The Guy in the Spider’s Web… An Overview of Creating a Website with WordPress and a Screen Reader

Member of the AppleVis Blog Team

Introduction

This blog post is going to focus on providing an overview of creating a website, and discussing the usability and accessibility of the WordPress software. For those who feel they do not have the technical skills required to complete such a task, don't worry, it is very easy to create a website on the internet.

The entire process of creating a website can be completed in a matter of minutes, as there are only 3 necessary steps. The first and second step are by far the most straight forward, and you will spend a lot more time on the third, you will understand why if you read on.

Please note:

This blog post is not a guide, and aims to provide a non-technical overview of what is involved to create a website.

1. Domain Registration

Registering a domain is an essential aspect of creating a website, as it is the address people will use to visit and view your creation. A domain is the text which appears after www, and there are various sites throughout the globe which allow you to register your very own domain.

If you are considering registering a domain, you should read this article before doing so, as it offers some great tips. As with everything, you should research the company you are thinking of using to register your domain, and don't do anything until you read Section 2 of this blog post.

When considering accessibility in the context of domain registration, there are 2 areas which come to mind, and they are as follows.

  1. Domain Registration Website Accessibility. As with all other websites on the internet, screen reader accessibility is not a guarantee, and this is also true for websites that register domains. It is common for a domain registration website to have an edit box where you type your desired domain, and after selecting search or pressing enter, the available domains will be displayed in a table or graphical outline accompanied by their respective prices and extensions, i.e. .com, .org, .biz, etc.
  2. Domain Readability by VoiceOver and other Screen Readers. You are doubtless familiar with a screen reader reading a Twitter hashtag or website address in a single word, and it is very important that you realise this is completely normal and nothing for you to worry about. While using capital letters to start each word of a hashtag fixes this problem, e.g. #WebsiteCreationBlogPost instead of #websitecreationblogpost, this is not an option when you are registering your domain.

You should remember that both of the above points are not specific to any one screen reader.

2. Website Host

A website host is generally a company who takes care of your website and all of its content for you, so you don't have to. Having said that, it is possible to host your own website, but doing so would be quite a significant undertaking.

Similar to domain registration, there are a number of website hosts which you can choose from. The host recommended by WordPress.org is bluehost.com, and this is the website host I decided to use for my website.

A lot of website hosts also offer domain registration services, and registering your domain through your host will simplify the process. I registered my domain with bluehost.com, and it was just like creating a new e-mail address, or signing up to any other similar internet service.

In my experience, I have found bluehost.com to be accessible with Mac, iOS and Windows screen readers. There is one aspect of bluehost in particular which doesn’t seem to be as accessible as it could be, and it is a feature which will only apply to those who are comfortable working with the more technical aspect of their website.

The area I am referring to involves browsing the files and folders which make up your website. An individual may want to browse the said files and folders if they wanted to manually backup their website, conduct some unique customisations, delete an element of a website manually or another technical action which they have the skills to carryout.

A solution to the afore mentioned accessibility issue is to install a piece of software called a File Transfer Protocol (FTP) Client. As with most software, there are paid and free versions, and I would conduct a lot of research before using any FTP Client software.

The said research is necessary for 2 reasons, which are as follows.

  1. Suitability. You do not want to get a program which does not meet your needs, or has more advanced features that you do not need. A free and reputable FTP Client may be all you need, rather than purchasing a more feature rich piece of software.
  2. Accessibility. If you are using a screen reader on Mac or Windows, it goes without saying you need a piece of software which is accessible. Although this may be a no-brainer to you and I, software developer may not recognise this need, so not all FTP Client programs are accessible with screen readers.

3. WordPress

WordPress is one of the many web design software options that you can use to edit and publish your website, and bluehost.com offers what they call a "One Click WordPress Install". If, like me, you thought WordPress was an application available in the Mac and iOS App Stores, you would be incorrect and I'll tell you why.

