59 Responses

  1. Eric Mann
    Eric Mann Published |

    I like this idea, but mostly because it gives the user the power to *not* use a category to select featured posts. My biggest complaint with custom themes that utilize custom areas (news themes, portfolio themes, etc) is that they clutter up the category list with “special” categories for featured items, imported Twitter posts, and the like.

    Using a custom taxonomy definitely makes it cleaner. You only have to select something other than “Default” when you really need it.

    Reply
  2. Joel G Goodman
    Joel G Goodman Published |

    This makes a lot of sense, especially with multiple feature areas in a theme. I hope that with these new/easier ways to affect the admin UI, we start seeing more end user -centric theme development. The tools make sense from either side… so, I’m thinking win-win for developers and users.

    Reply
  3. Ipstenu
    Ipstenu Published |

    I’d almost want to say that maybe Post Formats would be how you’d handle this but since those aren’t extendable it’s probably better this way.

    I don’t have a problem with featured categories, as they stand today, but I think this way would work too. It’s a pretty cool and functional alternative :)

    Reply
  4. Scott
    Scott Published |

    I could take it or leave it.

    Your suggestion is definitely easier for the end user to setup. They wouldn’t be required to create categories. But I think it comes down to user preference. If the categories are already established, great! If not, your suggestion would help the users who don’t quite understand category creation.

    As always, thanks for stirring the pot and keeping discussion going on how to better expand WP.

    Reply
  5. Brian Krogsgard
    Brian Krogsgard Published |

    That is a really good idea. Taxonomies keep things in the background and you aren’t limited by a category. I see no reason why this needs to be limited to news themes, but I see why you’d use it as an example.

    I think it could be a nice solution to overloaded options pages on any theme with a feature template.

    I could even imagine it being used in conjunction with a “Feature” post type where the Feature custom post type allows the user to create content blocks for say, a business theme, and that way the site content doesn’t have to be created with pages / posts / widgets, but rather with custom post types that are called by the custom taxonomies to certain sections of a template.

    Nice post!

    Reply
  6. Jan Egbert
    Jan Egbert Published |

    Eureka! Great idea. This method will separate content and presentation even more. Categories should be used to categorize posts. In some front page design categories are all I need. But this idea would be helful if I want to add -for example- an ‘Editor’s choice’ area and when I’m not planning to use this as a category for archiving my content.

    Reply
  7. Dougal Campbell
    Dougal Campbell Published |

    Well, since categories are a taxonomy, it’s a little bit of a cheat. BUT, since it’s a separate taxonomy, it does have advantages. It’s orthogonal to your regular categories, so you don’t muddle things.

    An idea I had kicking around in the back of my brain for a while was to use tags for something like this. But again, I would have been mixing in ‘control’ metadata with ‘categorization’ metadata, which isn’t as clean as putting it in a separate taxonomy.

    Reply
  8. Evan Mullins
    Evan Mullins Published |

    I agree part with Dougal, categories are a taxonomy. I like that it is separate from the categories throughout the site, and that it could add another “dimension” to organizing content.

    What about doing something to extend the sticky functionality. Maybe there could be sub-types of sticky posts? I’m not sure about the inner workings for sticky posts, but seems like it could be an option as well, of course then end users would have to understand sticky too.

    Another way I’ve seen this special home page set up is with a widget area. Then we don’t need a setting in the theme options for what to display where, but it’s just a widget displaying posts from a certain -category/tax. But then you rely on users not breaking the home page by removing a widget.

    Reply
  9. leks
    leks Published |

    I like the idea. I’m currently using the WP3’s Menus and custom walkers to organize where post content shows up on the homepage and sidebars.

    Reply
  10. Chris Robinson
    Chris Robinson Published |

    I’ve actually implemented something like this in my themes to tag featured content for an area on the homepage, instead of setting up a “featured” category. Hadn’t thought of extending this into other areas of the page. Would allow for much more flexibility of scheduling content for different areas, basically allowing for a mixture of content.

