Ah, pages and posts. They make up your whole website. They seem simple. But they’re so easy to get wrong.
Questions about stuff like pages and posts are really questions about “information architecture,” or IA. IA is basically what it sounds like: the way the content of your site is organized, and how users will find what they need.
This stuff isn’t always intuitive. Should an announcement of an event be on a post, or on a page? What’s the difference between a category and a tag? This guide will clarify the differences between the two major structural elements of your site—pages and posts—and give you some industry best practices to help you get the most out of them.
Pages vs. Posts
For the most part, each piece of content you create to build your site will be either a page or a post. This is a crucial distinction that a lot of beginners get wrong; get it wrong for long enough, and the structure of your site will become unwieldy and unpleasant for you to use.
A page is for static, generally unchanging, top-level content. An “About Us” section, for example, should be a page.
A post is for timely content, often displaying the author info, that you can assign tags and categories to as needed (we’ll go over those in detail below). A press release, for example, should be a post.
Those definitions will take you pretty far, to be honest. But if you want to really get to know posts and pages, here are the key differences.
Pages cannot be assigned categories or tags, or be organized by date.
If your website is like a house, pages are like the walls and floorboards. You always want the walls and floorboards to stay just where they are, and never disappear or suddenly change size or shape, right? Pages are designed to do exactly that, which is why they can’t be organized by date: they’ll always be sitting right where you left them. This is as opposed to, for example, posts on a Blog page, which will move down the page as more posts are added.
We’ll cover categories separately, but it’s essentially same principle; you’ll be able to arrange posts by category, and thus make a post appear under, say, “Updates” and “In the News.” Pages are top-level, so they don’t have categories at all. They’re just themselves.
Posts can be assigned categories and tags, and be organized by date.
Keeping up with the house metaphor, let’s say you need to remind your family to buy milk, so you want to put a note on the fridge. If the walls of the kitchen are pages, that note is a post. You want your family to see the note today, and probably tomorrow. But by next week, you may have an A+ paper you want to stick in the place of honor instead.
Writing a new post is like sliding that note off to the side to put up the paper: your family can still see the note, but they’ll see the paper first, because it’s more timely. In six months the note may be totally buried, which is fine, because no one needs to see it anymore unless they’re specifically looking for it anyway.
Pages can have a hierarchy.
In WordPress, pages can be “parent” pages or “child” pages. This is how you group related pages together under one more general page. For example, if you have a Staff page, it could be a “child” of an About Us page.
In the example below, you’ll see the menu for Tides Advocacy’s website, featuring its five top-level pages.
Here is the same menu when you hover over the Our Solutions page:
Now you can see the drop-down menu, with pages like “For Social Change Leaders,” “For Individual Donors,” etc. Those are all child pages of the parent page, “Our Solutions.”
By doing it this way, Tides can still keep up with the best practices of posts and pages—top-level, unchanging content should be on pages, not posts—while still achieving their goal of having all the relevant content tucked under its parent page where the user can easily find it.
Posts can have tags and categories.
So, we’ve seen that pages can be grouped hierarchically. Posts can be grouped by two elements: tags and categories.
We’ll get into the nitty gritty of tags and categories in a separate post. But essentially, categories and tags are how you can create collections of similar posts — if you run a multi-issue org, for example, you may want your users to see all your Climate posts in one place, all your Race posts in another, etc. You’ll assign each post its relevant tags and/or categories, then set up pages that display everything in those categories or tags. And don’t worry: this sounds way more complicated than it actually is.
So, should my site have mostly posts, mostly pages, or what?
It’s always important to have a clear sense of what your website does. Not how you want it to look, or the information you think is important to convey, but the actual work it’s doing for your group. Then ask questions about looks and content. Having the answer to that question will help guide you in all kinds of ways, including your decisions about your site’s information architecture.
Are you an organization that primarily engages in one-time events like trainings, rallies, press conferences, or meetings? You’ll probably end up with a lot of posts collected under a tightly controlled set of categories, in order to make sure every site visitor can see the most timely content, and find it exactly where they expect to find it.
Are you an org that provides direct services, such as providing school supplies to single parents or giving out small grants? You’ll probably have mostly pages, describing who you are, what you do, and providing contact info for folks who either need your services or want to help provide them.
If a blog with seven different categories of updates won’t help your mission to provide school supplies, don’t have one: just focus on top-level pages that clearly show what you offer and how parents can get it.
If your org is too busy pulling off awesome stunts to create five separate pages for its mission, history, staff, beliefs, and strategies, don’t make them: set up a quick “About Us” page and then let the posts describing your work speak for themselves.
There are endless resources on WordPress stuff, but there’s one big issue: almost all of it was written for the old WordPress editor. Most of the information is the same, but the new editor looks wildly different, so you’re going to need to just kind of tune out the outdated screenshots and step-by-step advice. That said…
WordPress itself has some really useful tutorials for beginners, but it’s kind of buried in the site’s massive Support section (not to mention those outdated screenshots). Just jump straight to their entries on posts and pages.
WP Beginner is a great resource if you, unlike me, can avoid getting distracted by the ads. Their rundown of categories and tags is pretty excellent.
For a very general overview of information architecture principles, Andi Ferguson has a short-but-sweet piece here. The linked article at the bottom of her post is solid too.
Last but not least, if you do need step-by-step advice on WordPress basics, we have a video tutorial about the basics of creating posts and pages here, and a breakdown of all the most common WordPress blocks here.