"Pages vs Posts" is really "Taxonomy vs Heirarchy"

Posted on Sep 19, 2013 by Rob Schwartz Latest activity: Jan 7, 2014

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So I've been digging deep into this whole issue and trying to understand things... Thought I'd share what I've learned.

In wordpress, there's really no difference between posts and pages on the technical level. As a matter of fact, Posts, Pages, Menus, Attachments/media, and your revisions/drafts of pages and posts are all the same as far as wordpress is concerned... just info put into a box.

In all actuality, everything is a post. The new additions we have in wordpress today (menus, attachments, pages, etc..) are all just built in CPT's (Custom Post Types).

The missions we create with the Game On plugin are also custom post types that the plugin makes.

The only real difference between post types is how they are displayed and used.



Heirarchy- Why I used to use pages:

I used to use pages and preferred pages because it was familiar. It was linear. I could direct the kids in an order, things were always found the exact same way. It gave me control and the familiar analogy of pages and a book worked for me (Wordpress pages use heirarchy to create "chapters" and sections in the book). This was familiar- especially coming from a traditional website- and it made sense.

The files on our computers are the exact same way... in folders on the hard drive.

However, I found an article from the creators of wordpress that explained that pages (heirarchical post types) are not the best thing to use because of what wordpress must do- Every time you load the admin area of your site, wordpress has to load and figure out the entire heirarchy to display it all to you. (Because the pages can be easily reordered and arranged under each other, wordpress puts things in order again every time you load the dashboard). Apparently, this will become a problem when you start getting into a lot of pages.

Taxonomy- Why I'm moving to posts:

On researching this all more- I'm discovering that posts use a taxonomy (which was the strength of my former CMS, Drupal), which is MUCH more powerful. This is true especially when you want the user to freely navigate your information in the way THEY want to, versus the way YOU think they will or should. It presents the content with MANY ways to get to each piece, versus just one. It's a much more user-centric and content-centric way of doing things rather than a presentation centric way. The content is not organized in a specific heirarchy that the content creator (site designer) decides, but is presented in a way that the user needs/wants.

The Downside of Heirarchy:

The difference is much like the difference between a grocery store and a restaurant. In the grocery store, I will always find the peas and the milk and the chicken the same way... by TYPE of food, based on the "Aisle" heirarchy... The AISLE is never what I want... but it's what the whole system is based around. In the restauraunt, I order what I want... and they bring it all to me. I ask for and recieve exactly what I want without having to run around for all the different elements. It's customized for me... what I want at that particular time.

Another example... At Home Depot, I always find screws on the same aisle, and sinks in the same place, and lumber in the same area. It's a heirarchy based on type of material. I can easily find everything I want, but I never get everything I need at the same place... I have to run around to all those different areas to grab what I need. It's the only way to do it because Home Depot doesn't know what I need, and they have a lot of stuff. So they organize it by the stuff, not the needs.

Heirarchy works for organizing things by the kinds of things there are... but NOT by how anyone would use them.

The Beauty of Taxonomy:

HOWEVER... what if I want to create an outside wooden bench with a sink myself? I could go to a specialty store for "outdoor patios and kitches." THEN I'd get everything I needed organized in a way that I would want for that particular job. That's taxonomy... a predefined taxononomy search... a "Specialty store."

With taxonomy, I enter search terms, and it REORGANIZES the whole site so "outdoor garden sink" is it's own section that has the proper screws, sinks, materials, and lumber all in one place! I might even bump into things I hadn't thought of and improve my idea or figure out a better way to build it with tools or materials I didn't even know about. So the pressure treated lumber I find in that area is perfect for outdoor sinks, and the screws are the proper rust-free type, and the sinks and fixtures are the ones that will withstand being outside.

So taxonomy gives you a hundred ways to find something... I think of http://www.unprofound.com/ when I think about this.. It's another free image site on the internet, but the ONLY ONE I've ever found that organizes the image content by color. DUH! What a great way to organize a site of images!!!

Our Uses of Data

We often need images that work with our design. So if I need a car, I can search for car- but then I can SORT or even SEARCH by the color red as well! I can find red 2 door convertibles that have been in an accident easily on the internet... but how the heck would I find an image of one in the library or newspaper? Web searches are strictly based on taxonomy and tags, not structure... doesn't matter where the site is because the search will make me one click away from every item... even if one is on the same server as me, and the next is 500 servers away.

Pages are great for static sites and content that you want to be found and is easily categorizable and everyone will find them the same way. GREAT for classes that are forcing kids into a specific path...You have to learn about computers before you learn to program. Gotta learn basic math before calculus. Gotta learn to draw with crayons before you learn vectors. Gotta learn to type before you can format that type...

But in our classes- I might have a tutorial lesson plan on creating a logo in Illustrator for a letterhead for a nursery... With pages I can only put it in one place, probably based on just one of those parameters- maybe through Illustrator, to business design, then logos. I'd also have to move to letterhead as a separate thing to think about how letterhead design might require special considerations for my design...