    Reply
  11. Ben Moseley
    Ben Moseley Published |

    I like this implementation a lot and think it’s actually necessary if the site is going to updated by a non-developer. From a user’s perspective, separating this functionality from the default categories will definitely result in a lot less confusion and reduce the mistakes that come from trying to cram it all under the default categories taxonomy.

    Also, Jan is on the money when he says, “This method will separate content and presentation even more. Categories should be used to categorize posts.”

    As designers and developers, we need to ensure that the admin UI is just as intuitive and explicit for our clients as the site’s themselves.

    Reply
  12. Kate Phizackerley
    Kate Phizackerley Published |

    The designer in me, especially the database designer, much prefers this approach. However, I wonder whether users will like it. The WordPress Admin is terribly overcluttered as it is and has dreadful usability. Using Category is transparent to the user: this approach means yet another entry the user needs to think about and another box cluttering up post entry.

    The idea is right, but it highlights that the Admin dashboard of WordPress is now far and away one of its weakest areas and is in desperate need of a revamp so that something easy can be presented to editors who aren’t admins. For sure there are plugins which can help, but it is something we are going to need in the core. So yes, your approach is right but whether now is the right time for the idea, I am less sure as maybe an admin redesign of core is needed first.

    Reply
  13. Steve Taylor
    Steve Taylor Published |

    I’ve never thought of using categories in this way. But as a custom theme developer, I’ve found my way on this issue through using custom fields in various ways.

    At the moment I’m focussed on a plugin, which is still in beta, but provides themes developers with an easy kind of API for creating and managing custom fields. I would add custom fields to the home page (and landing pages) for the selection of featured items.

    This gives you the scope to separate the publication of posts or pages from the selection of what’s going to be featured at any given time on a landing / home page.

    I think the Holy Grail here is getting the functionality working both ways, e.g. you define a custom field on the home page for selecting featured items, but that same definition automatically creates the ability (for those with permission) to select, while editing items (post, pages, whatever), whether that item is featured on the home page or not. When I get time, this is high on my “to-do” list for the Custom Fields plugin!

    Justin, I’m developing this plugin very much with your Members plugin in mind, in terms of who has the capability to select what gets done. If you’re interested, I’d love to know what you make of it, especially in relation to this issue.

    Reply
  14. Kevin
    Kevin Published |

    I think from a design perspective this is a very good feature for news type sites. A taxonomy that is relevant for the front page (politics, business, sports, opinion, etc.) doesn’t track one to one.

    BTW – can anybody recommend a solid theme with a nice front page like this? Here is my situation, a statewide non-profit. I would like the front page to be broken into sections with each section containing posts from a single chapter (houston, dallas, austin, san antonio) along with a featured section and a couple of other sections. I have tried using producer (http://www.antisocialmediallc.com/producer-theme/) but have problems with its consistency (I am an end user not a theme builder). I don’t have a problem paying for the theme, mostly I don’t want to use their money to purchase something that won’t add value to their group.

    Reply
  15. Caspar
    Caspar Published |

    Agreed, custom post types make total sense from a user’s perspective. I also like Evan’s approach bringing widgets to the front-page. Been fiddling with a query-widget lately that would allow an editor to insert arbitrary query-calls on the front-page like displaying the 1st post from “Sports”, 3 posts from “CategoryX” etc.. It’s still in pre-alpha, but there’s probably another one for the same purpose out there anyway. ;-)

    Reply
  16. kucrut
    kucrut Published |

    Really love this idea, but how do you make the terms use radios instead of checkboxes?

    Reply
  17. Rethinking How News Themes Work | Equal Web Creative
  18. Mark Anderson
    Mark Anderson Published |

    This method is particularly useful for sites which have multiple users with different editing permissions. This way I can give control over what goes where on the front page to the editors who have that control, and leave categories ‘clean’ and available to other editors.

    Reply
  19. Mark McWilliams
    Mark McWilliams Published |

    Until you mentioned it Justin I had never even given it a thought, now I can’t get the idea out my head (but all is good, it’s giving me plenty of things to consider!) The use of Custom Taxonomies to replace a Theme Options/Settings page is right up my street, purely and simply because I’m not a major fan!

