Keeping regular backups of any website is critically important, and WordPress backups are no different. In this tutorial, I’ll show you how to back up WordPress properly so that your content, files, and WordPress settings remain intact should you ever have to restore your website. This tutorial assumes that you are using a shared host, and that you do not have easy access to command line tools.

Why Are WordPress Backups So Important?

You’ve probably heard more than once in your life that backing up your hard drive is very important. Hard drive backups are important because if backups don’t exist, and something happens to your hard drive or the computer it runs in, all your documents, photos, music, books, and any other data you have stored is gone, with no easy way to get it back. Your hard drive doesn’t care how sensitive your data is, or how sentimental you are about those photos, or that music, or those books. If your hardware fails, or you get a virus, or even if you just accidentally delete something, there’s no easy way to get it back without a backup.

The same holds true for WordPress backups. Web servers are, (or in the case of virtual private ones, run on), computers, and the computers that store and allow other people to access your website are just as vulnerable to hardware and other failures as the computer sitting on your desk or packed in your bag.

WordPress backups are specifically important because it’s the first step recommended during the WordPress update process. WordPress backups are a fail-safe in case an update doesn’t install properly, or if you’ve edited your theme and mistyped something and broken your site. They’re also important when you’re switching hosts. In order to move your site, you need to have a copy of it before you shut down your old hosting account and move to the new one.

Help Keep This Series Free

$690 of $20,000 raised
Each post in this series takes a significant amount of time to research,
write, and edit. In order to make this effort sustainable, I would need to
charge a minimum of $100 U.S. per month in order to compensate for the time
it takes to write this material and the size of the screen reader users
market, which is around 5% of the total market of people with disabilities. This series benefits the whole WordPress community as we strive to create a
more open and more inclusive internet. The group of people who will benefit from this series the most are also the
least equipped to afford to pay a fee like this to access it. In the United
States, as of 2015, 58% of the blind
community is unemployed, and 29% live below the poverty line. Most of these people live
on a fixed income that is less than $1,000 per month.

Your sponsorship will ensure that everyone who uses screen readers
with WordPress get the same opportunity as those who do not use screen
readers: documentation they can freely use to learn WordPress, similar to
what exists in the WordPress Codex for mouse users.

This content has to stay free for screen reader users, and for everyone
else. There’s no flag you can set to detect if a site visitor is also a
screen reader user that can be used to then unlock content. And given the
horrible things being done with technology just in the last year alone,
being able to detect screen readers is technology that should never exist.

The amount of time It takes to maintain this is not something I can do for
free and so I’m asking, as an alternative to charging premium prices for
this documentation, for donations in order to keep this material free
to the WordPress community in general and people who use screen readers in
particular. Your financial assistance will ensure that each WordPress
administration screen is properly documented for people who use screen
readers, and that each post is updated when a change to WordPress requires
it. Every donation helps, and there are some sponsorship opportunities as
well.

In exchange for making this possible, the generosity of sponsors will be
acknowledged with the name, logo, and a link to their flagship product
several times in each post.

$
Personal Info

Donation Total: $5.00

WordPress backups happen in two stages

There are two stages to WordPress backups:

  • backing up the files
  • Backing up the database

The files

WordPress is built with PHP, JavaScript, CSS, and HTML code. This code lives in files, which then live in directories on your host’s server. Your plugins and themes are also PHP, JavaScript, CSS and HTML files, and they add to the files that already come with WordPress.

The database

The database is where WordPress stores all your settings and content. This includes the settings and options for your themes and plugins. It also stores the user accounts you use to log into and add content to your WordPress site.

If either the files or the database are left out of your backup, you don’t have a working version of WordPress, and will have to rebuild your site. Granted, replacing the files is easier than replacing the content and settings in the database, but you’ll still have to rebuild. For smaller sites, this can be accomplished relatively quickly. But for bigger sites, including sites that have a lot of content, this can become very painful very quickly. So it’s extremely important that you make sure both parts of your WordPress installation are backed up regularly.

Backing up the files

Although WordPress backups don’t have to be performed in any particular order, I usually start with backing up the files first. This is because it’s one of the easiest tasks, and, if there are a lot of files, (you’ve got a lot in your uploads directory, for instance), this part of the backup process can run in the background while you move on to the next step.

To back up your WordPress files, you’ll need an FTP client. Any accessible client will do the trick. I prefer WinSCP, but there are others, and you can use whichever one you prefer.

