Quick note: your input on site navigation

Time for some feedback from you, dear readers. This time, it’s all about categories and tags.

Currently, we have 6 main categories (Movies, Television, Books, Gaming, Other Media, Discussion), each with several subcategories. This means we have several subcategories with the same name (such as “Horror/Thriller” under books, movies and television). It’s feeling pretty chaotic to me, and I’m thinking it would be better to have a system with just a few categories (and may use tags more for additional breakdown).

My question to you is: how do you navigate the site, and do you use categories or tags to do it, and do you have specific suggestions? Please give me your feedback in comments or by email, if you’re shy. Possible answers (just to get you thinking about how you do something you do instinctively) might include:

  • I usually just browse the latest articles/comments I haven’t read and never use categories or tags.
  • I usually use search to find a specific topic.
  • I use categories and like the current system.
  • I use categories, but I think you could have a simpler categorization system, such as [your idea here].
  • I wish you’d make more use of tags for specific TV shows.
  • I wish you’d make more use of tags for specific issues.
  • [Something] is an accessibility issue. (I definitely want to hear about anything that affects visitors who are disabled or those coping with workplace firewalls or any other issue with accessing websites.)

As you have probably already guessed, it’s not possible to please everyone. But the more feedback I get, the better I can improve the site. We’re getting ready to release a new theme which I’m hoping will be awesome for everyone, and I figure we might as well make any other big changes at the same time.

Thanks in advance for your feedback! And just fyi, this post will disappear in a few weeks, with your comments (just because it’s not something anyone’s going to want to read in 20 years).


  1. says

    Sometimes I’m looking for one of the articles that was more of a “general feminism” piece, and I have no idea what category to look under. Is that the least bit helpful to you?

    • says

      Yeah, it is, though I don’t know precisely what to do about it. Most of those are under “Ponderables” or “Real Life”, which are subcats of “Discussion.” But there’s a lot of overlap with the categories we have – for example, when that schoolteacher was tazed so excessively by a cop, I can’t remember if I filed it under “real life” or “News” (a subcat of TV). It would make sense either place, and that’s why I think fewer categories might actually be a helpful thing.

  2. EmilyEmilyEmily says

    Well up until today I couldn’t see any of your links (because of colorblindness). Now I can, except for the ones in the sidebars on the right. Which is less of an issue because they’re in predictable locations. But it was a bit confusing for me at first.

    I don’t really have any opinions on the category system since I mostly don’t use it.

    • says

      Interestingly, someone just informed me about the colorblindness issue last night, so I made that change just then. The sidebars looked cluttered with every link underlined, so I left them un-underlined in the hopes that, as you say, their positions make it fairly obvious they’re links.

      Thanks for your input!

      • EmilyEmilyEmily says

        I think actually that was my (gender)friend contacting you on my behalf, since they did that last night when I was being too anxious to send an email myself.

        Either way, it does appear that I couldn’t find links, and now I can.

        Another issue I ran into with accessibility is that because of a slow and slightly unreliable internet connection I sometimes have a hard time getting videos to play properly, and as such often prefer not to bother, which does mean some kind of alternate caption or such might be nice.

        This one isn’t nearly as pressing (for me at least) and much more complex to do, and I’ve seen it done some of the time, too, though not everywhere, so maybe you’re taking it into account as best you can. Anyway some consideration of this issue might be nice though.

        • says

          By “alternate caption”, are you talking an HTML alt tag or something like that? If so, I’ll look into it and let the other writers know how to add it. When we post videos for articles other than Thursday Interruption, we transcribe or at least detail them for those who can’t or won’t watch the video (I hate watching videos myself). None of us has time to transcribe four TI videos per week, but if an alt tag would be helpful on those vids, we’re happy to accommodate.

          I’m glad to hear the link changes are working for you! And I’m very glad you guys let me know.

  3. says

    The current category system works well for me. But I never actually realised there were tags – I guess because I’m used to lj so they’re where I would have thought to look. And I have actually wished before that there were tags for TV shows and authors … duh. In which case it would matter to me that those things were tagged consistently, which looking through I don’t know that they always are?

    • says

      We’ve never established a way to use the tags, which is why the ones you see are pretty random. But we could re-tag old posts if we just had a firm idea what would be helpful.

      You mention TV show names and authors. That’s one way to go. Someone else mentioned we could tag with genre and leave the categories for the media (that is, keep the main cats we have now, and replace the subcats with tags). We could actually do both things with the tags. It just means you end up with a lot of tags for visitors to sort through.

        • says

          The good thing about tags is that it’s considered a fine practice to have schmillions of them. With categories, it’s recommended you keep them under about 10. Tags can be far more specific and numerous.

          Don’t ask me why. In function, they’re basically the same thing!