    Taking into account what a few other people mentioned about Categories and Tags, who cares if they are Taxonomies too, (maybe I’m wrong here) but they all function for what they were created for (if that makes sense to anyone?) — What I’m trying to say is that Categories were implemented to divide your content into different topics, and Tags for dividing your content up in a different way, isn’t that what you’re on about here too? :D I’m not even sure I understand myself here TBH!

    I’d love to see Commercial Themers take the concept, and implement it into their own Themes, I know depending on the site I was creating I’d go down the route you talked about above. So if anything Justin, thanks for the idea!

    Reply
  20. WordPress community links: Anatomy of a theme edition | WPCandy
  21. Jonnya
    Jonnya Published |

    Justin – as always an interesting perspective. I do a-lot of bespoke CMS style theme design for WordPress, the slight feature/issue with the technique you mention (and ‘category’ technique) is that you don’t always want the posts available/getting indexed through taxonomy query – using the controls for pure CMS purposes.

    I agree that custom taxonomies can be used in clever ways to display content (which is actually my preferred method too, you get great core admin) but if you want to lock out taxonomy feeds/queries so this stuff remains only available in correct categories etc I’d advise just simple ol’ custom fields.

    Also, let’s not forget ‘sticky’ – it’s core code and sadly neglected;( With the right little custom loop it’s easy to display a category and 4 sticky posts for instance!

    You highlighted a great principle of CMS architecture in WordPress, but people should not forget the rest – it depends what you want to achieve for the given site.

    Keep up the good work and all the best with the book!

    Reply
  22. Ayman Aboulnasr
    Ayman Aboulnasr Published |

    Actually, I wouldn’t mind any of the two methods. I guess both would work for me. However, I’d go with the custom taxonomy option as it would give me more flexibility.

    At the end of the day custom taxonomies are still a way for categorizing content, just like categories, right?

    Reply
  23. Mamaduka
    Mamaduka Published |

    Great post Justin. Most news/magazine themes have multiple column areas, so I think there will be more types like Colum One, Colum Two etc.

    I’ve questions about UI, I know that by default custom taxonomies UI uses checkbox type for input, but you have radio type, is there any option to change checkbox to radio in WordPress?

    Reply
  24. Melissa
    Melissa Published |

    Definitely an idea worth exploring. I’m not a huge fan of relying on Categories for layout purposes and from a user perspective this does seem to be more intuitive.

    Reply
  25. John Thompson
    John Thompson Published |

    I see this as a *potentially* good thing. New taxonomies, and other forms of meta-data, are a good thing. However if the implementation ties them directly to the theme, as opposed just just a plugin that certain themes target, then it is bad.

    Using categories for presentation configuration is poor design, but so is tightly coupling the presentation meta-data to the theme. Assume for a second you have a theme with a custom taxonomy to control the presentation, and you desire to change your theme to one of theme A, B, or C, each of which implement their own custom taxonomy though ultimately offer a similar layout to what you have. Part of the transition then includes some sort of data mapping and subsequent data conversion and validation effort across a potentially very large data-set.

    If all these themes instead relied on a common underlying plugin (or perhaps a future WP built-in) that handled the storage and configuration of the taxonomy, then you only have to worry about the data mapping, not data conversion (or at least not for the same reasons), and can be handled succinctly in a theme config page much like they currently do where they map categories rather than some other taxonomy.

    Reply
    1. John Thompson
      John Thompson Published |

      Did a little homework, and I’m now thinking that you implied using the built-in WP custom taxonomy architecture to accomplish this, which is certainly a step in the right direction. However, I would still advocate that the theme itself stay away from defining or managing any such taxonomy, and that a separate plugin for taxonomy management be developed (and/or included in future versions of WP).

      To that end, the theme should allow an admin to select a taxonomy to map to and then choose classifications within that taxonomy to map. After all, both “Categories” and “Tags” are technically valid taxonomies to use for presentation, even if their description is vague and their purpose is only understood as a common practice within the community and taken on faith. If an admin sees fit to forgo the standard use of those taxonomies and chase after his own purposes, why should a theme get in his way of doing so by demanding the use of a custom taxonomy (let alone one that the theme assumes nothing else could possibly care about)?