Configuring your FTP client

Once you have an FTP client installed, you’ll need to add a new entry so that you can access the files stored by your host. The specific information you’ll need will vary from host to host, so make sure you have this handy. However, the types of information you’ll need are the same across all setups. The pieces of information you need to have in order to connect to your host are:

  • Hostname: The address you’ll be connecting to.
  • Username: The name you’ll use to log in.
  • Password: The FTP password your host supplied you with, or that you set up yourself. This is not necessarily the same as your login credentials for your hosting account, although sometimes it will be. Consult your web host’s documentation for details.
  • Port number: Usually, this is port 21, which is the standard FTP port. Some web hosts on the smaller end do not provide secure FTP, and so this is the port you’ll likely use. If you’re connecting via secure FTP, you’ll most likely use port 22, although I have seen some hosting situations where a different port, (like 2222, for example), is used.
  • Protocol: Some clients, (like WinSCP), will ask you to choose a protocol during the account-adding process. You’ll need to check with your host to find out which protocols they support. If you can, choose either SFTP or SCP. FTP will do, but the two former protocols allow you to transfer data securely, while FTP does not.

Once I’m connected, which files do I need to back up?

You can always download a copy of WordPress’s core files directly from WordPress.org’s download page, and since this is the case, you don’t need to worry about making a copy of those files. You do, however, need to back up your wp-content directory, your wp-config.php file, and your .htaccess file.

wp-content

The wp-content directory is where all the content you’ve generated that isn’t stored in the database lives. This includes the themes and plugins you have installed, regardless of whether or not they are activated, and your media uploads. Depending on how much is in this directory, it can get quite large. It’s typically not themes and plugins that increase the size. What usually bulks up your wp-content directory is media, including audio, video, images, and any of the other file types WordPress supports.

wp-config.php

Your wp-config.php file contains your site-specific configuration. It tells WordPress everything it needs to know about your database, and contains any configuration customizations you’ve made. If you haven’t made any customizations, and you’d like to find out how far you can take wp-config.php, click here for a complete list of all the values you can edit. But before you make any changes, make sure you back this file up, because if you miss-type something, things will go wrong and you’ll either have to manually fix the errors, or revert back to your original version.

.htaccess

.htaccess, (pronounced “HT Access”), is a configuration file used by your host’s web server software. It is directory-specific, and it is used to alter configurations such as basic redirects, (such as redirecting requests for files that don’t exist to a “file not found” page), basic content password protection, and image or other media hotlinking prevention. The most common use of the .htaccess file in WordPress is to handle permalink settings. If your .htaccess file is lost or compromised, you can copy the basic .htaccess file for WordPress from the Codex. However, since this is a base copy, it will not take into account any customizations you’ve made, so you also need to ensure that you regularly back up any .htaccess files that are part of your WordPress installation. This can be done while you’re backing up your wp-content directory, via FTP/SFTP.

The Database

If you’re running your WordPress site on a shared host, creating a backup of your database can be a minefield when you’re also using a screen reader. This is because there are two types of intervening software you need to work with.

First, there’s your host’s control panel. Most hosts use cPanel, and while it’s not the most accessible experience, it’s useable, depending on the version. The version, however, can change between hosts, and there are at least five dozen of them. To add to the variation between versions, as far as I am aware, no one is working on the accessibility of cPanel, so the common apprehension experienced by every person with disabilities for whom accessibility is not optional upon hearing the word “update” is very real.

The second type of software that you have to interact with is one of two possible graphical user interfaces for managing your databases, cPanel’s built-in backup feature, or phpMyAdmin, a PHP script for interacting with MySQL databases. Like cPanel, there are multiple versions of phpMyAdmin, and the useability for screen readers varies between versions. As with cPanel, I am not aware of any accessibility work being done on phpMyAdmin.

First, I’ll cover cPanel’s built-in backup feature, specifically for cPanel version 56.0.38, although this is not the latest version. The latest version is 60, and so your milage may vary. and then, I’ll cover phpMyAdmin.

WordPress Backups With CPanel

CPanel provides a graphical user interface for managing just about every aspect of your hosting, including your databases. You can use it’s backup feature to create a downloadable copy of your WordPress database. You can also use it to generate a full backup of your entire site, but these backups are strictly for archival purposes. Relying on cPanel’s backup feature as part of your maintenance strategy is not recommended. It doesn’t provide any kind of scheduling, and you will need to create two partial backups, (one for your files and one for your database), in order to be able to restore from those backups should the need arrise. However, until you impliment a backup strategy, it’s better than not backing anything up at all.

