For those of you who have been using WordPress for some time and are comfortable with the platform, this series will introduce you to some of the new features available to you and show you how you can put them to work in your blog. We’ll look at themes and plugins to see how they can not only improve the look of your site, but make it easier to organize and present your content – especially those oldies but goodies tucked deep in the archives.
Unfortunately, not everything works for everybody. Those of you blogging at WordPress.com have limited choices for themes and few custom plugins. While some of the things discussed in this series won’t work for you, I’ll try to offer an alternative it possible.
Since this will be a series of connected articles, I’m using the Organize Series plugin. It allows me to not only assign posts as part of a series, but to also list the order they should be presented. The plugin will create a little box in each of the series’ posts that serves as a table of contents for the series. I used it recently in the series of articles I did on WeRelate. You can see an example of the series box in this screenshot from one of those articles. As the series grows, the box is updated in each of the posts in the series so if a reader happens to stumble on the third article in the series, she will immediately see that there are a number of articles and how they are organized.
Think of the potential this plugin has for a family history blog. If you are blogging your family history one individual, family or generation at a time, you can use the series plugin to define the relationships. There might be one series for your Smith family and another for the Joneses. You can choose to organize the posts in the order you want or let the plugin add each new post in sequential order.
Once the plugin has been installed and activated, you’ll find the Series box added to your editor screen. To create a series, just type its name in the text box, then click Add. When you have a post that should belong to a series, just select the appropriate series. You can manually number your posts within the series using the Series Part field at the bottom of the box. Don’t know which post this should be? The plugin also added a Series column in your list of posts which shows the series and increment of each post assigned to a series. It also adds a filter option to filter your post by series. Very handy.
Unfortunately, the closest thing available to the WordPress.com user is the category. It will allow you to organize posts – a category for the Smiths and one for the Joneses – and then use the Categories widget in your sidebar to serve as a table of contents to them. When a visitor clicks on a category listed by the Categories widget, WordPress presents a list of the articles assigned that category. And, you can organize your categories in an outline format. For example, you could have a major category for Families and another for Research. The Research category might have sub-categories for Conferences, Sources and Brick Walls while the Families category has sub-categories for each surname you’ve written sketches about. The advantage of this hierarchy is that when you click on one of the major categories in a category list, you are presented with all posts in that category and each of the sub-categories under it. Even if you are using the series plugin, categories are still a very useful organizational tool.
When you add a new category, notice the Parent option in the category editor. Here’s where you select the major category – or Parent – for the category you are creating. Yes, it’s that easy! Your new category will appear indented under its parent category.
Categories are often used in more complex themes to position content within the theme’s framework. A good example of this is the Florida National Guard’s new home page. One category feeds content to the rotating slideshow at the top of the screen and another populates the story slider immediately below it. A major category – Jobs – pulls in the most recently added vacancy announcements from all of its sub-categories. A bit closer to home, you’ll see much the same thing at work at Family Search’s Tech Tips site. While these design features may be overkill for most genea-bloggers, they could be put to good use by genealogical and historical societies looking for an affordable site management option that will grow with them.
Hopefully, this first episode in my WordPress Dressed Up series has given you a taste of the opportunities WordPress offers us genea-bloggers. We’re just getting started. There’s a lot more WordPress goodness ahead!