  4. anon mouse says

    i never use categories nor tags–i read new posts as they come up via rss feed.

    what would make sense to me is to put everything as tags, so eg clicking on ‘horror/thriller’ would get you everything with that whether book or movie etc. but only if you could say “see all things both tagged horror _and_ tagged book?” I don’t know. might be too confusing. and as i said above I don’t use them so i am probably not the best to take advice on “how would you like to be able to use them.”

    hope this helps !

    • says

      To my knowledge, there is no way to sort for tags within a category in WordPress. It’s just not really designed for anything quite that complex. :( But I’ll keep your suggestion in mind as I read others. Thanks!

  5. SunlessNick says

    # I usually just browse the latest articles/comments I haven’t read and never use categories or tags.
    # I usually use search to find a specific topic.

    Those go for me, except that I rarely use categories rather than never; but rarely enough that the specific system will make no odds to me.

  6. Alysa says

    # I usually just browse the latest articles/comments I haven’t read and never use categories or tags.
    # I usually use search to find a specific topic.

    These go for me, as well, though I do also believe in the usefulness of tags for specific issues.

  7. The Other Patrick says

    I believe I have used the categories, but normally I use the search here or even via google if I’m looking for specific articles, and otherwise just read the most recent ones.

  8. Robin says

    I visit pretty much daily to read the latest articles, and use the search function if I want to recommend a particular article to someone. I don’t think I’ve used the category tags, but I do occasionally follow the related links at the bottom.

  9. says

    I don’t get the difference between tags and categories. I’m sure I’ve seen articles on other sites that are in more than one category: short list of categories, longer list of tags. It’s confusing.

    I use the RSS feeds to tell me when there are new articles, and where there are new comments. Occasionally I follow the “Related posts” links to older articles. When I want to find something again, I use search, but I’d probably use tags if they were consistent.

    • says

      The idea is that categories are more general, and tags are more granular. For example, we’d never set up a category called “Joss Whedon” because there’d only be maybe 10 articles in it. But a tag “Joss Whedon” would be desirable to those who’ve come here wondering what we have to say about his work. Also, categories are generally part of a main menu displayed on every page of a site (which is why you don’t want 100 of them – it’s ugly, plus, Google considers it bad form and ranks you poorly if you do it), whereas tags can be neatly tucked away on their own page, and still easily accessible to those looking for a more granular breakdown of what’s on the site.

      The confusion comes from different systems using them different ways. LJ, for example, uses tags the way WP uses categories. But then LiveJournals were never intended to be browsed or searched for particular topics the way a website would be.

  10. says

    Okay. From what I’m seeing here:

    There’s very little support for the current category structure, and lots more interest in tags. Therefore, I propose we just keep the main categories (Movies, Television…) and lose the sub-categories.

    Tags could include the former genre sub-categories (in fact, I can automatically change all the sub-categories into tags in WP), plus issues (in the case of non-media posts), authors, names of people involved (for stories about real people), occasionally names of directors or actors when it seems highly relevant (tagging the whole cast of every movie/show is overkill IMO, but “Joss Whedon” would be a tag some people might care to browse).

    Tags would be seen at the bottom of each post (not on the front page), and I’ll set up a page listing all the tags.

    What do you think?

  11. says

    for general reading I just read what comes up in my reader or the ‘related posts’ at the end of a post (they are a great way to disappear a whole day).
    If I want to find something in particular I search.

  12. Payal says

    This is my first comment, though I’m a regular reader here. Though I should chip in. The first three options apply for me in the following order:

    1. I browse the latest articles/comments.
    2. I sometimes use search to find a specific topic.
    3. I sometimes use the categories, and the current system works for me.


    4. I find the “Related Posts” links extremely useful. Most of the time it has led me on to posts and topics of interest.

    Hope this helps.

  13. Verity says

    First comment, regular reader! Thanks so much for this site – it educates and informs me and really has helped me develop my thoughts around my feminism.

    I use the Article RSS feed to tell me when there are new articles via my RSS feeder on my phone or on my laptop at Google reader. Then I read the articles when I have access to my laptop at home or occasionally at lunch hours at work. I generally read most articles in full. I don’t use the category system and don’t really care about tags.

    This isn’t really about categories or tags BUT I would really love to be able to read the whole article on the RSS feeder on my phone. Full mobile internet access is expensive and slow for me when I’m out of the house and the area that I live does not have good 3G coverage. I also sometimes feel uncomfortable accessing links on the Hathor Legacy website (rather than Google reader) when I’m at work, particularly for sensitive subjects like rape, because my screen is visible to others and our IT admin monitors internet use and can see the URL. I think this would be solved by having the full article on the RSS feed.

    • sbg says

      The problem with that has already been dissected: giving full RSS feeds enables people to more easily gank the articles and pretend they wrote them. Stealing ain’t cool. Giving the truncated RSS feed wasn’t a decision Jenn made lightly, I can assure you of that.