To create a backup of your database, first log into cPanel. Next, look for “Backup Wizard” in the “files” section. You can do this by either arrowing through the page, or by using your screen reader’s find command. There are no headings on the page, so it’s arrow keys all the way down, coupled with heavy use of the find command. Once you’ve located “Backup Wizard”, press enter on that. On the next screen, you can navigate by headings. The only heading on the page is “Backup Wizard”, and you can skip past all the other links on the page by pressing “H”.

The next section on the page gives you a quick overview of the steps for creating a cPanel backup. It also lets you know what’s included in a full backup, delivered in a zip file for your convenience. Skim through this section, and press enter on the “backup” link. On the next screen, press “H” until you hear “Select partial backup”. Then, press enter on the “MySQL Databases” link. On the “MySQL Databases” screen, press “H” until you hear “Download a MySQL Database Backup”. Under this level-four heading, you’ll find a table that lists all of the databases that have been created, either by you or by install scripts. Find your WordPress database name, and press enter on that link. When you press enter on the linked database name, you’ll be presented with a standard file download prompt. Save the database file to your computer, but do not uncompress it. You’ll need to use the compressed copy if you ever need to restore the database.

If you’d like to avoid FTP or SFTp, or if for some reason you’re unable to log into your host using FTP, you can also use these steps to backup the files that make up your WordPress installation. Instead of choosing the database partial backup option, choose the files partial backup option, and continue as you would with the instructions for backing up your database. This feature creates a full backup of all your website files, not just the WordPress files. You don’t have the option of selecting the files that get backed up. Once again, this is better than no backup at all, but creating a full backup every time you create a backup isn’t necessarily the best long-term solution.

PHPMyAdmin

PhpMyAdmin is a free software tool written in PHP intended to handle the administration of MySQL and MariaDB databases on the web. As with cPanel, there are accessibility concerns, and the version of phpMyAdmin your host is running will impact how you interact with it. The version number is especially important if you’re a screen reader user. This is because, up until the 4.0 branch, phpMyAdmin wasn’t an accessible experience, but it was useable as long as you were willing to forego all the screen reader specific features like link lists, form fields lists, and headings lists, because all of them would actually decrease your productivity. It’s faster just to arrow through the screen. As of the 4.0 branch, the experience has gotten worse. I’ll be covering phpMyAdmin versions 3.8.5.1 and 4.7.5 in this tutorial. You can find the version your host is running by logging into phpMyAdmin, and using your screen reader’s find command to search for “Version information:”. Even though the 3.0 branch of phpMyAdmin is useable, you do not have the luxury of navigating by headings on most screens, and you do not have the luxury of a skiplink. There are a few dropdowns in the form of comboboxes, and some unlabeled form fields, but for the purposes of exporting your database as well as importing it should you need to restore from a backup, those dropdowns and form fields are not what you’ll be working with. You’ll be dealing with a couple of frames, lots of linked graphics, and you’ll need to pay careful attention to where you are within phpMyAdmin’s interface, since you won’t receive any feedback from your screen reader when you’ve activated a link unless you’ve specifically set it to automatically read the page content upon page load. So, with anger management powers activated, let’s get started.

To access phpMyAdmin, log into your host’s control panel, and navigate to the databases section. You can do this by either arrowing down the page, or using your screen reader’s find command to search for “DATABASES”. Directly below this text, you will find two links to phpMyAdmin. Press enter on one of them. phpMyAdmin will open a new browser window. If you attempt to force it to open in a new tab instead of a new window, you will be asked to log into it directly, so unless you have specific login credentials for that application, it’s best to just allow it to open in a new window. To ensure this happens, if you’re blocking popups in the browser, temporarily turn this off, and, once you’re done with phpMyAdmin, turn it back on again.

For phpMyAdmin 3.8.5.1, once you’re inside the phpMyAdmin interface, you’ll encounter two frames, neither of which have titles. The first frame contains navigation links specific to phpMyAdmin, as well as links for accessing your databases. The second frame is where all the operations happen.

In the first frame, find the link labeled with the name of your WordPress database. The list of database links will appear in an unordered list beneath the dropdown for selecting from recent database tables. Once you’ve found the link labeled with the name of your WordPress database, press enter on that.