      Reply
  26. Simon B
    Simon B Published |

    This is actually about a much more fundamental issue of the approach that web developers take when using WordPress to develop websites and themes, it applies to much more than just news themes:

    It’s all too easy to slip into a mentality of taking lazy UI design decisions based on WordPress’ existing way of doing things, then saying “How can I explain this to the end users?”

    My preferred approach has always been to design firstly for the users’ needs, and then figure out how to adapt WordPress to do it for them with maximum usability. It requires more thinking, planning and coding, but the end results are always far better in terms of usability, so the user is much less likely to mess things up.

    Choosing a category buried deep within a list of other completely non-related categories might seem obvious to a nerdy developer, but is completely non-intuitive for the end user. Having a separate, clearly labelled meta box, custom designed for a particular taxonomy or post type, has always worked far better in my experience.

    Reply
  27. setting up
    setting up at |
  28. Dianakc
    Dianakc Published |

    I´ve been studying about themes, and most users don´t want spend time reading how to use a theme. Even custom fields are still a mystrey to most of them.

    I don´t know if this is right but I’m using tags instead categories for display posts in special areas. When the post get older, the user just remove the tag. The categories don´t get messed, we can assign the same tag to any post anytime etc. I just don´t know how to do this without custom queries :(

    I was thinking, could be like the WordPress menu feature, where user can create blocks and what to show there (which categories, order, number etc), the theme developer code the areas, just like the menus works.

    Sorry for bad english, Justin!

    Reply
  29. cari jodoh
    cari jodoh Published |

    I’ve tried a variety of themes, but for now there are settings that do not match,, I am confused what to do

    Reply
  30. Jim
    Jim Published |

    At first your article seemed like you had found an alternative to categories, but doesn’t your solution use categories?

    It seems your solution is a presentation issue, though I realize it changes the underlying coding job.

    I’ve been thinking of having a layout that is a bit more complex than the one you present. I’d like to have several areas that each show post from a specific category. like someone mentioned; news, sports, entertainment etc. In that block I’d show either a list of posts from that category or the latest plus a few. Would your system be easier/harder/same to implement this format?

    Reply
  31. Michael
    Michael Published |

    I think your approach could work in certain circumstances, but there’s one major problem: too often you’d just be building a taxonomy on top of a taxonomy.

    People running news themes don’t normally stick random posts in random places. If I have a site that has five categories — politics, entertainment, sports, international, and opinion — it’d be very common and logical for me to want the homepage to have different sections for each of them. I’m not talking about “Featured” or “Top Stories” categories, I’m talking categories done right.

    So I’d write a new post, I’d stick it in the Entertainment category…and then in order to actually put it in the homepage’s entertainment category, I’d also have to tick off “Bottom Center Column” or wherever in the Front Page Areas box. Just like I’d have to do for all the entertainment posts. It’s a needless extra step.

    How about this:

    I think something similar to the new custom menu UI would be much better suited to customizing homepages. The idea of creating menus and assigning them to menu locations works perfectly for homepages too — you’d just be creating “homepage modules” and assigning them to “homepage locations.”

    On thing it would need that the custom menu UI doesn’t have: better automation. Yes, you could hand-tweak each module, but there could also be a set of rules you could specify for them to display certain posts automatically. Picture right under the name of the menu a “Rules” button that would expand and show the options from your Query Posts widget.

    Reply
  32. Dennis
    Dennis Published |

    Great idea, thanks for sharing it :)

    I have always used a category to display the Featured posts, but this makes more sense. Not only it will be easier for users so set, but this approach will require less explanations in the documentation.

    Reply
  33. Heath
    Heath Published |

    This is exactly the kind of thing I am working on right now. My site is a multiuser magazine site and I am trying to use costume taxonomies to be able to feature a post from a subdirectory page (controlled by various bloggers) on the home page. but I don’t want it to literally duplicate the post just for it to show up on both pages. in other words I want it to have only one set of comments and only show up once to search engines and rss readers. I also want site wide search; so if I search for a subject on the home page it will find entries from the subdirectory pages and vise versa.