However- with taxonomy, I enter my terms and the project comes up. It's findable from at least 3 or 4 paths vs one. AND as an added bonus, I often stumble into other things that interest me on the way.

Don't we want that for our students?

Consider taxonomies with your student web site! It's MUCH more flexible than the old school "pages" way of doing things!!!

PS- One last thing to consider. Databases always store information in the order it was received. So technically, your "Heirarchical" pages in your CMS are stored chronologically anyway... they're just displayed to you in heirarchy whenever they're requested. You can create a "fake" heirarchy of posts by using categories or arranging the content into menus.... But using posts with categories and keywords allows the content to be found any way you wish because they can have MORE THAN ONE category and keyword at a time- rather than just one heirarchical location!!!

Comments (16)

Joan Maresh Hansen

Posted on Oct 19, 2013 2:56 PM - Permalink

Thanks for a very detailed explanation on Pages vs. Posts and Rob, I like your " another analogy" posted later. Will have to think about all of this in regards to my WP blogs and how they work. Thanks again, not as much of a "techie" as most of you and learning a lot because of each of you.

Kristen Albinson

Posted on Oct 5, 2013 10:44 PM - Permalink

You guys are talking about structuring your WordPress sites, right? And if so, does anyone know if the same logic applies to Google Sites? Thank you. (Our school is going Google so I'm putting together my Google Site for my classroom. It seems slow and I'm thinking it's because I'm trying to force it into hierarchical structure?)

Mike Skocko

Posted on Oct 7, 2013 12:20 AM - Permalink

Yes, WordPress.

Kristen, I don't think the same logic follows on Google Sites. WP was created with Blogging (Posts) in mind. GS wasn't.

I could be wrong but before we look deeper, do you have 100+ pages?

Our school site is GS and it loads reasonably well. If not 100+ pages, is your site image-heavy? Want to share the URL?

Donald Peters

Posted on Sep 26, 2013 1:23 PM - Permalink

Hey, I think I may have found something that will help with this even further.

http://wordpress.org/plugins/posts-to-page/

I'm going to start playing with it to see, but I'm sure you WP gurus can determine it's helpfulness faster than me.

Rob Schwartz

Posted on Sep 23, 2013 4:07 AM - Permalink

Another analogy.

Imagine 3 different colored decks of cards and a special "Story deck" that has a story printed on the deck of cards along with the suits and numbers. combine and shuffle. Then you deal the cards one by one. That's your wordpress site. Every page, post, menu item, comment, attachment, quest... they're all cards dealt chronologically. That becomes a magic order that the cards go into every time they're shuffled. That's how your wordpress site works.

Taxonomy (posts)

You can grab out all the hearts easily. You can find all the 3's easily. You can find all the red cards easily. you can find odd black cards easlily. finding them is generally not very taxing. This is using categories (suit, color of deck, color of suit, etc). or tags (all the 3's, odd numbers, even numbers, etc...) You can even find all the story cards easily and grab them out of the pile.

Heirarchy (pages)

But every time you use a page... you have to take that random deck, grab all the story cards, and then sort them in order so the story makes sense. They also have the suits and values, but the story only works in one very specific order. That' heirarchy. But throw the cards in the air and shuffle them, and remember- the deck goes back into it's magic chronological order.

In wordpress, the story cards (pages) are mixed in with the other cards... so every time you want to look at the story (display the page heirarchy), it has to sort them all out. The more cards are part of the story, the more work it is to get them in that specific order.

With that being said... Pages aren't bad!!! Some info is best served in a special order. Use pages when that's the case. Use pages for the stuff that never changes and is always used the exact same way. Contact page, Class policies, About us, gallery, etc... that makes sense.

But your missions? Content that gets updated and refreshed and even if reused, tweaked every year??? Posts are probably best in the long run. If you only use internally and will have less than a couple hundred pages... it probably doesn't matter much.

Hope that helps think about it! If you have a very expensive server and your district is willing to spin up an internal server for you, then it honestly won't matter much if you post a lot in pages... but if the server is a typical hosting server, or you have a lot of users, and you have a lot of pages... the "sorting" problem will slowly build.

I'm planning on trying to run 5 programs on one install next year, and we're hoping to roll out for district wide use on a single server for all high schools as well if it goes OK this year... for that scenario, it starts to matter and developing best practices are important.

Annette Whitby

Posted on Sep 23, 2013 12:34 AM - Permalink

Using Articulate, Captivate, and Raptivity inside Game On

I'm planning on using these softwares to assist me with my curriculum delivery. For example, I can put 4 or 5 lessons inside of Articulate and allow the users to complete the lessons in which order they want to complete them. (The Articulate player has tabs which will allow them the freedom to choose which topic that want to view.) When they complete all topics for a particular theme, the students can then take the Boss Fight quiz or Ultimate Quest Challenge in order to be able to unlock the next quest. This approach feels more natural for me.

