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Customizing WordPress: Pages and Posts

Last updated Oct 17, 2003.

By Miraz Jordan

While posts make the blog, pages can transform your WordPress site into a full-fledged content management system. This article explains how to use some fundamental features of posts and pages in WordPress.

Posts Make a Blog

Posts are the heartbeat of any blog; you write what you have to say, then you publish it. Your latest post appears on the front page; an older post gracefully moves aside into the archives to make way for the newcomer. It’s simple.

But what about reference material, extended copyright details, or other text or images you want to make readily available to visitors? If you put such content into a post it will soon disappear into the archives and be comparatively hard to find, rather than right in front of your visitor’s nose.

Pages Hold Static Information

Pages are what you need for such "static" information. And WordPress lets you have as many pages as you like. WordPress gives you so much power over pages that some people use WordPress not for blogging, but rather to create content management systems (CMS).

Figure 1

Figure 1 In the WordPress Dashboard, the Reading Options section lets you set your front page to display either posts or a static page. You can also set how many posts should appear on blog pages.

Posts Per Page

If you tend to write mainly short posts, you may set a large number per page, like 10 or 15. If you tend to write longer posts, you may use a smaller number, like three or five posts per page. For specialized blogs, you may display one single post on the front page, or dozens.

You need to consider how long any one page may take to load for visitors. If you routinely include images in your posts, then you may need to display fewer posts per page.

Of course, your blog’s design will also affect how many posts you choose to display. Two or three-column pages can look odd if one column is much longer or shorter than the others.

Write a Post or a Page

"Write Post" and "Write Page" are both options that are available in the Write section of your Blog’s Dashboard. When you write or edit a post or page there are options available on the right side, each listed on a blue stripe. Click the plus sign at the end of the stripe to expand the settings area.

Both posts and pages have the discussion, password, slug, and status options in common, but where a post has a timestamp and a category, a page can have a parent, template, and an order.

Figure 2

Figure 2 I’m writing a sub-page, and choosing a parent page in the Page Parent section.

Post and Page Options Explained

Categories

You can assign a post to one or more categories. Readers can elect to look at archives of posts by category, or subscribe to a particular category’s RSS feed.

Categories can be hierarchical. You may, for example, set up "Fiction" and "Non-fiction" as subcategories of a "Books" category. Use the Manage Categories section of the Dashboard to add, remove, or rearrange categories.

Discussion

The discussion option lets you override the Blog’s default settings for allowing comments and pings.

Order Page

Generally, pages are listed in alphabetical order, unless you override it. If you want pages to be listed in a specific order in the navigation area, use the "Order Page" option to assign a place to a particular page. You can, for example, number the pages to establish the sequence. By default, pages have a page order of 0.

Experiment with assigning some pages the same order number — you’ll see that alphabetical order takes over as a sub-sort for those pages.

Figure 3

Figure 3 I’ve set a custom page order for my Pages named Alpha, Beta and Gamma. It overrides the default alphabetical order.

Parent Page

Pages may have sub-Pages. An example might be a Parent Page called About This Website. You may then have separate Pages with information about accessibility information, credits, copyright information, photos of the authors, and so on.

Each of those sub-Pages would be set to use About This Website as the Parent Page. Figures 02 and 03 both show a sub-Page.

Password

Set a password if you want to keep some posts or pages private. If a visitor clicks on a link to a password-protected page or post, she will see a message like this one:

"This post is password-protected. To view it, please enter your password below."

Without the password, viewers are locked out. See Figures 4 and 5 below.

Slug

The page or post slug is used when your blog is set to create ’"friendly" addresses. Generally, WordPress uses addresses that are not very friendly, either to visitors or to search engines. These fictitious examples represent a post and page respectively:

Something like this is much better:

The slug is what’s used to create the address. When you enter a title such as About This Website for your post or page, WordPress uses the whole thing as the slug. That can create some long URLs like this (or longer):

That’s not always helpful, either.

Edit the slug and you control the URL. Try to make the slug short and meaningful:

Status

Pages and posts can be any of the following: published, draft, or private.

A draft is a post or page that you’re still working on, and not ready for the world to see. Once it’s published, anyone can view it on your blog.

Don’t be alarmed if you create a private post (or page) and then check your blog to see it emblazoned across the front page. It’s visible to you because you’re logged in. Log out and the post will disappear, as you can see in Figures 4 and 5.

Figure 4

Figure 4 Public, private, and password-protected posts. Because I’m logged in, the private post is visible.

Figure 5

Figure 5 I’ve logged out and the private post is just not there.

Template Page

Pages can be based on templates. This topic is too large to explore here but you can visit the Codex for more information:

Timestamp Post

Edit the timestamp to have a post use a date (or time) different from when you actually wrote it. This is particularly useful for scheduling a post to be published after you’ve written it.

The WordPress framework gives you a lot of power over your website, whether you're creating a blog or a more elaborate content management system. In my next column, I'll explain how to integrate WordPress with other applications, such as a photo gallery.