Next, arrow down until you find a link labeled “export” in the second frame, and press enter on that. Once you’re on the next screen within the second frame, use your screen reader’s heading navigation keystroke to navigate to the heading labeled “Exporting tables from “db_name” database” where db_name will be replaced with the name of your WordPress database. On this screen, you can choose to perform a quick export, or a custom export. For the purposes of a full database backup, a quick export will be fine, and this is the default option.

After choosing the type of export you want to create, the next step is to choose the file format. PhpMyAdmin allows you to export all or part of a database in several formats, one of which, for some unexplained reason, is Microsoft Word 2000 (doc). The default is .sql, and i would recommend sticking with this unless you have a specific reason to change the format.

Once you choose the file format, press the “go” button. This is a true button, and will behave accordingly. When the “go” button is pressed, you’ll be presented with the standard “file download” dialog, and you can save the file to your PC.

Using phpMyAdmin 4.7.5, instead of content being separated into frames, you’ll find a series of lists on the page. Once you’ve launched the phpMyAdmin instance, navigate to the second list on the page, and find the link labeled with the name of your WordPress database. Once you’ve located the link, press enter. You’ll receive no feedback from your screen reader letting you know you’re on the next screen, so you’ll have to trust that you are. Next, either navigate to the fourth list on the page and then arrow down until you hear “Graphic Export Export” and then press enter, or use your screen reader or browser’s find command to search for “export” on the page, and then press enter on the linked graphic. You’ll once again receive no audible feedback that you’ve navigated to the desired screen, but you most likely have. Once you’re on the “export” screen, use your screen reader’s heading command to navigate to the first heading on the page. It’s a heading at level two. Alternatively, you can navigate to the first radio button on the page, labeled “Quick – display only the minimal options” and ensure that this is checked. Below the set of radio buttons, you’ll find a heading at level three designating the “format” section. Choose your preferred format from the dropdown and then press the “go” button. As with phpMyAdmin 3.5.8.1, this is a true button, and will act accordingly. You’ll be presented with the standard file download dialog, and you can proceed as you normally would from here.

Performing a manual WordPress backup while using a screen reader wil initially be a huge headache. However, it’s a fundamental skill worth having. I’ll cover some partially and fully automated methods for creating wordPress backups in upcoming posts, but knowing how to perform a manual backup is crucial should any of the automated methods be unavailable or should problems arise while using them. The process of performing a manual backup is daunting at first, but like any other technical skill, it gets easier with time and practice. If you’re tempted to skip learning this skill in order to avoid the headache and frustration, don’t yield to that temptation. Backups are fundamental to any security strategy. The best security tactics in the world will not help you if you’re not performing regular backups. Don’t throw away the investment you’ve made in your website by neglecting them. Doing so will result in a lot more headaches and frustration down the line.

Help Keep This Series Free

$690 of $20,000 raised
Each post in this series takes a significant amount of time to research,
write, and edit. In order to make this effort sustainable, I would need to
charge a minimum of $100 U.S. per month in order to compensate for the time
it takes to write this material and the size of the screen reader users
market, which is around 5% of the total market of people with disabilities. This series benefits the whole WordPress community as we strive to create a
more open and more inclusive internet. The group of people who will benefit from this series the most are also the
least equipped to afford to pay a fee like this to access it. In the United
States, as of 2015, 58% of the blind
community is unemployed, and 29% live below the poverty line. Most of these people live
on a fixed income that is less than $1,000 per month.

Your sponsorship will ensure that everyone who uses screen readers
with WordPress get the same opportunity as those who do not use screen
readers: documentation they can freely use to learn WordPress, similar to
what exists in the WordPress Codex for mouse users.

This content has to stay free for screen reader users, and for everyone
else. There’s no flag you can set to detect if a site visitor is also a
screen reader user that can be used to then unlock content. And given the
horrible things being done with technology just in the last year alone,
being able to detect screen readers is technology that should never exist.

The amount of time It takes to maintain this is not something I can do for
free and so I’m asking, as an alternative to charging premium prices for
this documentation, for donations in order to keep this material free
to the WordPress community in general and people who use screen readers in
particular. Your financial assistance will ensure that each WordPress
administration screen is properly documented for people who use screen
readers, and that each post is updated when a change to WordPress requires
it. Every donation helps, and there are some sponsorship opportunities as
well.

