The one thing you can always count on with WordPress.com: the interface is always changing.
And that’s what happened this month when WordPress.com launched a refreshed interface with changes that affect blind users as well as all WordPress.com users who use the Classic Editor.
A blind author who uses WordPress.com was frustrated with the changes and contacted accessibility engineer Marco Zehe about the interface change and inaccessibility in WordPress.com.
Marco reached out to the Twitter community:
I no longer use it myself, so cannot verify, but I just heard from another blind author that @WordPressDotCom seems to have done away with literally all accessibility in WP Calypso. He no longer can use the dashboard or settings, and the classic editor has been removed as well.
— Marco Zehe (@MarcoInEnglish) March 29, 2021
My friend Chris Wiegman tagged me in a reply. Have to admit, I didn’t know about the change.
Until I logged into WordPress.com and discovered the issue with several of my accounts, where I use the Classic Editor.
I researched to find out what happened, learned about the interface change, and discovered how to enable the Classic Editor in WordPress.com.
After sharing my findings with Marco on Twitter so he could share with the blind author, I wanted to publish a blog post so more WordPress.com users can find a solution for their sites.
What Happened? Unified Navigation Interface Change
On March 10, 2021, WordPress.com announced in their forums about an interface change combining the Calypso and WP-admin sidebars in dashboards.
WordPress.com wanted to reduce confusion with the two sidebars.
OK. I understand that.
The two sidebars can be confusing.
The rollout of the interface change took a while.
As I mentioned earlier, I didn’t discover the changes in my WordPress.com accounts until today.
When I logged in today, I was presented with three screens onboarding me to the new interface.
And I quickly noticed the change meant the Classic Editor was no longer an option on my account.
What I don’t understand: WordPress.com chose not to announce the change on their blog.
The announcement was only published in the WordPress.com forums.
Which doesn’t make sense to me, given it’s a major interface change.
Plus, the WordPress users I know only visit the forums when they’re looking for help with a feature or troubleshooting an issue on their blog.
With a major interface change like this, why didn’t WordPress.com announce it on their blog?
I am glad they are accepting feedback about the interface change.
If you’ve encountered a bug, please create a separate thread and add a modlook tag.
Update: WordPress.com published a blog post announcing the interface change on March 30, 2021, a day after this post was published.
How to Enable Classic Editor in WordPress.com
Thankfully, WordPress.com recognized the change would impact users, and offered an option to maintain the previous interface which provides the option for the Classic Editor.
Which is good.
Here are the steps to enable Classic Editor in WordPress.com:
- Log in to your WordPress.com account
- Visit your Account Settings
- In the Interface Settings section, enable Show advanced dashboard pages in the Dashboard appearance option
- Select Save interface settings
Now when you visit your posts or pages, you’ll have the option to use the Classic Editor.
Why Is the Interface Change an Issue?
Seems like an interface change shouldn’t be causing issues, correct?
You make the change in your Account Settings and you’re good to go. You have the administrative interface you’re accustomed to.
The wording for the Dashboard appearance option is confusing and opaque.
WordPress.com describes enabling the option as:
Enabling this will replace dashboard pages with more advanced wp-admin equivalents
I know what wp-admin means.
I’ve been working, designing, and developing with WordPress since 2006.
It’s a huge assumption to think every WordPress.com user knows what wp-admin means.
Adding more details to the description, something mentioning the Classic Editor, would likely reduce a lot of confusion and a large number of customer support requests.
How Long will Classic Editor Option be Available?
I know WordPress.com is encouraging users to move to the Block Editor, offering the Classic Block as an option for people who prefer the older method of editing content.
However, given this recent interface change, I suspect the Classic Editor option in WordPress.com will not be available for long.
Personally, I’d love to know how many WordPress.com users are using the Classic Editor. Not sure if that info is available?
The recently announced WordPress.com interface change combined the Calypso and wp-admin sidebars, resulting in a changed inaccessible interface for blind users and content that can only be edited with the Block Editor.
By enabling the Dashboard settings option in your Account settings, you can return the administrative dashboard to the prior interface and enable the Classic Editor.
Which also resolves the issue the blind author had with the new interface.
Once they enabled the Dashboard settings option, the dashboard is accessible again and they can customize the theme and use the Classic Editor.
Did you enable the option to use the Classic Editor for your WordPress.com account?
Updated April 17, 2021 with info about WordPress.com announcing interface change on their blog on March 30, 2021, a day after this post was published.