Et Cetera: The Catch-all Category for Everything Else


Web designers have to think on many different levels at the same time. That’s another way of saying that we have to think of – and take into account – everything that can possibly go wrong before it happens. Or maybe our brains are just cross-wired to begin with, but sooner or later every web designer comes face to face with the “none of the above” category problem.

Categories are absolutely essential for the design and operation of a website. The categories that the designer installs in the web design determine where on the website each individual article will go but like the movie and television series, “The Highlander,” in the end, there can only be one (category per article.)

What happens when authors simply can’t decide which category their articles belong in? They start adding categories on the theory that, sooner or later, they will hit the right one. In the meantime, however, they are going to blow the entire website design into smithereens.

That’s why we have introduced a brand new category called Et Cetera, which is Latin for “so on and so forth” (or so we have been told.)

We are encouraging our authors to use Et Cetera when they can’t decide where their articles belong. Problem solved…until WordPress threw a monkey wrench into their code.

Recently, in its infinite collective wisdom, WordPress decided to give users the option of selecting more than one category, with the further option of being able to designate one category as the primary category for that article. The primary category was supposed to determine where the article would appear on the home page, if the home page was designed with areas for each category, as many are

If you want to see the consequences of this alteration, just look at the Home Page on the New York Times website where you will often see the same article in five or six different places on the home page. (The recent redesign of the Times home page has eliminated much of that duplication but it still happens.)

This certainly fills out the home page, but it doesn’t make the home page a better home page. Instead, it actually offers far less information than it appears to offer.

If we had installed this new arrangement, every now and then a new contributor would come on board looking to make a big splash in our small pond by loading up his or her articles with more categories so that the article will appear in more places on the website.

That would work, but it is also absolutely devastating to our website’s design because, all of a sudden, the same article is appearing under sports, health, science, technology, and media. Having the same article appearing all over the website might good for that author, but it is bad for everyone else.

The only thing worse than having too many categories is having none at all, which leaves the article in question hanging out there in limbo somewhere, looking for an audience. That’s why you cannot submit an article that doesn’t have one – and only one  – category.

Our current design utilizes a plugin that requires you to select one – and only one – category.  It also forces you to select at least one tag per article. Tags are very important because the search engines utilize tags to help them figure out how to categorize your articles. (We have another plugin that automatically converts your tags to Google key words, which further aids you in getting found by the search engines.)

The same plugin forces you to insert text into the excerpt section, which is the text that appears in the teasers attached to your articles in the post listings.  It also forces you to include a featured image.

But, in the end, Et. Cetera is all about having a category for articles that don’t fit neatly into one category. We’re hoping that, if you can’t decide where you want to put an article, Et. Cetera will come to mind, now that you’ve read this article.




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