Why we only display one category in our themes

One feature relatively unique to our themes is we don’t display a long list of categories and tags in blog post meta — and it’s a decision we often receive questions about! So today, we thought we’d dive into the reasons why, which will not only give you some insight into how we design and build websites, but also how displaying a single category can impact your blog organization—whether you use our themes or not.

The shortest answer? Displaying a single category became the norm in our custom projects long ago, and our themes were born from the most commonly requested features and functionality of our custom builds. But, naturally, there’s more to it than that!

Let’s go back to the early days of lifestyle blogging, when most bloggers started their blogs on the Blogger platform. WordPress didn’t have nearly as many options available in free themes, and most premium themes were tailored for business sites, with very few choices for bloggers. Blogger was a very quick and easy way to launch your blog, and was considered easily customizable for the less tech-savvy.

Blogger’s default was to display a long list of labels in the footer of every blog post. Labels are similar to WordPress tags, as you can’t establish a relationship between labels, like you can with categories and subcategories. These labels were also seen less as a way to organize your post, and more as a mechanism to boost SEO, so it was common for bloggers to enter several variations of the same general label to try to rank for specific keywords (does a label list like “Boots, Over-the-Knee Boots, Fall Boots, Tall Boots, Fashion Blog, New York fashion blog, budget fashion blog” sound familiar?).

When we first started working on custom projects with bloggers, their most common complaint with their Blogger sites was the lack of organization. By the time bloggers were ready to come to us for custom design, they already had several years of blog posts in their archives—and no easy way for readers to explore older, still relevant content.

And that’s where displaying just one category at the top of a post came in. Bloggers could still use tags as they would labels for SEO purposes, but categories became the tool of choice for organizing posts and helping readers find similar posts. Over time, with search engine algorithm changes, tags became less essential, and the most important part of post meta was to help readers understand and find similar content.

Now, we believe displaying one category looks a lot cleaner—and, therefore, is much more user-friendly. When a reader visits your blog, they can quickly scroll down and get an idea of the topics you post about, and find the information they are most interested in. They know immediately upon opening a new post what to expect, and they have an easy route to continue reading similar content—which keeps users on your site longer!

We like to say that if you think of your blog as a textbook, categories are like the chapters, and tags are your book’s index. So by displaying one category at the top of your post, you’re telling readers what chapter they’re on. You may feel that multiple categories could apply to your post, but ultimately, consider which “chapter” of your book is the best fit for your post. Then you can use tags to establish other relationships between your content, and link to those tags within your content or in menus where needed.

And, don’t forget, if you are applying a sub-category to a post, users will still find that content if they access the parent category via a menu. For example, suppose you share a lot of recipes, and have created the categories of “Recipes,” and “Brunch” By making Brunch a sub-category of Recipes, you need only apply the Brunch category when you’re ready to publish your post. Even if a reader clicks on the parent Recipes archives, any posts with the Brunch sub-category applied would still be returned. Need a visual? You can see this in action on our Presidio demo site, on the page where we’ve enabled our Grid plugin (sold separately). If the user lands here to browse Brunch posts, by clicking on “All,” they land on the parent Recipes category, and Brunch posts are still visible.

We hope this helps you understand categories a bit more! For further reading, don’t miss our complete guide to WordPress categories and tags.

Image credits:
Charles Deluvio, Christin Hume, STIL

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