In exchange for making this possible, the generosity of sponsors will be
acknowledged with the name, logo, and a link to their flagship product
several times in each post.

$
Personal Info

Donation Total: $5.00

Your content is the most important part of your website. It underpins your design, development, and your web accessibility efforts. You create good, usable content by developing and then implementing a content strategy.

If you’ve never done this, it can seem like an incredibly daunting task, especially if you’ve got lots of content. So I thought it might be helpful to put together a content strategy reading list. This list takes into account books that are also available in accessible formats, so it’s not that large. But each of the books listed here will help you get a handle on your content, and, if you’re aware of web accessibility and attempting to implement it on either your own website or on the websites you’re building for your clients, help you come to terms with the recommendations you’re getting from either WCAG itself, or from your web accessibility consultant.

Content Strategy for the Web, Second Edition, by Kristina Halvorson and Melissa Rach

Content Strategy for the Web is the book I would recommend starting with. It doesn’t just present the case for content strategy. It also gives you a step-by-step path to follow in order to create a content strategy for yourself or your organization. It covers every aspect of content strategy without making it unenjoyable and without using highly technical language for the sake of it. It’s available as a Kindle e-book, but not in any other format that I’ve found that’s accessible. So I would suggest getting this from the Kindle store and reading it on your phone if you’re a screen reader user.

Content Everywhere: Strategy and Structure for Future-ready Content by Sara Wachter-Boettcher

This book covers content strategy as well, but goes beyond it to help you ensure that you don’t get stuck on the content treadmill. Creating content is a necessary task, but it’s a given that it’s not just consumed on websites, and content creators have no way of knowing how users prefer to consume that content. content Everywhere will help you take the content you’re creating and prepare it to be consumed in multiple ways, so that you don’t have to run to keep up with the ever-expanding reach of technology. Nobody wants to do that, not even those of us who love tech. Content Everywhere is available on Bookshare, which you can get access to if you’re a print-disabled individual. It’s also available on Kindle.

Content Strategy for Mobile by Karen Mcgrane

Content Strategy for Mobile focuses on helping content creators develop one content model that can adapt to both desktop and mobile devices, instead of developing content for desktop and then redeveloping that same content separately for mobile. Mobile is important, and in some parts of the world exceeds desktop usage. See also, my comments about the content treadmill above. This book is a sort of companion to Content Strategy for the web, and if you don’t read them at the same time, they should definitely be read one after the other. This book is also available on Bookshare for those with print disabilities, as well as on Kindle.

Content Strategy for WordPress by Stephanie Leary

Content Strategy for WordPress will help you take everything you’ve learned from the previous three books and implement it using WordPress. It goes through the technical details of designing and building a WordPress site around the content it contains, and gives coding-specific as well as user-specific information on how to implement the tips it suggests. Definitely a necessary edition to the library of anyone who’s building websites with WordPress along with the three books listed above. This book is available on Kindle, so see the notes about reading Kindle books above if you’re visually impaired.

All four of these books are entries on the list of books I keep open while I’m working. They serve as excellent reference material while I’m either creating content strategies for my own sites, or those I create for clients. I hope you find them useful, and happy reading.

Hashtags are used to organize and group social media posts so they can be searched for by topic. When used with care, hashtags can increase the reach of the content you publish. If you’re using the Jetpack Publicize feature to share your content to social media, sharing that content with hashtags is not natively supported. I found this out when attempting to add appropriate hashtags to my post for National Blog Posting Month, (#NaBloPoMo). Fortunately, extending Jetpack’s Publicize feature is as simple as installing a plugin.

To add hashtag support to the Publicize feature, download the Publicize with Hashtags plugin from WordPress.org, or visit the plugins section of your WordPress dashboard and install and activate the plugin from there.

Publicize with Hashtags allows you to automatically append hashtags when you share your content through the Jetpack Publicize feature with the use of post tags. for instance, if you’re writing a roundup of a recently attended conference, you can tag the post with the conference’s hashtag, (excluding the # sign), and your tag will be automatically appended to what the Publicize feature posts, without exceeding the 118-character limit of the social message text.

Jetpack’s Publicize feature is far from the only way you can share content to social media using WordPress. But if you’re using Jetpack, and you have this feature activated, appending hashtags that are taken from your post’s tags is an excellent way to increase the reach of the content you’re creating. I hope you find this as helpful as I have.

