Why Tags Are Better Than Categories

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tags Most blogs put their posts into various categories, and then list the categories in the sidebar. It’s the done thing.

But how useful are categories really? Would tags be more helpful for your readers?

Few Categories vs. Many Tags

Categories are most effective when there’s a small number of them. The small list is easily digestible by a reader and organizes your blog into its major sections.

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Prioritize Your Blog Into 5 Distinct Groups

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In the first post, What Is Design Clutter?, we talked about how clutter is caused by too many objects competing for attention.

The problem for any blogger is choosing which objects should get attention and which shouldn’t. It’s hard to accept that something you went to the trouble of putting on your page isn’t worth actively promoting (Because it will steal attention from the things that really do matter).

Separating The Wheat from The Chaff

The best way to avoid clutter and make sure that the valuable parts of your blog are properly promoted is to make a clear list of your priorities. Once it’s written down, it will make design decisions much easier.

Write out a list of every element on your blog (From the blog title right down to the post date!), and then run each aspect through this flowchart:

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Achieve User Goals Through Usable Design

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Yesterday, we talked about achieving your own goals through your blog’s design. Of course, you won’t achieve anything if you’re putting your visitors off. The key is to balance your goals with your reader’s goals.

What do they want from your blog?

There is more to it than simply reading the current page. A reader may want to do a whole host of things on your site. Most blogs are very similar though, so what a reader wants to do on one blog is usually the same thing they’d want to do on any other blog.

I would consider the following to be a bare bones version of the usual priority list for a blog reader. The bolded words are the actions, and beneath them are some of the questions that a reader might ask at that point. Your job is to make those questions as easy to answer as possible.

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How to Achieve Site Goals Through Design

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prominent Photo by pshanEvery site has a reason for being online. It has a purpose. Good design takes into account that purpose, and then works towards it.

Site goals are what you want your visitors to do on your site. It is important to make the distinction between what you want, and what they want (Although the two may often overlap).

For instance, your readers may not originally want to sign up to your newsletter, but if you want it enough, you just might persuade them.

The first stage in creating a great design is to lay out your blog’s goals. My advice is to scribble down everything that you would like to gain from your site (RSS readers, advert clicks, sales leads etc.), then take that list and order it by importance. It is important to think this through now because it will make decision making during the actual design much, much easier.

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Design Review: Problogger.net

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Problogger One of the best ways to learn is by learning from others. Design reviews look at the ups and downs of a blog’s design, leaving you to take away best-practices for your own blog.

Problogger is the site for professional bloggers. For years now, Darren has been consistently giving out the best and most up-to-date advice on making money blogging. Over that time, he has accumulated nearly 30,000 subscribers, so naturally, when he released a complete redesign of his blog yesterday, done by Ben Bleikamp, there was a lot of buzz. What better candidate could there be for our first design review??

What has been done well?

In short, alot, but some of the very best aspects are:

  • It’s bold. It is a huge change from the previous layout, and from reading the comments, it has taken at least a few readers by surprise. There are thousands of blogs on the same topic as Darren’s, and Darren stays ahead of them by constantly being at the head of the game with his content. This design is no different. It throws caution to the wind with the homepage, and steps away from the standard blog layout.

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Categories Are More Than Just a List

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The purpose of categorising posts is to organise your content. You group similar posts into sections, allowing readers to easily find all the posts on a certain topic. However, categories are more than just a list in the sidebar.

How Are Categories Ordered in a New Blog?

When a blog is new, naturally it will have fewer posts. Therefore, posts are grouped into rather broad categories. For instance; this post is currently categorised into the “Blog Usability,” category. Usability in itself is a huge topic, encompassing many sub-sections. As the blog is still new though, there is no need to break into these sub-sections.

Small blogs have a small number of categories.

As Your Blog Grows, Your Categories Grow

Over time, you post more and more, and the blog becomes larger and larger. However, because your blog is virtual, viewable only on a screen, you don’t see that.

Forget about the computer, and think about each post as a written document, and your blog as a filing cabinet. In the beginning, it may be suitable for you to use a separate drawer for each category, however, each page you add is filling up the cabinet. What do you do when there are so many pages that finding a certain one takes forever? You divide up the drawer. You take all of the pages in that drawer, and categories those, e.g. by name, by date or by topic.

Why should blogs be any different?

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