WordPress is installed on your website, it interprets all the technical files and folders, and presents everything in your internet browser in a user friendly manner. WordPress is also quite accessible, the layout takes a while to become accustomed to, but once you have figured it out its great software.

Something else I didn't realise when I began creating a website was that there are 2 versions of WordPress, did you know this? WordPress.com can be used to create a blog which I use, and WordPress.org is the software used to edit and publish a website.

Both WordPress.com and WordPress.org have very similar layouts, and this did help me when I started using WordPress.org as it minimized the learning curve. To get a better understanding of the differences between WordPress.com and WordPress.org, you may want to visit this link.

The fantastic thing about WordPress is that it has been completely accessible in my use on Mac, iOS and Windows. In fact, there have been occasions that I have switched from using my Windows machine to my Mac, as VoiceOver recognised a required element which JAWS for Windows ignored.

To a screen reader, WordPress is basically a collection of menus, links, headings, tables and edit fields. It is for this reason that I would recommend using the Web Rotor on Mac or the equivalent on Windows, to speed up your navigation of the WordPress interface. ,

You may find it difficult to comprehend the WordPress layout at first, but I would encourage you to persevere as it is achievable. You might consider creating a WordPress.com account first before committing to purchasing a domain and a web host, as the interface will be 99.9% the same.

Endless Possibilities

When you have created a website, the purpose of that website is completely up to you. You could decide to use your website as a medium to share information with others, or you may decide to create an online business as I did.

Whatever you decide to be the purpose of your new website, there are small pieces of software called plugins. Adding a plugin to your website will add particular functionality which was not present out of the box.

For example, a plugin called WooCommerce enables me to upload product information and related files to my website, and offers visitors the opportunity to buy the said products via PayPal. The mentioned plugins are not limited to adding functionality for an online business though.

If you are wondering if there is a plugin which would add the functionality you desire, you can browse and search all the available plugins at this link. It is also possible to create a WordPress.org account via the previous link, and you can then contribute to the forum, which is a great source of information and support.

The accessibility of plugins has been quite good in my experience, but accessibility will vary depending on the developer of a given plugin. For example, I downloaded and installed a plugin which helped distribute newsletters specific to my website, but unfortunately the software was designed in such a way that it used a custom editor instead of the standard WordPress editor, and was not accessible with Mac, iOS or Windows screen readers.

It is possible to contact any given developer of a plugin, and they may or may not be able to help you if you are having accessibility issues. Do keep in mind, the majority of popular and reliable plugins are updated regularly, and it is quite easy to disable or remove a plugin if it does not meet your needs.

Conclusion

When I first thought about setting up a website, it was a little daunting as I was not aware of what was required. Hopefully, I have conveyed that the process is quite simple and straight forward, and I need not have been daunted at the outset and neither should you.

Another important thing to note is that the process is accessible with VoiceOver and other screen readers for the most part. If there is an accessibility issue, there is generally a solution or work around, it just takes a little longer to find it sometimes.

It should be pointed out, there is a lot more to designing and maintaining a website, and this post has only scratched the surface. I am in the middle of my website adventure, but if there is anything I can do to help you, please get in touch or leave a comment below.

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26 Comments

#1 Domain registration

App Developer

A thing to note with domain registration is that you should seriously consider the security aspect of getting your own domain. Strange and scary things can happen if your name, phone number, address, and full name are left for public viewing in the whois database. I would consider using domain privacy because it forces the registration company to have their public record in the database instead of yours. I guess it could be similar to setting up a new email account. However, it is much more technical than running to Google and getting a gmail account. I recommend not changing any of the technical parts of the domain. If the wrong setting is made, the domain is rendered unusable until a tech support person can help fix it.

#2 Bluehost

App Developer

Bluehost is a good hosting company. Something that needs clarification about web hosts. They don't manage the content of the website. They give server/rack space to put your files and content. Web hosts manage the technical aspect of running a server on the internet, and any other related networking issues. It would be your responsibility to manage your files, databases, content, and programming logic. If something on the website fails to work, it is most likely the user's problem, not the web host. If you need to get access to your files on the Bluehost server, try using ssh. If you don't have the ability to use ssh, then try Transmit.

