Sami Keijonen Interview

Hey folks, I know that WordCamp Europe 2018 is already in the history books, but we still have some more great interviews from the event to share with you. Today, it’s Sami Keijonen’s turn. He’s a member of the WordPress accessibility team, a front-end engineer at 10up, plus a whole lot more!

If you missed our previous interviews, you can see them all in their dedicated category. Our last interview featured Raelene Morey discussing WordPress and writing.

Now, we’re back to Sami! 🙂

Sami Keijonen interview
Sami Keijonen is a devout supporter of web accessibility and he’s doing his best to make WordPress friendly to people that really need it. He believes that the internet should be a place where everybody can feel welcomed, no matter what.

He was also the host of a workshop in Belgrade, showing people how to test the accessibility of a WordPress site and what tools you need to do it.

Recently, Sami accepted a job as a front-end engineer at the popular WordPress agency, 10up. He also has his own theme and plugin shop with some beautifully designed offerings. Right now he’s focused on getting fully involved in the WordPress community.

To learn more about Sami’s thoughts on WordPress and web accessibility, you can read the text version below or watch the video to the right (or both!).


Sami Keijonen Interview – Front-End Engineer at 10up and Web Accessibility Supporter

How did you get started with WordPress?

Sami Keijonen:

It’s a long story, I started 10 years ago with WordPress.com. I was in a workshop and we needed to create a short movie, and for that movie we also needed a website. I was the one responsible for doing the website. We went to the WordPress.com and we had the site up in one day. After that, I kind of realized that I can’t probably hack the themes that much in WordPress.com and I started using WordPress.org. From that point on, I began doing more and more of my own stuff as well. This is the short story on how I stumbled upon WordPress environment.

You have your own theme shop, how do you manage to do all the work?

Sami Keijonen:

Yeah, I have my own theme shop. I started out by building public themes, I didn’t have any client work at that point, so I was building themes for the public at first. That was also a way to learn more about WordPress, in general. Now, I do mostly client work. At the moment I’m kind of shifting because recently I started a new job in a company called 10up, but if we talk about what happened previously, what I’ve done was to teach.

I am actually a teacher, this is my occupation. I’ve been teaching for about 18 years and, as a side project, I was doing web development. I’ve been freelancing for other companies in Finland that have hired me to have all their work checked. So that’s most of the WordPress-related work that I’ve done for four years now. But newly things changed because now I’m working as a front-end engineer at 10up. Which changed a little bit what I’m working and how.

No more teaching?

Sami Keijonen:

Not so much, I am still going to teach a couple of courses next semester. I can’t totally quit this, but right now I don’t have so much time for that anymore.

How did you get started with accessibility and how do you test it?

Sami Keijonen:

Accessibility is my favorite topic in the sense that I’ve been on the Accessibility Team on WordPress.org for about four years and that’s an area that I’ve been really interested in. It started out for me when I had a student with a really low vision. She wasn’t actually blind, but she really struggled to use a website, a book, and stuff like that. She had a so-called magnifier thing that helped her see the text, and that was the turning point for me when I realized that there are different ways of using the web and that my role as a developer was to make things easier for pretty much everybody. This is how I started learning more about accessibility.

As a front-end developer, it came as a natural thing of building things anyway, so it’s kind of a mindset at the same time. People might ask, for example, if you need an extra budget for accessibility. But usually my answer is no, it’s built-in already, that’s how I do the things anyway. It’s not an extra cost to clients. Of course, if they want really, really custom stuff, there might be an actual cost for them too, but normally that should be a basic thing that you do anyway.

Are you using any tools in the testing process?

Sami Keijonen:

Yeah, I had a workshop yesterday (that is, the first day of WCEU 2018) with Rian Rietveld, and there we used the tools for that. The workshop itself was about how to test accessibility. We showed the participants the resources that we use when we do the testing. The main question that the workshop was trying to answer was “Is there a way to help as a developer, designer, content creator when creating a site?”

The bad news is that there is no such tool that can cover all the accessibility issues out there. There’s a 30-40% of accessibility issues that can’t be fixed with tools and require manual user testing. So it’s kind of a mix of both. There are tools that can help you, but you have to know yourself what you want to do and how to use them properly.

Here’s the list of the tools that we tested during the workshop: Tools for the WCEU Workshop accessibility testing

What would you do if you couldn’t WordPress?

Sami Keijonen:

I would like to be a rockstar! Or a sports star, whatever. But I can’t play anything, so my options are pretty narrow.

So that’s the short story of Sami Keijonen, whom we met in Belgrade a few months ago. Beyond just having fun chatting, we also learned that we can look at accessibility in WordPress (and the web, in general) as a cause meant to help everyone make the most out of their internet journey. Because the internet is for everybody, after all.

Before we finish up, it might be of interest for you to know that, soon after our talk, Sami has made all the themes and plugins that he had built for his shop available for free so that he can focus on new career opportunities. Like being a rockstar … on the WordPress accessibility stage.

If you have any questions for Sami, please leave them in the comments section. Also, if you have any suggestions for who we should talk to next, feel free to give us some names, too!

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