In

More than a month ago, I launched Accessibility Weekly with the hope of making the field of web accessibility easier to learn and follow. I’ve had a blast watching the list steadily grow and receiving a handful of emails and tweets with positive feedback.

That said, I want to keep experimenting with Accessibility Weekly and hone in on one of the biggest reasons I started it in the first place. To give those new and/or interested in accessibility a way in.

So if you’re a subscriber, expect some tweaks in format. The first thing I plan to do is expanding the “New to A11y” section, making it a short article or a series of links with a theme. Fear not though, I still plan to mix in valuable tips and links for veterans in the field.

Newslettering vs. Blogging

What’s it like writing a newsletter now that I have a few to my name? Like most writing: it’s hard. Hard most days, really hard other days. I’ve relied on a handful of evergreen posts from this blog to help fill the gap when I don’t have the energy to put something original together. I feel guilty about that, but I’d rather send something of value than something that’s too rough around the edges. Granted, I don’t have to put much original writing in Accessbility Weekly, but the curating of links takes time too. I see it as just as important as any original tip I share. I want to provide both knowledge and share other’s knowledge. As the newsletter goes forward, I see it as an extension of my writing here. One fuels the other to fuel the other, so to speak.

Send Feedback

If you have ideas or something you want to see in Accessibility Weekly, just let me know on Twitter or send me an email via my contact page.

Speaking at WordCamp US 2015

I’m excited to share I’ll be speaking at WordCamp US 2015! I’m working on a talk called, Themes are for Users, all about the user experience around WordPress themes. I hope to see you there!

This is my first “big” WordCamp as I never attended WordCamp San Francisco, so I’ll get to meet a lot of people in person for the first time. If we’ve interacted in the WordPress community over the years, please come say “Hello!” 🙂

A11y Weekly Launched

About a month ago, I started chipping away at a simple idea: launching a weekly newsletter about accessibility. I put it live quietly over the weekend. If you’re interested in getting to know and keeping up with the accessibility world, you should sign up.

Just visit a11yweekly.com and fill in your email. I’ll send out the first issue next week. I also have the code available on Github, if that’s your thing.

I imagine the site and newsletter will evolve quite a bit over time, but more on that in future blog posts. If you have suggestions, send me a note via my contact form, Twitter, or to hello@a11yweekly.com.

One Year at Automattic

Since I was 13, I wanted to be a writer. I became one, spending part of my career writing for newspapers, magazines, corporations and nonprofits. But then I found the Web and everything changed.

One year ago today I joined a company called Automattic, with its mission to making the Web a better place. We make WordPress.com, and contribute to WordPress, the software that helps power it and enables millions to publish with the same world-class software as big-name publishers like the New York Times, Wired and more. That’s a pretty cool gig for a former professional writer.

At Automattic, I work on the Theme Team, trying to make themes on WordPress.com the best they can be. I love themes. I best expressed that in my application to Automattic:

I want to be a Theme Wrangler because I believe that a good WordPress theme can open up a new world to those using it, and in turn, reveal something unique about the site’s owner to the world. A theme can become the centerpiece to someone’s story. That’s something I want to do for as many people as possible.

During the last year, when not focusing on creating and reviewing themes for WordPress.com, I’ve worked supporting our premium theme partners. I’ve had the most fun with that because of the sheer variety of tasks it demands. From triaging tickets to fixing bugs, reviewing code to launching themes, plus collaborating with premium themers to thinking about the big picture. It never gets old, and I’m excited about the future of premium themes on WordPress.com.

But really, the great things about being at Automattic aren’t just building software used by millions or traveling to neat places to work with your colleagues. It’s the mission and the people behind it. Every day you work beside folks who not only care about making the Web a better place, but you too. Everyone is empowered to make a difference. To write their own story in a way. Again, not a bad place to be for a writer-type like me. I can’t wait to see where the story goes next.

The Year of Accessibility in WordPress

In The Year of the WordPress Accessibility Team, Drew Jaynes pays a big compliment to the WordPress Accessibility Team and many of its members. He says:

I think as we progress in further asserting accessibility in WordPress as a priority, we’ll see even more new faces make appearances in future releases. It’s a testament to the quality of work coming out of this team that makes, for me, 2015 the year of accessibility in WordPress.

Aaron Jorbin also highlighted Drew’s post and said:

Drew is completely on target here. The WordPress Accessibility team has been rocking it lately. It wasn’t long ago that the question of if the Accessibility team should exist was floating around. They were the only team without a product, but instead focused on things across many teams. Since then, the team has stepped up big time and really is making WordPress better for everyone.

Drew led the release for 4.2 and Aaron is a Contributing Developer, longtime accessibility advocate and recently earned permanent commit access. I had a huge smile on my face when I read both of the posts because I know how far our team has come. We’re better organized, more focused and always ready to collaborate with the WordPress community. It’s showing!

But we’re just part of the reason for the successes Drew and Aaron point out. The bigger impetus for our progress belongs to the community. Everyone. All of you! When I talk to people in the community, the conversation has been less about “What is accessibility?” and more about “How can we work together to make WordPress more accessible?”

So thank you to everyone who took the time to think about, design for and implement accessibility in their workflow. We’re all making WordPress better for everyone, and I can’t wait to see what we do next!