#3 Wordpress.com and Wordpress.org

App Developer

Be careful how you refer to wordpress.com and wordpress.org. They are essentially the same thing. However, wordpress.com is a wordpress farm hosted by Automatic. It can be manipulated the same way wordpress.org can. However, many features must be purchased before they can be used. Also, wordpress.com comes with adverts posted on your blog/website. The only way to remove them is to pay for the service, or use wordpress.org. On the other hand, wordpress.org is a self-hosted, self-installed version of Wordpress. It is completely up to the user to download, install, manage, and update the Wordpress install.

#4 Re: Domain registration

Member of the AppleVis Blog Team

Hi Andy,

Thank you for reading my post, and I completely agree with your comment regarding Domain Registration Security.

There is more information about the Domain Privacy option offered by Bluehost at this link.

I didn't want to get too technical regarding the services offered by a web host, but you are of course correct the actual content management is the responsibility of the individual.

Kind regards,

Niall

#5 Can you point out what ftp

Can you point out what ftp client you think is the best?

Finding a free, accessible ftp client has been a extreme chalenge for mac OS.

The cyberduck client ... is usable but it lacks so manyy things including an easy way to track file upload status amd to drag anmd drop files to upload that I really want to try another one.

#6 Re: Can you point out what ftp

Member of the AppleVis Blog Team

Hi Splyt,

Firstly, thank you for reading my post, and taking the time to comment.

The FTP Client I have briefly used is called FileZilla, but I was using it on a Windows laptop. The mentioned FTP client is also available for Mac, but it doesn't seem to allow VoiceOver to interact with the file table.

So unfortunately, FileZilla doesn't seem to be a viable option for Mac at this time. I am going to try and contact the FileZilla team, and let them know about the accessibility issue.

I will be sure to let you know if I discover a client which is accessible with VoiceOver on Mac though.

Kind regards,

Niall

#7 FTP

App Developer

I don't know of any free ones. However, Transmit is a good ftp client for MAC. It is 100% accessible as well.

#8 domain privacy

App Developer

Unfortunately, you must explain some technical aspects of web hosts. They seem to fail to explain certain things such as domain privacy. Unless you already know about it, or how to interpret the technical or legal wording, most people might get lost. Especially when the privacy option is automatically added to the cart with no explanation. You must be technically correct when explaining what a web host does. Otherwise people might get confused on what a web hosts responsibilities are during your time with them. Overall, a good post. However, the title implied that you were going to explain how to use VO to build a fairly simple website with Wordpress, not give a vague overview of finding Wordpress a place to live. If you can revise this one, or create a new post that covers the implied subject, I would be glad to read it :)

#9 Agreed with Last Post

I enjoyed this post, but I too thought it was going to cover just the basics, i.e., costs involved and what to expect on each registration screen. That said, I did very much enjoy it and I am going to check out Bluehost just for kicks. When I last checked out WordPress as I was searching for another free and accessible platform for my blog, I didn't find the backend to be totally accessible but it sounds like most of that has changed. This is good to hear. One thing which I'd be very interested in knowing, is whether any of the WP plugins interface with Dreamwidth and vice versa. I'm using Dreamwidth for my journal, and thus far I have found it to work great with VoiceOver. I'm told it also works well with the other screen readers, but I only found out about that platform a little over a year ago. By that time I had stopped using Windows. Dreamwidth is a fork of Live Journal, and it also resembles WordPress in some ways.

#10 Wordpress accessibility

App Developer

Wordpress accessibility all depends on the theme you are using. Unfortunately, using a theme might not render the main menu for admins accessible. From what I can tell, that menu is outside of the Wordpress themes because it is a part of the dashboard. I haven't messed with WP that much, but I don't think you can retime the dashboard. I use Drupal for the most part, and can testify to its usability with VO. For Bluehost, the Cpannel seems a little clunky to use on a MAC, but it is doable.

