Custom Menus: Featuring Older Content

Making content available to a growing community of readers is of paramount importance to bloggers. That’s why every blog should have a structure and navigation that’s intuitive and easy for readers to use. Though we aim to provide value in all our posts not all posts can be displayed on the front page of a blog. And the more we  publish the deeper our valuable content recedes into the blog where readers may not find it. What to do?

Featuring Older Content

There are various ways and means to bring posts located deeper than the front page to reader attention. Using them becomes increasingly important as our readership grows. We want to insure that first time visitors locate what they want with ease, as it increases the odds of their returning and subscribing. And we don’t want to so lose any current readers.

Archives, Categories and Tag Cloud widgets and the (automatically updated) dynamic matching pages the software creates when we publish posts, provide reader access to all of posts.

The Recent Posts widget may include posts not longer situate on the front page. The Top Posts and Pages Widget provides display choices of either top posts by views or by likes. They cover posts that are already popular and/or easy to locate but what about the others?

Text widgets for featuring older content can come into play. Theme features such as featured post sliders and  other ways to feature older content are useful too. But a new trend is also developing.

Trends and the Future

In the past all of our viewers were using desktops and our strongest reliance was on widgets.  Now more laptops, mobiles and tablets coming into use. Responsive width themes, custom menus and post formats are becoming more prominent.  That’s why this post is focused on creating index pages and including them in custom menus.

Fixed means the width of the theme does not change according to screen resolution (or the width of browser) your visitors use.

Fluid means the width of the theme changes according to screen resolution (or the width of browser) your visitors use.

Responsive width means the the layout adapts depending on the size of the device being used to view your site. When responsive width themes are viewed on mobiles sidebars appear below the posts in order to provide as much space as possible for reading.

The WordPress.com Theme team uses the “responsive-width” tag in the Themes Showcase to indicate which themes have this feature.

Pages: Dynamic and Static

When we publish posts (not pages) the software automatically displays them both in the matching widgets and on dynamic Archives, Categories and Tags pages. The posts can be located by clicking the links displayed in the appropriate widgets. The dynamic (automatically updating) Archives, Categories and Tags pages created by the software must not to be confused with static pages we bloggers create. Static pages do not automatically update.

Pages we bloggers create can be displayed by placing a Pages widget in the sidebar of any theme. In many themes they are automatically displayed often in a horizontal navigation bar and sometimes vertically arranged. Pages can also be displayed (along with other items) in a custom menu or in Custom Menu widget.

Custom Menus

A custom menu allows us to display tabs (links) to dynamic Categories pages with drop-downs to Sub-categories pages in tabs along the navigation,  where normally only Pages tabs are displayed. What’s more? We can include Pages with drop-downs to Sub-pages and/or Tags pages and/or Custom Links as well.

We are in charge of what appears in a custom menu. We choose what to display and which to hide. We choose the order of display.

Provided we create a custom menu, then and add the dynamic Categories pages and Tags pages pages to it, they can be accessed by clicking tabs (links) commonly appearing in the top horizontal menu.  (If your theme supports them, you can also add post formats pages to your custom menu.)

Note: There are many Common mistakes and misconceptions about custom menus and the article I linked to clears them all up.

Archives Pages

An Archives Page template is available in some themes and a Links Page template is available in some.  For details see Archives and Links page templates.

Regardless of the theme we use, we can embed the Archives shortcode on a Page and include that page  in a custom menu and that’s what I’ve done on this blog. I read Richard’s Building a post index at WordPress.com with archives shortcode and replaced the manually updated post index I had kept for years with a post index on a page I titled Sitemap.

Creative Pages

Any Page can be designed to display text and/or images in columns, HTML tables or in list format.  You can use you imagination and come up with an index page that’s eye catching, for example,  thumbnail images on pages can be used to create creative index pages.

Discussion

This blog now has over 700 posts and I’m focused on making them as easy to access as possible. As the content in this blog isn’t graphic in nature I chose a two column text format, without images for my new  Basic Blogging page.  I hope will be as useful to my readers as my Popular Posts pageis.

  1. Are you using a responsive width theme?
  2. Are you using a custom menu?
  3. Have you created any index pages to provide access to older content in your blog?
  4. Do you have any tips to share?

47 thoughts on “Custom Menus: Featuring Older Content

  1. Pingback: Use the Display Posts Shortcode to Effectively Feature Content | one cool site

  2. I saw your “Sitemap” page and was so impressed with the simplicity of it, I decided to search your site to see if you wrote about how you did it…which of course you had. Just created a page with the “archive” code and can’t believe how easy it was! It took me literally one minute. And now I’ve got a great new resource on my blog! Thanks for the inspiration.

