Remembering Alex King

Alex King passed away last night after a long battle with cancer, leaving behind a wife, a daughter and many, many friends in the WordPress community. You can read the community’s thoughts and reaction on Twitter.

I never met Alex, but I read his code and used his plugins. Because of him, I did things with my site I previously couldn’t have done and became a better developer along the way. I suspect a lot of people in the WordPress feel that way today.

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!

Meet Twenty Sixteen

Today, Tammie Lister introduced Twenty Sixteen, the next default theme for WordPress, to the world. It’s designed by the Takashi Irie, who also created Twenty Fourteen and Twenty Fifteen. In his own words:

Twenty Sixteen is a modernised approach of an ever-popular layout — a horizontal masthead and an optional right sidebar that works well with both blogs and websites. It has custom color options that allow you to make your own Twenty Sixteen. The theme was designed on a harmonious fluid grid with a mobile first approach. This means it looks great on any device.

If you want to get involved, make sure you’re following the Make WordPress Core blog, and check out the meeting times for Twenty Sixteen.

WordPress Core Contributor Streak

In case you missed it, WordPress 4.3 came out a few days ago. I contributed in a few small ways to both the default themes and the Customizer. After the release, I realized something even cooler than contributing to 4.3. I’ve contributed to the last five WordPress releases! It all started with 3.9, my first “props” in WordPress.

That’s a nice streak, and one I hope to keep going.

Theme History and WordPress

You may have seen this pop up in a few places, but the WordPress project has put the interviews for its Milestones: The Story of WordPress book online. The book is available on GitHub and in progress. If you’re a themer, you can listen to the rich history behind everything themes, from the creation of premium themes to Kubrick and more. Plus, all the usual WordPress history. 🙂

Ten Years of Automattic

Our work is far from finished, and I hope there are hundreds of failures we learn from over the next 20 years. One of the things that makes me happiest is that I get to wake up every morning and work on the hard problem of making the web a better and more open place, and I do it alongside close to 400 talented people at Automattic and thousands in the broader community.

In Ten Years of Automattic, Matt Mullenweg talks about the first decade of the company he founded to help make the Web a better place. I’m proud to be a small part of that journey, and can’t wait to see where we go next.

You and the Future of WordPress Themes

Road that curves into horizon

I have a confession.

When I created Accessible Zen, I wanted it to be downloaded and used by thousands. I thought since it would be one of the first accessibility-ready WordPress themes in the directory, it had a chance to become something special.

That turned out to be a selfish viewpoint though. Why? When you release open source code, you quickly learn that you alone have little control over what comes after the initial release. You never know how people will use your creation, and what will come of it as a result. I see it as a form of collaboration. It’s not about you and your ideas, but the community and its ideas.

I got much more pleasure out of getting a simple thank you for releasing the theme, or seeing someone use it for an amazing cause than anything else. At those moments, the number of downloads don’t matter. Neither does what was used to build it or whether it employs the latest design trends. What matters most is that someone took something I made, and created something even better with it. Like I said, collaboration.

That brings me to you and the future of themes. In a recent comment on a WordPress Tavern post, my colleague Ian Stewart, said:

It often feels like there are missing pieces in the WordPress experience outside themes themselves. Much like I wish more people released design ideas for future default themes it’d be great to see more people push forward on ideas and solutions that could benefit every theme and every user.

We often start building themes, plugins and side projects for ourselves and our own benefit. We forget that the real magic happens not because of how we create or why we create our projects, but in the simple act of sharing our ideas. Because then, someone else can take those ideas and build on them.

So as we think about the future of themes, we, not just you play a very big part in it. It matters less about the twists and turns we take to get somewhere new and exciting, and more that we go around those corners together. Have you collaborated with anyone in the WordPress community lately?

Image courtesy of Pexels.com.

Let WordPress Speak

WordPress 4.2 is shipping with a useful new JavaScript method: wp.a11y.speak(). This is a utility to make it easy for WordPress core to create consistent methods for providing live updates for JavaScript events to users of screen readers – with the side benefit that developers of plug-ins and themes can also make use of it either on the front or back end.

From Let WordPress Speak: New in WordPress 4.2 on Make WordPress Accessible.

I’m excited about this upcoming feature in WordPress and its ability to make modern, snappy JavaScript-powerd pieces of WordPress a great experience for screen reader users.