#11 I have not problems with wp

I have not problems with wp admin accessibility.

If there are more clear complains I can try to give hints.

Actually, www.blindtec.com.br my brazilian assistive technology podcast hhas been build using wordpress.org self-hosted installation and I did not have any issues trying to do anything I needed to do.

Other people reported complains but I do not know what they are.

#12 Post Modifications

Member of the AppleVis Blog Team

Hi All,

Thank you to those of you who have read my post, and have given me valuable feedback.

In light of the feedback, I have modified the title and opening section of this post slightly.

It seems there would be interest in an in-depth guide regarding creating a website, and perhaps this is something I, or someone else in the AppleVis team, may consider putting together in the future.

Kind regards,

Niall

#13 What about x10

Hello,

I use X10 Hosting. It's free if you just want to create a basic website in HTML code. However, you need to know how to write basic HTML and operate an FTP client to upload your pages. I think you can also create a forum with an SQL database, but that is still beyond my abilities right now. I actually need to set things up again, as I left my account inactive for too long and it appears that my site is gone.

While I'm on the subject of coding HTML, how do I do it on the Mac in TextEdit? I have to use notepad in Windows because when I create and save my .html files on the Mac, it doesn't display pages correctly with VoiceOver or a Windows screen reader.

#14 Plain text

You're probably saving your HTML pages as rtf files with n HTML extension, because TextEdit defaults to rich text unlike Windows Notepad. Before you start writing, press command shift T to switch the file into plain text, then save. TextEdit can also save Rich text as HTML on its own (It's one of the file types you can choose when saving), though this won't let you insert every kind of HTML element, headings being the one you'd probably miss the most. Although if you're just planning to write your pages with pure HTML and not install a CMS like wordpress, consider looking into a markdown editor, there's quite a few on the mac. The one I use is byword, which isn't free but works well with VoiceOver. It allows you to write your text in markdown and then offers a feature to preview the resulting HTML page or to export it as such. Before Byword I used another, completely free app the name of which escapes me at the moment (might have been just "markdown") which also offers the ability to preview and export your pages as HTML.

#15 Textmate

App Developer

I use Textmate. It works wonders and is completely accessible.

#16 X10

App Developer

If you sign up for an Azure account, you can get up to 10 websites for free. I would trust them (Microsoft) over X10.

#17 WordPress accessibility

WordPress is basically divided into 3 components: its core files, plugins, & themes. Plugins & themes are generally developed by 3rd parties, though there are a few plugins & themes that ship w/WordPress & are developed in conjunction w/the core files. In essence, they are for all intents & purposes core.

The WordPress development team has made considerable strides in incorporating accessibility into these core files. 3rd party themes & plugins are a mixed bag, but here again, the WordPress development team is asking developers to adhere to coding standards that incorporate accessibility.

If anyone has any difficulty w/WordPress in terms of accessibility, I am a member of the WordPress accessibility team. Feel free to contact me w/any concerns you have, especially if it relates to core aspects of WordPress, because 3rd party software is beyond our purview.

Whereas the technical knowledge needed to build a website has decreased quite markedly over the past few years (& I view that as basically a good thing, btw), the problem is that a lot of folks who don't know the first thing about web security are putting up websites & then finding their site compromised & thereby delivering malware to their visitors &/or sending spam. I'm likely 1 of the few hosting providers who actually does try to teach their customers about these matters, even though technically it's not exactly in a host's job description. In that vain, I really like to see folks use secure FTP as opposed to FTP, as w/FTP, credentials, etc, are transmitted in plain text. I do frankly think that anyone who puts up a website w/o knowledge of security basics is simply asking for trouble, & they'll get it sooner or later. So while I'd encourage putting up a website for whatever good purpose you'd like, I'd also recommend that before doing so, you find out the steps you should take to secure it so your visitors will have an enjoyable experience.

Thanks, Niall, for letting folks know that putting up a website isn't nearly as intimidating as it may appear. Hopefully also folks will inform themselves regarding best practices for managing a website so they & their visitors won't be victimized by the cybercriminals.

