Remembering Accessible Joe

In life, you often need someone to give you a nudge.

That nudge can come in many forms. A word of encouragement that ups your confidence. A long, heartfelt chat that makes you pause, think and change direction. Or an idea you can take on as your own. That’s just to name a few.

A few days ago, I heard that Joseph O’Connor, a well-respected accessibility advocate, died after a long battle with chronic illness. You can read more about Joe in the announcement on his website, and in a nice round-up from Dennis Lembree. Deborah Edwards-Onoro also has a lovely goodbye on her blog. Mike Gifford created a well-deserved Wikipedia page for Joe.

Hearing this news made me deeply sad. Joe helped my career in a way I’m not sure he realized, so I wanted to that share here.

I connected with Joe as a member of the WordPress Accessibility team — how I started contributing to WordPress. Along with Joe, Joe Dolson, Rian Rietveld and Graham Armfield, welcomed my contributions and gave me a home where I felt useful and valued. Joe and I worked together the most on his Cities initiative, which aimed to increase the number of accessibility-ready WordPress themes. I decided to design and build a theme representing Washington D.C. It didn’t quite work out that way though.

I had wanted to create and release a public WordPress theme for awhile. But I stopped short of creating one because I didn’t know how it would be different than everything already out there. Joe’s Cities idea gave me the “nudge” I needed. Accessibility would be the difference in what I made!

As I mentioned, things didn’t go exactly to plan. Once I started brainstorming design ideas, I got more excited about making a minimalistic design, inspired by Zen HabitsAccessible Zen was born, and I released it in June, 2013. I needed that nudge, even if what I made didn’t fit into Joe’s vision. I still learned a ton, and put something accessible out into the world.

Releasing the theme also gave me the confidence to apply to speak at my first WordCamp. The organizers accepted my talk about Accessible Zen, and I delivered it in early 2014. Shortly after, I began a trial at Automattic to work on its Theme Team. I landed that gig, and it shaped my career in countless ways.

All thanks to a nudge from “Accessible” Joe O’Connor. Someone I admired who took the time to share his big idea, and his expertise. Thank you, Joe. I won’t forget what you did and I’ll miss your voice in our community.

The Next Chapter for Themes

I wrote a post over on ThemeShaper all about what’s next for themes. This paragraph sums it up well:

Customers want their sites to look just right. They don’t want to learn a theme. So when the new age of themes begins, promise me you’ll focus on what they want. You won’t get distracted by the many different ways to extend this new editor or become mired in all the ways to prevent the abuse of customizing it.

Contributing to Twenty Seventeen

Sami Keijonen shared his experience as a first-time contributor to WordPress default themes on Post Status. It’s an excellent read, especially if you’re interested in getting involved in WordPress Core or default themes.

Twenty Seventeen wouldn’t be the same without Sami’s work. His experience provides a good example of how to watch an open source community, learn from it, find a niche within it and attack when you see a way to give back. My favorite advice is this:

Once you start contributing, you shouldn’t just disappear with no explanation. If you’re running low on time or have other obligations, it’s totally understandable, but be sure to politely inform others you can’t continue anymore, so they can pick up where you left off.

Dear Twenty Seventeen Contributors

We shipped! Twenty Seventeen, along with WordPress 4.7, hit the Web yesterday. We shipped not just any default theme, but one that gives users a home page like no other default theme. We made something amazing that literally millions of people will use and learn from.

At times, I’d go to bed worried about how to tackle a problem, but then I’d wake up and you all had it solved. Every day, you taught me something new and demanded my best. I can’t thank you enough.

It was an honor to work on Twenty Seventeen with you. I’m proud of it, and can’t wait to see what people do with it. Let’s keep improving WordPress, themes and customization together – there’s much more work to be done.

Thank you to from the bottom of my heart to the 102 contributors who helped get Twenty Seventeen created and launched:

aaroncampbell, acmethemes, adammacias, afercia, ahortin, akshayvinchurkar, alex27, allancole, anilbasnet, b-07, binarymoon, bradyvercher, brainstormforce, caspie, celloexpressions, claudiosanches, clorith, davidmosterd, delawski, dimadin, dineshc, doughamlin, electricfeet, enodekciw, fencer04, for, grapplerulrich, hardeepasrani, helen, hiddenpearls, idealien, imnok, implenton, implenton, initial, iv, joefusco, joemcgill, johnpgreen, jordesign, joshcummingsdesign, joyously, juanfra, karmatosed, laurelfulford, leobaiano, littlebigthing, lukecavanagh, mageshp, mahesh901122, manishsongirkar36, mapk, mattwiebe, mbelchev, melchoyce, metodiew, mor10, mrahmadawais, netweb, nikschavan, nnaimov, noplanman, nukaga, ocean90, odysseygate, patch, patilvikasj, peterwilsoncc, pratikchaskar, pressionate, presskopp, rabmalin, ranh, rianrietveld, ryelle, sami, samikeijonen, sandesh055, sgr33n, sirbrillig, sixhours, smyoon315, snacking, soean, sstoqnov, swapnild, swisspidy, swissspidy, taggon, tg29359, themeshaper, transl8or, tsl143, tywayne, valeriutihai, voldemortensen, vrundakansara, westonruter, williampatton, yoavf, yogasukma, zodiac1978.

Love,
DK

Twenty Seventeen in Trunk

Screenshot showing the initial commit of Twenty Seventeen

Last night, I made my first commit to WordPress!

It’s exciting!

Twenty Seventeen, the next default theme for WordPress, is now in trunk – the latest development version of WordPress. It’s been a busy week after a flurry of work from an amazing 59 contributors so far on the theme. 59! As one of the leads for the theme, that’s a number that I’m most proud of, and want to see grow.

You can read more about Twenty Seventeen in its merge proposal on the Make WordPress Core blog. Please continue to test the theme so it can be its best when it ships to the world. And thank you to all the contributors so far! This wouldn’t happen without you.

Hello Twenty Seventeen

After years of contributing to WordPress and its default themes, I get to help lead one – Twenty Seventeen! To say I’m excited and honored would be the understatement of both 2016 and 2017. 🙂

I’m looking forward to bringing a new theme to WordPress, and with the help of the WordPress community, making it the best it can be. I’ll be working with Mel Choyce, who designed Twenty Seventeen, and Laurel Fulford, who will help me give the theme life. Sure, Mel has designed some of the most beautiful themes out there and Laurel can code up anything, but that’s not what has me the most excited.

What I love most about open source, and the WordPress community, is the people. All artful creations carry inspiration from other sources, and I believe you can’t create anything worthwhile alone. That’s why Twenty Seventeen needs all the help it can get from as many people as possible.

If you’ve ever wanted to find a way to contribute WordPress, to take part in something that millions of people will touch every day, now is the time. Drop a comment on this post if you want to help. Let’s do this!

Empathy and Acceptance in Design and Community

Morten Rand-Hendriksen gave an excellent talk at WordCamp Europe 2016 about the role of empathy in the web field. It’s called Empathy and Acceptance in Design and Community, and you should give it a listen. I didn’t catch it in person, but it’s one of the best talks I’ve heard in awhile. I believe practicing empathy in our work could have the same impact on the Web as responsive design. It could be transformative.