WordPress Theme Pattern Library for Accessibility in Development

If you’re a theme author, check out a new project started by the WordPress Accessibility team. It’s a theme pattern library for accessibility. It aims to make accessibility easier to implement in themes. Check it out and comment on the post if you want to get involved.

Twenty Fifteening

I said when I moved my site over to WordPress.com, I wanted to try more themes.

Well, today I’m trying a new one: Twenty Fifteen. It’s not officially out yet, but it will be the new default theme for WordPress. A few of my colleagues and friends are trying it too. I’m  really excited about it because it’s beautiful, accessibility-ready and the first default theme I’ve contributed to code-wise.

My Automattic Story: How I Got Here

A corner of a road on the Blue Ridge Parkway

I joined Automattic recently as a Theminator. I made that job title up. It’s a perk. Like I’ve said, it’s a dream job and one that combines a lot of my professional and personal interests, but how did I get here?

That, my friends, is a fun story. The particulars involve starting the trial, moving to a new city, having a baby and landing the job. All over the course of about five months. Of course, you know how it ended, but I’m hear to tell you that if you’re interested, it can end the same way for you. It takes nothing more than most worthy in life things in life do: a mixture of desire, hard work, planning, luck, faith, an awesome wife and sticktoitness (Matt’s word, not mine).

In the Beginning

Ian Stewart emailed me on a Friday night. I remember because I was headed out the door to meet friends and see one off who was moving to New York. I shared the news that I would have a shot at my dream job with many of my friends that night. Oh, and Ian Stewart emailed me. Why is that significant? Because in late 2008, one of the first WordPress themes I opened to look at the CSS file was his Thematic theme (I don’t think he knows this; Hey Ian!). I started grad school at Elon University in late 2009 and cemented my interest in WordPress there, using it for projects, giving a workshop on it to classmates and developing two child themes for Thematic as my final project in the program.

WordPress had me hooked. It made sense. I came into grad school as a copywriter and former journalist so I liked creating with words and telling stories. WordPress allowed me to do that, but with code.

I finished grad school, joined The Arc and began to dip into anything and everything web and accessibility-related. The more I worked on front end development and WordPress theming there, the more I liked it. Next, I joined Rock Creek Strategic Marketing, where I worked as a contractor for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. There, I did WordPress projects and dove even deeper into accessibility testing.

Hello Automattic

When I left The Arc, I confessed to my boss that working for the company behind WordPress.com was something I wanted to do. I first learned about Automattic when Ian joined the company while I was in grad school. Much of what I did to grow professionally, I did because I thought it would help me become an Automattician one day. I used WordPress as much as I could in my day job. I built and released my own accessible-ready WordPress theme, I started contributing to Underscores, I joined the WordPress Accessibility team and began helping where I could and presented at my first WordCamp. Don’t be afraid to find your path, but don’t be afraid to make it either.

I Finally Listened

A few months after I released Accessible Zen, I decided to finally apply to Automattic. It took awhile. I had the thought of working for Automattic in the back of my mind since reading Ian’s post about joining the company, but actually applying took some gumption. Several people, including my wife, repeatedly encouraged me to take the leap. But doing so and possibly failing? That scared me.

I visited the “Theme Wrangler” page so many times that I found an Easter egg. Visit enough times and a message appears telling you to “… apply already!” so I finally listened. You learn much more from risking failure than doing nothing at all. Sidenote: Guess who built that “apply already” feature? Ian did, as I learned a few days after being hired.

Don’t be Afraid of the Corners

I’m really glad I finally applied. About half way through my trial, after I had moved to a new city, finished my first trial project and watched my wife give birth to our daughter, I was exhausted, but energized. Brave, but scared. With those waring emotions whirling around, I knew I was doing the right thing. The experience of the trial would make me a better developer, no matter the outcome.

When I first planned to go to grad school, I wanted to take a shot at writing fiction, and maybe a creative writing Master of Fine Arts program. After all, I was a practicing journalist – already a writer. I could hack it. I spent about three months working odd jobs and writing. Every word I wrote felt forced and nothing seemed right. But I didn’t know what was next or what the end goal would be if I wasn’t going to be a writer.

A few weeks ago when my dad and step-mom visited to see my daughter, we chatted about my new job.

Step-mom: Do you miss writing?
Me: No.
Step-mom: Why?
Me: I create things every day, instead of using words, I use code.

Life is full of corners. You can’t be afraid to go around a few and trust the process.

What About You?

We’re hiring. Join the band!

Inspired by my colleagues and their stories.

Why WordPress.com

Two weeks ago I moved this site to WordPress.com. Sure, it means I might actually have a chance of blogging more because I don’t have to worry about any of the technical details of running my own WordPress install. But what else does it mean?

In this post, I’ll dive into some of the other reasons I’m enjoying WordPress.com in my first two weeks here. Full disclosure: I work for Automattic, the company behind WordPress.com.

Simplified Content

WordPress.com helped me simplify the overall structure of my site. Before I moved, I pared down my content in a big way. I consolidated two custom post types (projects and photo albums) and one other blog (a photo blog) into this site. Yes, I could have kept some of the custom post types, like projects, but I don’t need them for the amount of work I want to display.

Many people who have to choose between WordPress.com and WordPress.org think they need to be able to do anything and everything. But they don’t most of the time. That flexibility often comes with too much responsibility for them to handle or that they want to handle. Sometimes, this even includes web developers like me who just want to write a personal blog.

The Plugins I Need

When I self-hosted my site, it seemed I was always trying this new plugin or that popular plugin. At WordPress.com, I have all I need and not much more. I don’t have to keep an eye out for what’s new and what the best plugin is that does “A” or “B” because someone else does that for me.

What Backups?

Similarly to plugins, I also don’t have to worry about backups. On my self-hosted site, I used VaultPress to back everything up. It was awesome, and thankfully, I never had to restore from a backup, but I still paid for it. WordPress.com has me covered there.


I came from DreamPress, another service I enjoyed immensely (I still have a hosting account with Dreamhost). However, when you use WordPress.com, you know your site and the architecture behind it will be as fast as possible. A lot of people take this for granted when they sign up for a WordPress.com account.

Easy Theme Switches

I build themes for WordPress.com and that gets me excited each day so it makes sense I should try some out on my personal site. I plan to switch themes more often than I did when I self-hosted. That should be easier since I’m not building every single one and sometimes switching will be more about putting myself in our users’ shoes than anything else.

More Readers

When you write a blog, sometimes you feel like you’re on an island. I’ve only written mine since 2009, but the posts where you get comments or a stats spike are few and far between. Building an audience takes time, but with WordPress.com I have a better shot at a bigger, more passionate audience. Things like subscriptions, likes, sharing and more help with all that. We’ll see how it goes.

The Reader

I used Feedbin for more than a year after Google Reader went away. I liked it a lot, but it wasn’t perfect. The WordPress.com Reader isn’t either. I miss being able to group RSS subscriptions with tags, but I like its simplicity. It keeps me close to blogging and helps me discover great content – those are the important things. I’ve also been using it more on my iPhone 5s as a news source.


We’ll see how it goes once I get a few months behind me. Will I blog more? Will I have more visitors and comments? Will my topics be more varied?