Perhaps I will continue to feel more comfortable making pages and posts in WordPress in due time. Will spend extra time on this.

:0 )

~Annette

ps: Lectora Snap is a great alternative / cheaper program.

Annette Whitby

Posted on Sep 22, 2013 7:27 PM - Permalink

Re: Organizing things in my brain . . .

You can create a "fake" heirarchy of posts by using categories or arranging the content into menus.... ~Rob

Hi, Rob. I spent Saturday and part of Sunday thinking about what you said . . . Just tried to organize a post containing my Store Item descriptions so that it appears under the Store main menu, instead of the homepage. (I think one of my WordPress classes said that if I want to use a static homepage, I would need to make an additional page to hold the blog posts.)

Right now, the post is appearing on the Homepage and I'll feeling a strong urge to scrap it and create a page called "Store Item Descriptions" and place it under the Web site's Store main menu. : 0)

My brain is seizing up again. haha I'm still working my way through visualizing how things are organized. Will experiment with this more today (and next week).

~Annette

Mike Skocko

Posted on Sep 22, 2013 7:38 PM - Permalink

I'm recording a video about this right now. Just popped over here on a whim after the last flubbed recording.

Important: If you want a heading in your menu to direct users to Quests or your Store, don't title the page Quests or Store because the URL has may have already been used by the Quests and Posts themselves.

I know this is confusing so I'll post the video ASAP. It'll be on this page. Title: Quests and Store Gotcha

New problem. That one might have to wait until tomorrow. Sorry!

Annette Whitby

Posted on Sep 23, 2013 12:17 AM - Permalink

Thanks for the tips, Mike. I'll go back in and change the menu titles. haha (I used "Quest" and "Badges" as Menu titles. For my store, I named it "Legal Eagle Store".)

No need to rush with the video. It's Sunday night, and you all have been extremely busy all week.


Donald Peters

Posted on Sep 26, 2013 1:06 PM - Permalink

I'm going to have to do it by pages until I get a video... or until I can figure out how to do post heirarchy. In other words, until I can figure out how to put a post under a certain page and not all on the main page.

Rob Schwartz

Posted on Sep 23, 2013 2:53 AM - Permalink

Don't be worried about using pages for things like the store, an about page, etc... The problem only surfaces when you use the pages for each individual piece of content (the store items, for example).

Wordpress pages are just posts... but they're posts that use two extra bits of information to sort it.

Look at this.

See how there are attachments, posts, pages, feedback (comments)? They're ALL posts. Everything wordpress has in it is a post. they're in the database chronologically. But do you notice that for pages, those two fields for menu order and post parent have numbers in them? Wordpress has to put all your pages into a booklet every time you call that heirarchy.

It's not that pages are bad, it's just that to show them in that order is work for wordress every time you want them. And if that heirarchy and order both matter, then you should use a page. But when you are not listing out a single heirarchy for people to access that data, it's best to use the more flexible tools (tags and categories) to help them find things.

Use pages when you want the item to ALWAYS be found in the same place and it should ONLY be found in one place. Like in a book where you want to force the user to go in one direction and only access the data one way.

Use posts when the order doesn't matter because the user won't be presented with the full list in outline form anyway. That's really the only difference between pages and posts:

Pages are meant to be found in the same way in the same order every time (by having a location in the "table of contents). Posts are much more flexible, and can be included in multiple locations at the same time (by having multiple categories or tags)

That help? Don't be afraid to use pages... but try not to overuse them.

Kelly Kermode

Posted on Sep 21, 2013 12:14 AM - Permalink

Rob! Awesome post. Thanks so much for taking the time to elaborate on this. Timing is fantastic. :)

Annette Whitby

Posted on Sep 20, 2013 3:35 AM - Permalink

I was planning on spending the weekend researching this topic, so your comments are timely! This has given me good things to consider.

Thanks for taking out the time to share this with us, Rob!

Mike Skocko

Posted on Sep 20, 2013 1:53 AM - Permalink

Read three times through sleep-deprived head-cold fog. Will read again tomorrow.

(Rob's going to change the way I display quests, isn't he?)

Rob Schwartz

Posted on Sep 20, 2013 11:57 AM - Permalink

I'm positively shocked that I am convinced myself... I guess it's about time I realize I'm not doing static sites anymore... So I don't have to think of websites this way.

It was a LONG time coming around that bend for me... I'm having to let go of all my old ways of doing things but it's amazing! I'm even getting a hang on programming more because I'm letting myself not be so linear in my way of thinking. (apple basic in the 70's had me stuck!!)

terrence banks

Posted on Sep 20, 2013 12:35 AM - Permalink

Good stuff! Thanks for the information!