#18 IOS WordPress App

I have found the IOS WordPress app to be very accessible and fun to use. As of this writing, I have only used it on WordPress.com, to get the feel of how to use it in a totally private site. It can be set up to point to a self-hosting site. For some features, it opens Safari and takes you to those features. I would say that it is a great choice for routine tasks.

#19 Newsletter Plugin

Hi Niall,

Found the post very enjoyable. Would be interested to know which newsletter plugin you went with in the end and whether it was accessible or did you require sighted assistance to set it up?

#20 Re: Newsletter Plugin

Member of the AppleVis Blog Team

Hi Donnacha,

Thank you for your kind words regarding my post, and for taking the time to leave a comment.

I tried a plugin called MailPoet which aims to help you design a newsletter without leaving WordPress, but it was not accessible with any of the screen readers I used.

Eventually, I decided to use a plugin called Easy MailChimp Forms by YIKES to place a newsletter sign up form on my website. I have not used it yet, but I intend to use the Email Beamer feature of Mailchimp to design my newsletter, which I have read is accessible.

If you have not heard of it, Email Beamer is similar to the feature offered by WordPress which allows you to post an article by emailing it to a specific address.

You can visit the below link to find out more information about Email Beamer.

http://mailchimp.com/features/email-beamer/

I hope this helps a little.

Kind regards,

Niall

#21 Re: iOS WordPress App

Member of the AppleVis Blog Team

Hi Jim,

Thank you for reading my post, taking the time to leave an comment, and sharing some useful information which everyone can benefit from.

I would totally agree with you, the WordPress iOS app is great.

I use it to follow the statistics of my personal blog and website primarily.

Kind regards,

Niall

#22 Re: WordPress Accessibility

Member of the AppleVis Blog Team

Hi AbleTec,

Thank you for reading my post, and for offering some very important insight into website security and management.

I would recommend that readers pay attention to the content of your comment, and investigate the security of their site.

Kind regards,

Niall

#23 Website Security

Hi everyone. Based on a previous comment to this thread, I edited my website link in my profile so that it now points to a secure version of my website. Previously this was not possible on Dreamwidth, but thanks to a recent update it is possible now. The other thing I wanted to mention is that in addition to the information posted here about website security, I just subscribed to the DuckDuckGo newsletter and received my first issue earlier this week. It contains an article on website security which I have yet to read, but plan to do so most likely tomorrow or Friday. For those of you who have never heard of DuckDuckGo, it is a search engine that does not track user searches. I just started using it, and it seems to be very good. Additionally, it seems pretty accessible with VoiceOver. My apologies for this comment not totally relating to the original post, but I wanted to share this info.

#24 More suggestions

App Developer

I have used Wordpress for many years. Last year I created the BizAbility web site using a combination of Wordpress, WP-Accessibility, and Woo Commerce. These three provide a good experience out of the box. I would highly recommend adding the wp-accessibility plugin, as this will not only improve the reader, but also the writer's experience.

There are now many accessible themes available, WordPress has even added that as an option in their search form.

Kudos to the Wordpress accessibility team for making so much progress. We all benefit from their hard work.

#25 Wordpress

WordPress it is useful because everyone made a website word press it is easy to understand and easy to fix any error.

#26 word press hosting...

Okay, I don't know if I'm just slow on this, but I found Word Press through DreamHost a pain in the butt to use. This might be because using DreamHost with WordPress has both the back-end that I don't really want to deal with, and the main part of files/folders for the content of the site. I've even gone looking at both the .com and .org WP stuff themselves and got completely lost.

I have 2 domains registered through GoDaddy with plain hosting and filezilla for uploading files, but this requires writing the site by hand in HTML and CSS, which I don't mind that much as HTML is pretty easy, but it's the CSS that's got me a bit confused.

Now I have no problem with Windows with WP, I just can't seem to figure it out. Anyone got any suggestions or should I just keep working on hand-coding? Feel free to contact me by email if you wish.