  14. Dani says

    I find out when there are new articles through the RSS feed and rarely go back to old ones… when I do want a specific article I generally just search for it instead of messing around with categories or tags.

  15. says

    Sounds like a lot of you use search, so I’ve just replaced WordPress’ search feature with one from Bing, and I’d appreciate some feedback. WordPress’ search:

    –doesn’t do well with exact phrases, such as an author’s name or a title.
    –sorts by DATE rather than relevancy. The latest posts to mention “the bechdel test” in passing will all come up before the posts that are actually about “the bechdel test”.
    –Text within comments isn’t even considered. (With Bing, you can even search a commenter’s name and get results.)

    From some test searches I did, Bing performed much better. Let me know your experience with it.

  16. The Other Anne says

    I leave for a month and everything changes! Hah, I love the new site layout, colors, design, everything. It looks more…friendly to navigate, if that makes sense.

    Any plans to do the same to What Privilege?

  17. Cloudtigress says

    Coming in late to this conversation, but I have one thought/question about the blog changes: is it possible to a box somewhere that would allow a poster to check what country they’re from? Ever since I read Feministe’s (sp?) Cally’s takedown of USAsian ‘blindness’ when posting on international sites, I’ve been thinking of why people automatically assume sometimes that the majority of people they ‘talk’ with on Internet sites are from the same country they’re from (I doubt USAsians are the only people who do that), and how to solve that perception. It occured to me that much of the problem comes from simple lack of location info about other posters, which then leads into the ASSumtion that the other posters come from the same country as the reader. I figured a box that showed the flag of the country a poster is from would be a subtle enough cluebat for other readers to figure out roughly where the poster is coming from, culture-wise. I’ve seen similar type boxes for message board posters, but didn’t know if something similar can be done for a blog site like this one.

    Don’t know if I’ve made sense or not with the above; if not I’ll try to explain again.

    • says

      I understand what you’re saying, but I have a reservation about it: the vast majority of us happen to be in the US, so the result would be lots and lots of US flags. Given the US’s privileged position in global media domination, it would feel to me like slapping people in the face with obnoxious if not offensive levels of nationalism. I think mentioning it in text would also give the same impression. Also,

      I’ve been thinking of why people automatically assume sometimes that the majority of people they ‘talk’ with on Internet sites are from the same country they’re from (I doubt USAsians are the only people who do that)

      It actually doesn’t work that way. People assume whoever they’re talking to is “the default.” Racially, among English-speakers, that’s white, so people of all races tend to assume other posters are white at first. Unless they’re in a woman-dominated net milieu, they assume folks are male, too, since that’s the gender default. I don’t know if the US is precisely “the default”, but we certainly are dominant.

      It’s something to consider. I’m just not sure how to constructively render it.

  18. says

    Yep, I was just about to write a post to explain them, but here’s the deal:

    –I feel “nested comments” are causing some problems, especially when they break down like they did on the BioWare post.
    –Like, it’s hard to keep up with all the new comments unless they’re at the bottom of the page, in sequential order (which they’re not, with nesting).
    –So I’ve removed nested commenting, and am doing my best to replace its convenience factor with the “quote – reply” links. “Quote” automatically sticks a blockquote of a particular comment in the comment box, so you don’t have to type out the code, and “Reply” does a more Twitter style link reference to that comment when you don’t really want to quote the person, but just want to respond.

    I’m also trying to figure out how to bring back the orange dots that go with the Fresh Comments plugin, so you’ll have those as clear visual indicators of which comments you haven’t read yet. (Had to get help at the developer forum for the site theme, but I’m pretty sure someone will help me sort out what I’m doing wrong.)

    We’ll see how this goes for a while. Thanks for the feedback!

  19. sbg says

    We’ll see how this goes for a while. Thanks for the feedback!

    Oh, I like the quote option. I’m notoriously forgetful to do it when I’m replying.

  20. Casey says


    Yeah, I stink at doing quotes, citation, html thingies, italics, bold stuff, and lines through words. So the easier the interface gets, the better! 😀

  21. says

    Jennifer Kesler:
    Orange dots now present and accounted for. I had to hack two plugins into a function to make that happen. If you don’t know what that means, just be very impressed.

    Hurrah, orange dots! I’m impressed! Also, the quote and reply buttons are really convenient, and people won’t get confused about which comment they’re replying to. The link back to the parent comment will be brilliant for long threads.

  22. Elee says

    Jennifer Kesler: Yep, I was just about to write a post to explain them, but here’s the deal:–I feel “nested comments” are causing some problems, especially when they break down like they did on the BioWare post.–Like, it’s hard to keep up with all the new comments unless they’re at the bottom of the page, in sequential order (which they’re not, with nesting).–

    Just testing if the quoting works for me. I was getting really self-conscious for a while back.

  23. says

    I just learned that if you highlight part of someone says and then hit reply, it quotes just the highlighted part instead of the whole thing. Very useful. 😀

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