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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.