    Reply
  34. JA McRae
    JA McRae Published |

    I’ve started the switch over from using a tag for features to using a custom taxonomy.
    In WooThemes I see them using custom post types for layout (in their business themes, at least). This doesn’t really apply here as stories being featured still need to be in the ‘flow’ with the rest of the news.
    I’m working with small town newspaper websites, however, and am debating about Obituaries. They have special field requirements, special layout, special sorting, special sidebars, separate search results, you name it – they stand apart from the news.
    Do you think they warrant a custom post type? What would be your criteria, your thought process for deciding?

    Reply
  35. Pragati
    Pragati Published |

    It was really a worth exploring idea . I’m not a huge fan of relying on Categories for layout purposes and from a user perspective this does seem to be more intuitive. I prefer to that themes which included tags and also flexibility for edits and cost of future expansion for new segments and/or news programs….

    Reply
  36. AJ Clarke
    AJ Clarke Published |

    I kinda like this idea, but you would still need something in the theme panel for those who are installing the theme for the first time and already have hundreds of pages.

    Reply
  37. Ben Huson
    Ben Huson Published |

    I always implement custom taxonomies for this purpose in sites I build since WordPress added better UI support for custom taxonomies.

    The default taxonomies (Categories and Tags) are essentially for filing your posts into logical categories and archives.

    I think that selecting a display area for a posts to show warrants a different taxonomy and makes much more sense to the user in the admin.

    For example, I usually create a ‘display’ taxonomy with options like ‘Featured’, ‘On Home Page’, ‘News Ticker’ etc

    I’m usually provide these options as checkboxes (using the default WordPress taxonomy API) as quite often you may want a post to show in a Featured section and in a News Ticker.

    Reply
    1. Sat'
      Sat' Published |

      I’m trying to do a similar modification to Hybrid news theme, on order to provide a newsticker widget based on custom taxonomy, and to provide more flexibility to the home slider posts choice.
      My “issue” is that I can’t find a versatile plugin for the newsticker, and I’m considering the opportunity to develop one by myself.
      Before starting any development, have you already published a plugin for this “display area” functionnality or a tutorial explaining roughly how you do this?

      Reply
  38. Unique post category/term « kucrut
    Unique post category/term « kucrut at |
  39. Paul Winslow
    Paul Winslow Published |

    Justin, this post has given me such an “ah-ha!” moment. It seems so obvious yet I wouldn’t have though of it. Mainly because I’ve only really thought of a custom taxonomy as an extension of a custom post type – a way to organise portfolio items into categories, for one example.

    I’m with you on the option page thing. I don’t like to stuff a bunch of input fields into an option page as a way to store content. It seems so much more intuitive to create a taxonomy with a checkbox for each section of the page. I’ve always hated the idea of creating a bunch of categories for organising content – not least because the user would then need to create these same categories as well and be careful to spell them correctly. And then there’s the issue of excluding certain posts when they’re being pulled in as a set. With a custom taxonomy the user can place each piece of content (post) on the page as they’re creating it, which is extremely flexible.

    Cheers for sharing this, Justin.

    Reply
  40. Cathy Tibbles
    Cathy Tibbles Published |

    THis brings up a good point – having the theme itself control the backend UI. I need to get into the backend meta boxes and such but its the same with CPT, and taxonomies – the user is then stuck with MY theme, I have no idea what happens to the content in CPTs if the theme is deactivated? And they would loose their familiar UI if the theme is changed to another. Themes seem to be getting into very plugin-ish territory which limits the user. THoughts on how this is going to work in the future? I thought themes were for the ‘styles’ and the code was supposed to go in plugins?

    Reply
  41. Saboor
    Saboor Published |

    Hello, I am new at wordpress, so having a little problem, I installed the News theme
    for my site everything looks fine me except the featured post slider, the slider is not showing on the home page and I did not find any option in theme’s settings.
    Anyone please please tell me step by step how get the slider as I dont know much
    about wordpress.

    My website: http://toponthelist.info

    Thank you very much.

    Reply
  42. john wunder ceo
    john wunder ceo Published |

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