  3. Oh…I see someone else had that question.
    Oh, disappointing change…makes sense, but still disappointing. Maybe access to PP is already a problem for people, due to many images etc. My thought is that people who are interested in PP might be more apt to have desktops than mobile devices. (although I’ve recently been putting posts on stumbled upon and reddit and seem to be getting a lot of views from there….I guess they might be younger people? ) I’ve noticed that people tend to not look at the pages that are in, or accessed through, the headline area….at least I don’t see those being listed as being viewed in the daily site stats viewing. I’m guessing that people wouldn’t look there. A lot of views on PP are of older posts, and I really like people having “effortless” access to those ideas/images, but I don’t think they’ll bother with other ways of accessing. I guess there isn’t an option other than the archive idea? I think I’m edging out of my range of capability…uh oh.

    • Hi there,
      It’s not surprising your older posts gets more traffic than the new ones do. That traffic is likely to be coming via search engines. Our inclination to clutter our sidebars will also diminish as we learn how to strip our blogs down to the basics or lose traffic for not doing so. More laptops, mobiles and tablets coming into use and that’s why responsive width themes, custom menus and post formats are becoming more prominent.

      Responsive width means the the layout adapts depending on the size of the device being used to view your site. When responsive width themes are viewed on mobiles sidebars display below the posts in order to provide as much space as possible for reading.

      Twenty Ten includes special styles for the new Post Formats, Aside and Gallery. http://en.support.wordpress.com/posts/post-formats/ When viewed on an index page (like your home page or a list of posts from a particular month), asides get a simplified look that seamlessly fit between full-length posts, while galleries give a peek at the photos that lie within.

      At this point in time the majority of those who visit your blog are desktop users. However, I expect that will change dramatically in the next 2 years. Scroll gown to the very end of this page http://www.quantcast.com/pocketperspectives.wordpress.com and then click the
      see more” button to view your mobile stats http://www.quantcast.com/pocketperspectives.wordpress.com#!mobileWeb

      • Most views (until I started reddit and stumbled upon) come from google image search for words like gratitude, I’m happy, thankful, hang in there, patience, kindness etc…kind of nice/heartwarming to see those terms being felt/typed/searched and leading to PP : )

        And, oh thank you so much for those links… I love statistics, so find the quantcast information fascinating! Isn’t it amazing to view information like that!!!! I thought most of the views and interest were female, but see there are almost equal numbers of men. And there are more younger people than I would have thought. And I thought there were more people visiting…I guess they must look at multiple pages. I try not to concern myself with “site stats”…to keep coming back to my sincere motivation of sharing pages that might help/offer some kind of soothing, kindness, comfort, clarity etc…but I find that stats can “catch me” and complicate that and involve a practice of seeing and letting go of feisty “ego”…an ongoing practice, for sure.

        I guess I could remove the Category cloud section on the right side of the page? The “tags” seems like an index section, now that the older posts aren’t listed in recent posts.

        And I suppose I could get rid of that really long blog roll? I use the blog roll, but it’s long and maybe slows down loading for others? I don’t think others use that blog roll.

        I don’t add awards anymore to that side bar… it’s very kind that people share those with PP, but I don’t get involved with them anymore…but they are kind to be offered.

        I know lots of people in my “age range” are buying and using ipads, so I guess a transition is happening. As you write…learning how to strip the blogs down to basics? oh, clearing the “clutter” might be challenging!

  4. Hi Timethief, I just noticed that the “recent posts” widget on the sidebar of my PP blog is limiting the number of recent posts listed in that column.. I did have it set to include all old posts, which I assume might be considered excessive, but people often click through those old posts, based on titles. Now there are only the last several months of posts in the side bar. I went into my widgets, recent posts settings and can’t increase the number allowed. Do you know if Twentyten has changed that maximum and if so, if there is a way to override it? (well, I guess they have, since it’s different now) I searched in wordpress and in their twentyten information section, but don’t see anything about that limit. Even though that column might seem excessive, people do access pages, based on titles and I’d really like to keep it the way it was. Any ideas? Maybe if I eliminated the blogroll list?…might that free up space in that column? thanks Kathy (PP)

  5. Lots of good ideas here.
    I’m using the Bouquet theme, which is responsive. I’m thinking about what I want to add to a custom menu. I’ve been working on refining my categories and tags so that the categories give the big picture, and the tags are more detailed. I’m also working on photo galleries and how to use them to point to the posts they came from.

