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What is My Philosophy on the Use of Categories and Tags?

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In this session we talk about my philosophy on the use of categories and tags. Categories and tags are designed to organize content and organize access to that content for the users. We discuss why some people use categories to style posts and why this isn’t really necessary. We talk about the different ways of changing a style by creating custom taxonomies and specifying feature posts. Each post should have only one category but it can have as many tags as you want and that category should represent the main content of the post.

Video Transcript

Member: Can we take a moment… and this is not about Thesis. But the categories and tags, what is your philosophy on those? I read so much about it and I see so many different theories. What is your take on it?

Rick: Well, my feeling is that categories and tags are designed to organize content and organize access to that content for your user. Now it could be that you have a very simple site and you don’t need it for your user so you use it for something else. But you know, there are people out there who say, “Well, you should use categories to style a post.” So you could say, “Everything with this category gets this style”. Some people say, “Well, you should create a featured category and then you could use that to select featured posts to display.” And I think that you know, those are reasonably valid but I think they’re just expedient. I don’t think they’re actually good answers because those really, I think, should be used on a site that needs it. They should be used to organize content, not to specify styles or to be used for something else. It’s easy enough to add a custom taxonomy you know, to specify a style. In fact, it’s so easy in WordPress or in Thesis 2 now to you know, change up a style. You don’t even need a special handle like that.

And the same thing is true for featured image or featured post. You could easily create your own custom taxonomy and specify featured post and still leave categories and tags for organizing your content based on some kind of a rational organizational system.

So for example, on BYOB Website you know, well I have 2 different kinds of taxonomies that I use across all post types. I have Lesson Subjects and Lesson Subjects are like categories. They are hierarchical and so for example you know, if you’re using Thesis using the Thesis header and say adding a flash banner, this is part of the hierarchy of the content. And this is very much like categories except this applies to every single post type on my site, not just posts.

And alternatively, I also have topics which are alphabetical and topics also apply… they’re like tags because they’re not hierarchical and again, they apply to every single post I put on my site, not just posts.

And so I think the combination of hierarchical taxonomy and non-hierarchical taxonomy, whether it’s categories and tags or it’s something like I’m doing here, in any kind of an information-based site is fairly critical for your user. And I guess the only other thing is that philosophically, if it’s possible, category… each post should only have one category but it can have as many tags as you want. And the one category should represent sort of the main content of that post.

And I guess in a nutshell, that’s my philosophy of categories. I know there are people who use categories for all different kinds of things. I just think that conceptually, what they should be used for is organizing content based on the content, not organizing the content based on what it should look like or where it should be displayed or that kind of thing.

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