One of the *** many *** benefits of blogging your family history is that it doesn’t take too long before those family story posts become quite a collection. Fortunately, WordPress gives you a number of tools to help you display those individual posts as a well-organized family history. Let’s take a look.
An example of nested categories.
First there are categories and tags. Think of categories as sections within your site. You can organize your content by timeline, by location or by surname just by assigning each post to a category. You can even separate content – like an area for family history posts and another area discussing your research efforts. And, since categories can be nested, you could have a category for a surname with sub-categories for the different family groups in that surname.
While WordPress uses categories to organize the display of content on your site, tags are the digital equivalent of the index. You can assign any number of tags to a post to further identify what it discusses. For example, if your post is discussing an ancestor’s service in the Civil War, you could include tags to identify him, his unit and the battle or location being discussed. WordPress can quickly display all posts assigned a specific tag so with a bit of thought you can use them to quickly display all military stories, Civil War stories, stories about traditions or stories related to a specific location.
There are no limits to the number of tags you can include with a post, the challenge is to maintain consistency. WordPress doesn’t know that “World War II” and “WWII” are the same event. It’s easy to add or update tags at any time using WordPress’s bulk edit feature.
Bulk editing post metadata
From the posts list, select the posts you want to update, choose the Edit option from the Bulk Actions drop-down menu, then click on Apply. The bulk edit screen appears giving you the ability to change several post parameters – including tags. Here you see I’ve entered a “lost” tag. Next click the Update button and each of the selected posts will be updated. Note that the number of posts being updated will impact how long it takes for the process to complete.
So, how do you use these features to construct a beautifully organized site? Here’s where custom menus come in. Most themes automatically use categories to build the default main menu. Your top-level categories will become the menu items and most will display sub-categories as some kind of second-level menu item. Exactly how and where these things appear depends on the theme. You can build your own custom menus (yes, more than one) and use them in more ways than just presenting a main menu at the top of the screen.
WordPress menu editor
In this example, I’m building a “section” menu for the blog section of Moultrie Creek Books. The menu editor is located under the Appearance section in your work area. In this example, I’ve set up “Blog” as a parent category and created sub-categories for News, Book Notes, Reviews and Authors. My bookstore’s main menu lists the Blog category with only the Author Interviews and Book Reviews as sub-categories. If a visitor clicks the Blog menu item, WordPress will display all of the blog content and all of the sub-categories’ content as well – all in reverse chronological order. What I want to do now is build a small menu that will only appear on the Blog category screens to allow visitors to just wander through the various types of blog content.
Configuring the Custom Menu widget.
Notice the left panel in the menu editor is used to collect the content that will be presented via your menu items. You can present specific pages, custom links or specific content categories – which is what I’m using here. I have already checked each of the blog sub-category items and then clicked the Add to Menu button. Those items then appear in the right pane for additional editing. Next I rearranged my menu by dragging the News menu item to the bottom of the list. Now I want to change the label that is displayed for the Authors category to read Author Interviews. I clicked on the down arrow icon to the right of the menu item to display this pane, then made my changes. I could also add a title attribute to this link if I wish. The title attribute is used to specify additional information about the link and often appears to the visitor as a tooltip. In this case, I’m not going to use it. Click on the down arrow again to close the edit pane. When I’ve finished building my menu, I’ll click the Save Menu button.
One last step – displaying the menu. In the Widgets section, drag a Custom Menu widget to the appropriate widget area (the sidebar in this example). I’ve given my widget a custom title, then selected which menu to display. I then clicked the Visibility button to define when this menu will appear in this sidebar. I added the Blog category and each sub-category so it will be visible when a visitor is looking at any of the blog category collections. Save the widget and I’m done.
By organizing my site content with categories and setting up several custom menus, I have “built” sections within my site in a matter of minutes. Yes, each category is still presented in reverse chronological order, but if you want to create menus of specific posts in a customized order, you can use the links section to build links to individual posts then arrange them in whatever order you prefer.
And what about those tags? Many themes display the tags assigned to a post as part of that post’s metadata. Often, they are displayed as links which, when followed, will display all content tagged with that tag. You can also put a Tag Cloud widget in the sidebar or footer and label the widget with something like “Choose a Topic”. Tag clouds are becoming common enough that most people are quite comfortable using them to find content. You might even create custom menu links to specific tags.
Developing a plan for using categories and tags on your posts makes it easy to use WordPress’s many tools to display your content in creative ways. Thanks to WordPress, you’re not stuck in reverse chronological order forever.