    • Hi Margie,
      When it comes to galleries I recommend Jennifer’s (a fellow Volunteer’s) blog http://wp.me/p8gVp-L It’s an excellent resource. This theme has 2 custom menus so I put the categories I wanted to include in the footer/bottom menu.

  6. I love organization, your article is perfect.

    The one thing that I find really bogs down my system is when someone posts more than 3 high resolution images on a posting – they take up a lot of space and take forever to load. Although it’s normally a professional photographer, they need to show their work – which I love to see.

    • I’m with you when it comes to images – less is more!

      One of the reasons I not longer “dig” foodie blogs as much as I once did is the proliferation of HUGE images in each post. It seems every food blogger thinks they must have at least a half dozen images ranging from boiling water and cracking eggs to the finished dish. Worse still they don’t optimize and presize the images before they upload them. They upload HUGE images direct from their cameras.

      Prior to uploading any image into your blog, regardless if it’s a header image, a featured image, an image in a post or page, in a Post format (Gallery or Image), an image for sidebar display in an image widget or a text widget, you can optimize and re-size it in either a desktop image editing software or online image editing software to fit the space you intend to use it in. By undertaking proper image preparation first you will get the best image quality, won’t be wasting your media storage space, and won’t be wasting your time troubleshooting. http://onecoolsitebloggingtips.com/2012/03/26/cropper-or-proper-image-preparation-2/

  7. Thank you for posting this, I have been receiving so many e-mails on custom menu questions, that cannot even find the time to respond, great post. Just wrote a short post to respond to the e-mails, and directed them to your site and Roughseasithemed. :)

    • Thanks for the redirection but I assumed that when bloggers need support they would got to the support forums http://en.forums.wordpress.com where they can get accurate and full answers to their questions. Maybe I’m dense or distracted due to my brother’s untimely death and coping with my grief but I did not recognize you or roughseasinthemed, who are both my blogging buddies, as being bloggers in the blogging tips niche. The best post on custom menus is this one > http://wpbtips.wordpress.com/2011/12/19/custom-menus/ and all the Volunteers who provide support on the support forums direct bloggers to it.

      • My deepest condolescences and I am so sorry, of course know this does not help…

        Thank you for the link, going to post it here.

        Again, my deepest condolescense, and just really in shock in reading about your brother. I two have suffered great grief over the past (3) years, and it’s just the most unspeakable emotions ever tried to go through (not through it – don’t think that’s possible for me). To be quite honest, thought was “losing it” for quite some time.

        Well, anyone could see my grieving from my actions on the forums, posts etc.

        Counseling did not help, the only thing that helped me as (grieving over several loved ones and one was an untimely accidental death) was a little tiny book.

        This book saved me from hiding away in my room and never coming out…each page I read each day, each page is it’s own, so it’s not a regular book.

        Grievers wrote this little book, and it was the only book that really connected with my emotions:

        “A Time To Grieve”
        by
        Carol Staudacher
        (ordered it from Barnes and Noble online)

        The grievers whom wrote the book, wrote it in a manner as is short paragraphs, as people who are grieving (like you and myself) can easily process the highly important information.

        that book and

        hitting my garbage can with a baseball bat outside.

        So deeply sorry for your loss my friend.

        • Thanks for your kindness Liz. I do appreciate it. Grief is a roller coaster ride. I’m slowly recovering from the loss of my mother and brother within months of each other.

  8. Thanks. Repetition is the natue of thought. I saw your sitemap and felt the need but this post finally helped me out. Regards, for this timethief. It saved my time. Take care of your health! All the best.

  9. Great tips on bring our older material to the forefront. I have a popular posts page and an archive page using a shortcode. I didn’t know it was possible to create a two column page. Is that theme specific or is that possible on all themes?

  10. Hi TT.
    Long time no speak. As always I keep in touch. Love your site.
    I have recently dropped the tag cloud widget and have introduced a sitemap. Problem with the sitemap is that it doesn’t show all posts in a category but is limited to the number (per category) specified in the settings/ reading/ ‘blog pages at most’ number.

    As to tags I seem to be reading that they are no longer the bees knees. What is your take on tag clouds please ?

    Best regards, Peter

    • You must be referring to another blog, other than the one linked to your username. I removed it so WordPress.com bloggers aren’t confused by it. You’re right about the limitations of the Archives shortcode I used on a static page I titled “sitemap”. The WordPress.com Archives shortcode does not reflect categories. http://en.support.wordpress.com/archives-shortcode/

      As for Tag Clouds, I did not experience readers actually using them so I don’t consider them to be very useful.

    • Hello there,
      Thanks for the positive feedback. :) Please feel free to create your own index pages. I find that mine do get traffic and that means that they are useful — hooray!

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