Following is the hashtag information you need to follow this weekend’s WordPress and accessibility events on social media. Even if you can’t attend the events in person, you can still learn a lot from what gets posted on social media under the various hashtags.

For those posting using the below hashtags, please remember to ensure that the content you post to social media is as accessible to everyone as possible. On with this week’s events.

PodsCamp

Pods is a WordPress plugin that provides a user interface for building custom content types and custom fields into any WordPress install. PodsCamp, an even centered around learning how to use and develop with Pods, first began in 2014, and this year’s even takes place November 4 and 5 in Austin, TX. You can follow the event via social media using the PodsCamp hashtag.

Accessibility Camp Toronto

The goal of accessibility camps is to provide an open, informal space for conversation and networking around digital access and inclusion. Accessibility Camp Toronto takes place on November 5, has five tracks encompassing 25 talks. You can follow it on social media using the #a11yTO hashtag.

WordCamps

WordCamps are informal events put together by WordPress users where everyone can share ideas and network. There are several happening this weekend, as with most weekends. WordCamp Wilmington #WCWilmington takes place on November 5 and 6 in Wilmington, North Carolina. WordCamp Medellín #WCMde takes place on November 5 in Medellín, Antioquia
Colombia. WordCamp San Jose #WCCR takes place on November 5 and 6 in San José, San José Province
Costa Rica. WordCamp Omaha #WordCampOmaha takes place November 5 and 6 in Omaha, Nebraska. WordCamp Denver #WCDenver takes place November 5 and 6 in Denver, Colorado. WordCamp Santander #WCSantander takes place November 5 and 6 in Cantabria
Spain.

Happy learning and networking, everyone.

Spoiler alert: It’s not that plugin you installed. It’s creating a positive user experience for the people who visit your site.

In this talk, Rebecca Gill looks at SEO, (search engine optimization), best practices and how to apply them to a WordPress-powered site or blog. She discusses what search engines like Google and Bing want and need from you in order to drive organically generated traffic to your site, which is the kind of traffic you need in order for your website to be successful.

Good SEO, like anything else associated with your website, isn’t something you get right in a day. It takes a lot of hard work, and it’s something that improves over time. No quick fixes like pay-per-click ads, (which Rebecca refers to as “digital cocaine), and no guarantees that you’ll snag the top spot on page one of Google’s search results. Winning at search engine optimization is about making users happy by solving their problems. It won’t be easy, but it’s definitely not voodoo. If I didn’t know any better, I’d believe she was talking about improving the accessibility of your website instead of search engine optimization.

The slides for “What Really Matters in WordPress SEO are here, and you can watch the talk below.

There are several writing events going on this month. National Blog Posting Month, hosted by BlogHer, National Novel Writing Month, the event that started it all back in 2006, and Nanopablano, a fun take on BlogHer’s yearly event, to name a few. Participating in any one of these is a huge demand on time and attention, but they’re also a great way to meet new people and find new things to read and gain inspiration from.

All of the content being produced, (with the exception of the content that lives only on social media), is consumable through a feed, which is either RSS or some other compatible technology. Consuming content through its feed means that you don’t have to keep your eye on social media, and can catch up on the content you want on your own terms.

What is this RSS you speak of? What’s a feed?

RSS stands for “Really simple syndication”, and it’s the mechanism through which everything from blog posts to podcasts are delivered and consumed. A podcatcher, (that thing you listen to your favorite podcasts with), is a feed reader with built-in ability to process audio and video. But at its heart, it’s still a feed reader.

Anyway, back to those writing events. Of course you can consume the content through Facebook and Twitter, but what if you don’t want to open up your social media client to find out what’s going on with the writing event you’re participating in?

Enter a feed reader

This is where RSS, (and an RSS reader), comes in. You can add either all the feeds from all the lists of links associated with your event, or just the ones you’re interested in, and browse through them at your leisure.

Yeah but I thought WordPress.com was a blogging platform.

It is, but your WordPress.com account also gives you access to a feed reader that allows you to consume, and even export and import, the feeds you keep up with. It’s not the only feed reader you can use. there are plenty of apps for both iOS and Android, as well as for Windows and OSX. But the advantage to using something like WordPress.com is that all your feeds are stored in one place, and can be accessed from any device. And with a little work, you can use it with a screen reader. More on that below.

