With the emerging of tags, and I’m not talking about Technorati tags here but tags as a part of your own blog, categories can become redundant. A lot of blogs out there has got a bunch of categories, and with the addition of tags, they suddenly have duplicates of everything. Or perhaps they have a lot of categories, because the categories have been used as tags, basically, which perhaps was a great idea back then, but today is totally unnecessary.
Finding a balance between categories and tags might not be as easy, nor as obvious, as one would like to think.
The Ideal Category/Tag Setup
In my opinion, categories and tags are two completely different things. Mind you, I’m tackling this issue as both a designer and a publisher. The ideal setup for your particular fancy or site might be something completely different, there’s the whole matter of what you need and want as well, of course.
I define categories and tags like this:
- Categories are main sections of the site. If you’ve got an entertainment blog, “music” might be one category, and “movies” another, but no more niched than that.
- Tags are descriptions of post content. This means that if you’ve got a post in that “music” category, it might be tagged “metal” because that’s the genre, and “Alice Cooper” because that’s the artist.
The benefits of this way to look at categories and tags, is that categories can be treated as true sections of your site. Most blogging platforms support category specific styling, so that music category can have a cool guitar at top, or use a special color, or whatever. The point is that you can style a specific category in a fitting way, making it more obvious that it is one of the (few) main sections of your blog.
It might take some time to apply a more sound use of categories on your blog, but defining your sections is a good thing.
Tags, on the other hand, are like a loose search query. The point isn’t to style everything tagged “Alice Cooper” in a specific way, since it might be posts from completely diverse areas (i.e. different categories), but rather to list everything relevant.
The Blog Herald had a gadzillion tags before its redesign. Since it uses WordPress, I used the included script to convert categories to tags, and then sorted the content in more relevant categories, like news and features, and so on. It might take some time to apply a more sound use of categories on your blog, but defining your sections is a good thing.
If you’re using a blog platform as a CMS (something I’ve touched before), using categories as main sections of your site makes even more sense. After all, you’ve got your menu right there, in the categories, and you’ll be using the blog platform as it is meant to be used, the only difference is that you’ll style the various categories a bit more elaborately than you might have for a traditional blog.
What are your thoughts on how to use categories and tags on a blog? Share your thoughts in the comments!