Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Basics of Using Categories

Categories are important. They're really important. You need them - but how the hell do you use them?

What are categories? Since we're talking about CMSs and blog software, your categories are just a group of words that you pre-defined, and that you choose to apply to each post or page. (Don't bother looking for them here - one of the big failings of Blogger is that it doesn't support categories.)

That description makes them sound like the sort of organisation tool that would only be used by people who kept their colouring pencils in strict order of the spectrum. But on a website, categories have an unexpected power.

Take a look at localization-news.com. On this website, I created around ten categories such as "software localization", "localization tools" etc. Each day I wrote a new post, and on the writing-a-post page, selected one or more appropriate categories from a menu. You can see my chosen categories at the bottom-right corner of each post, for example ( categories: software | tools ).

Now if you, the reader, click on one of those category labels, you'll be brought to a page listing all posts in that category. Presumably you clicked "software localization" because you were interested in that topic - so now you can instantly see everything I've written on the subject, without skipping through all my posts on other topics.

The benefit to the reader is that they get to find the info they are interested in, quickly and easily. One benefit to the website publisher might be to offer more directed advertising on that page (e.g. Adsense will tend to offer more subject-specific adverts).

Of course not every reader is familiar with clicking those little tags at the end of each post. I decided to put links to those category pages, in the form of a menu at the top of the webpage. This was trivial to do. But the result is something that looks less like a one-page scrolling blog, and more like a fully organized and professional website.

As it happens, this position has additional benefits for SEO (Search Engine Optimization). But that's another story.

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Hey there! This is Nawty Marie .. dunno if you're the one that popped onto my blog from yours but .. thanks! I like the idea of organization and that is a kewl thing bout catagories .. I'm kind of doing an "organized as I grow" sort of thing but I love the tip! Thanks bunches!

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