Getting Started

The Standard Signup Process

In order to use the WordPress.com reader, you’ll need a WordPress.com account. You may already be familiar with this if you’re running a self-hosted installation of WordPress and the Jetpack plugin, because in order to authorize Jetpack, you need a WordPress.com account.

To sign up, visit WordPress.com and click or press enter on “sign up”. Next, you’ll be presented with a screen that asks you what kind of site you’re creating. Choose an option and you’ll be taken to the next step in the account setup process.

The next screen asks you to describe your site. Enter a brief description in the box. Once that’s done, you’ll see a “continue” button, and you can move to the next step in the process by pressing that.

The next screen asks you what you want your site to look like, and presents several options:

  • A list of my latest posts
  • A welcome page for my site
  • A grid of my latest posts
  • An online store

Choose one of these options to move to the next screen.

Next, you’ll be given the option to choose a theme, which you can change later. The themes WordPress.com shows you are based on the kind of look you’ve chosen for your website. You can pick a theme now, or skip this step and choose later on.

The next screen will walk you through picking a domain. A domain is what people type into their web browser’s address bar to reach your site. You can type a keyword into the search box, and you’ll then be shown which domains/keywords are available. The free options will have WordPress.com at the end, and there are paid options without WordPress.com included. Select the one you want, and move to the next screen.

You’ll be asked to pick a plan on the next screen. Pick the free one, unless you want to pay for one of WordPress.com’s other plans. If you’re a screen reader user, you can press “b” to move directly to the “select free” button, and press enter or space on that.

Next, you’ll be asked for your email address, a username, a password, and you’ll be asked to agree to WordPress.com’s terms of service. Enter the information requested, check the box, (after reading the terms of service to make sure you are willing to agree to them), and click on or press enter on “create my account”.

Signing Up for An Account Without A Blog

If you already have a self-hosted blog, or a blog on another platform, you might not want to create a second blog on WordPress.com. That’s fine, because there’s an alternative process you can follow if you just want to take advantage of the WordPress.com Reader without creating another blog or website. Fill in your email address, choose a username and password, agree to the terms of service, and then click on or press enter on “create my account”.

Using the WordPress.com Reader to Consume Content

Once you’ve either signed up for a wordPress.com account, or logged in with the account you already have, you can begin taking advantage of the WordPress.com Reader to consume content. It’s the first thing you’ll see when you log in. Screen reader users should note that, for the time being, it works best with Firefox and NVDA, the only free (as in freedom) and free (as in freely-available) screen reader on the market. The reader will work with Jaws for Windows and Internet Explorer 11, but I’ve found that Firefox and NVDA are the best browser and assistive technology combo to use.

The WordPress.com Reader, as with all other sites, looks very different to a person who doesn’t use assistive technology than it does to a person who is an assistive technology user. Both groups of users start at the same place, a listing of posts from the sites you follow, in chronological order, with the newest at the top. Both also see the headline of the post, an excerpt if available, an image if available, and thumbnails of any other images in the post. From this point onward is where the differences come in.

Following sites

For those who are not assistive technology users, there are a series of tabs on the left side of the screen. For assistive technology users such as those who use a screen reader, these tabs appear as a list of links under the heading “Streams” at heading level two. If you’ve already got posts appearing in the “following” section of your reader, you’ll need to press ctrl+end to exit the infinite scroll, and navigate backwards through the headings, until you get to “streams”.

Once you’re within the list of links under the “streams” heading, press enter on “manage” to follow new sites or edit the ones you’re already following. This includes sites you’ve subscribed to by email. Sticking with our example of this month’s writing events, the process to add sites to follow looks similar to this.

First, visit the official blogroll (list of links) for your preferred writing project. With that tab open, you can right-click on each link, navigate back over to your WordPress.com “manage” tab, and paste the link into the search box. Once you press enter, if the site has an RSS feed, it will be added to the “followed sites” section of your WordPress.com reader. If you’re looking for sites to follow, The NaBloPoMo list will be published on November 7, and the NaBloPablano list has already been published.

Whether or not you’re participating in a writing event this month, keeping track of the sites you like to read is a lot easier when you’re doing it from one place that’s not your favorites list in your browser on one computer. This tutorial references specific lists of links for specific events, but you can also apply it when you’re browsing social media and you come across a site or six hundred you’d like to follow, and be able to access whether you’re on your computer or on the go. To everyone else participating in writing events this month, good luck, and to the rest, happy reading.