GUIDE – Strategies for study guide layout

NOTE: I wrote this page for my WRTG 3020 students, who have the option to customize a blog as part of one of their projects.

The layout of the study guide bog includes elements that impact how readers move around the site as well as what kinds of content they find in each section.

Some of the layout decisions you’ll need to make include: what to include in navigation menus and where to place them; which categories to use for blog posts; what kind of content to include in pages instead of posts; what options to enable in the sidebar(s); what kind of links and link categories to include on the site; and so on.


You’ll want to post most of your study guide content in blog posts, as these can be put into categories, tagged, and sorted a variety of ways by readers. But some content is better suited to pages, like an overview of the purpose of the site or a list of editor bios.

Pages fall outside of the regular “stream” of blog posts, and they’re typically available from a page menu, which might be a vertical menu along the top (as in the case of my class blogs) or from a sidebar menu. Where the page menu appears is a function of the theme you’ve chosen. If the theme doesn’t include a vertical menu along the top, you might want to put the Pages widget on your sidebar.

Pages can also have sub-pages, and in many themes, these sub-pages will appear when a viewer puts the mouse over the page name in the vertical menu at the top (as on this site). But a few older themes don’t show drop-down menus, so if you do use sub-pages, you’ll need to provide viewers links to them another way.

Your study guide should have, at a minimum, these top-level pages: About, Editor Bios, and Site Feedback.

On the “About” page include information that will help viewers understand the nature and purpose of the study guide blog. On the “Editor Bios” page, list each editor by name (perhaps in bold or h2 heading format) and include a short bio beneath the name. The “Site Feedback” page should have comments enabled so that visitors can leave general feedback on the study guide. (If you’ve chosen a theme that doesn’t allow pages to have comments, contact me for alternatives.)

You may also create other pages and sub-pages as needed. For example, you might want to create a bibliography page that all site editors, current and future, can add to over time.

To create a new page, go to the Dashboard, click on the Pages tab on the left, and then click Add New. The page editing page looks very similar to the post editing page, but without the option to choose a category or tags. To change the order in which the pages appear, change the number in the Order box. (You can also change page order using the QuickEdit option on the Pages main page, the one that lists all your site’s pages.)



As you already know, blog posts should be assigned to categories, typically only one category per post (although you might see a reason for using more than one category in some cases). The categories are for the readers’ benefit in two ways: they can easily tell what is the general topic of a post by looking at its category, and they can sort content on your blog by clicking on a particular category link.

Your study guide blog most likely came with a category for research notes, but that category is for your benefit, not your target audience’s. So you’ll need to give some thought to which categories would be most appropriate to your audience, given the kind of material you’ll be posting to the study guide blog and how readers will want to sort through it. Also consider which categories are likely to be most helpful to your primary and secondary audiences (as described on the Audience and Purpose page

For example, you might create categories for each of the discourses you’ll be finding examples from. Or you might create categories for sub-topics within your larger topic. You’re unlikely to hit on the perfect set of categories right away, so be open to letting the categories evolve with the site (but keep in mind that changing the categories may mean editing earlier entries).

To add or edit categories, go to the study guide dashboard, click on the Posts tab, and then click on the Categories link. You’ll see a box you can use to create new categories. To edit an existing category, just click on its name.


Study Guide: Managing Categories from Amy Goodloe on Vimeo.


You’ll need to decide what elements to include on your study guide sidebar and how to customize them, if needed. At a minimum, you should probably use the following widgets, in whatever order you think makes the most rhetorical sense: Text Box (with brief description of site), Sidebar Login, Categories, Tag Cloud, Authors, Links, and Recent Comments. Feel free to also add any other widgets that look useful, even if you just want to test them out for a bit.

To customize the sidebar, log into your study guide blog, go to the dashboard, click on the Appearance tab, and then click on the widgets link. Then simply drag the widgets you want onto or off of the appropriate sidebar space on the right side of the page. If only the sidebar space title is available and you’re not able to drag widgets onto it, try clicking on the dropdown box to the right of the title, which should make the space appear below it.

You might initially think about the sidebar elements that would be most useful to you as a writer/designer, and implement those. And then later you might think about which elements would be most useful to your target audience, and make the necessary changes.

If you switch to a new theme and discover that the sidebar elements you chose are no longer visible, that means you’ll go back to the widgets page and restore your choices. If you had customized any of the widgets, those customizations will not be lost, but the widget will be in the “inactive widgets” area. So just drag it back to the sidebar.


Study Guides: Sidebars from Amy Goodloe on Vimeo.


As I noted in the first Study Guide Blog Overview screencast, all WordPress blogs come with a default set of links under the Blogroll category that all relate to the administration of a WordPress blog. I decided not to delete these links when I set up your study guide blogs in case anyone wanted to explore them to learn more about WordPress, but if you’re working on a guide started by previous students, they may have already been deleted.

If not, then here’s how to delete them: Go to the Links tab on the dashboard, check the box next to each link you want to delete, and use the bulk actions menu to delete all the ones you checked. Or you can delete them individually by putting your mouse over the link title and then clicking the “Delete” link that appears.

Then add your own links based on what you think readers would find most helpful to have available in the sidebar.


Study Guides: Managing Links from Amy Goodloe on Vimeo.