Distinguishing between Projects: WordPress and WordPress.com

March 1, 2017

Topics: Accessibility, WordPress.

At the CSUN Assistive Technology Conference this year, I attended a talk on creating accessible WordPress web sites. It was a good talk, if you understand that it was not a talk on WordPress. It was a talk on WordPress.com.

This is an ongoing frustration anytime you’re working with WordPress: conflating WordPress.com and the WordPress project. They aren’t the same thing. While a large part of WordPress.com uses WordPress, it has a radically different implementation of the admin – including everything from a re-skinning of the admin CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) to the radically different experience found in Calypso, a WordPress.com custom admin experience.

WordPress is a piece of software. WordPress.com is a website that’s built using WordPress.

This is not a problem. What *is* a problem is that the talk started off with a list of accessibility problems you’ll encounter using WordPress as a user with disabilities – but it was a list of issues found only when using WordPress.com. This is a lack of clarity: an attendee at the conference may walk away with the impression that the WordPress interface has a set of accessibility issues that it does not actually have. I’m not trying to claim that the WordPress admin doesn’t have any accessibility issues – but it doesn’t have those issues.

I don’t have a solution to this problem. Should every talk on WordPress make a point of clarifying this distinction? That would get pretty irritating, I imagine, for people who do understand the difference – but perhaps it would reduce the number of people who don’t know how these two entities are distinct.

WordPress is software. WordPress.com is a web site built with WordPress, but it has a large number of adaptations and customizations specific to their environment and choices.

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1 Comment on “Distinguishing between Projects: WordPress and WordPress.com”

  1. Nice post and definitely a pet peeve I share.

    Should every talk on WordPress make a point of clarifying this distinction?

    In my experience, in any context where the topic might bring an audience not familiar enough to infer the distinction, I do think a clarification should be included.

    Not understanding (or even knowing about) the difference leads to frustration for people and often fundamentally misunderstanding parts of the presentation. (“Why can’t I install the plugin you recommended on my site?”)