Today we are going to test three plugins that allow you to group a selection of your posts together in order to create a series or course.
While you can use the default WordPress categories or tags to organize your content, these plugins go a step further and add a new tag for your content which allows you to create a series. This approach helps your readers follow a sequence of posts on your site.
If you ever create multi-post tutorials, guides, or even stories, then putting that content in a series will make it even easier for your readers to find the next instalment in the series.
There are a few good options out there, but which one is the best post series solution for WordPress? Read on to find out.
Organize Series adds a new taxonomy to your WordPress website. WordPress categories and tags are examples of taxonomies, but did you know you can also create your own custom taxonomies to better organize your content? That is what this plugin does and the new taxonomy that is created is called Series.
As you can see from the image above, the series taxonomy looks and functions like the standard WordPress tags. You can create multiple series and then when it comes to creating a new post, you can add that post to the series. Alternatively you can add existing posts to the series after installing this plugin.
Adding a post to a series, whether an existing one or a new series, can be done on the post editor screen. You can also set the series number of the post which will determine the order the posts are displayed in to your readers.
Depending on how you’ve configured the plugin through the settings page, the individual posts that are part of a series will display a notification message to the reader that the post is part of a series, and which number in the series it is.
The plugin can also display a list of all the other posts in the series in a table of contents style list, with each entry being a link to that particular post. The above example is using the plugin’s default CSS and on a site using the Metro Pro Genesis child theme from StudioPress. However, don’t let the formatting put you off as you can customize or add your own CSS to get the look your want for your site.
The Organize Series plugin also creates an archive page for each series, much like the default WordPress category and tag archives pages. This page contains a custom message at the top to describe the series, and then lists the posts in order, starting with the first post in the series.
This is a really useful feature as it makes it easy to link to your entire series in one action, while also making it easy for your readers to work their way through the series in chronological order.
Through the settings page, you can configure how the free Organize Series plugin works on your site. The options and settings include:
- Display series post list box: yes/no
- Display series navigation links: yes/no
- Use plugin CSS or add your own
- Order of posts: by series part or date, ascending or descending
Through the settings you can also customize the text that is displayed on your posts in the series information box.
All of the above relates to the free version of Organize Series. However, there are a series of premium addons which can bring new features and functionality to the core plugin. These addons include:
- Grouping: create groups of series
- Extra Tokens: customize the templates using tokens
- All in One SEO: integration with this SEO plugin
- Multiples: add a post to more than one series
- Shortcodes: use shortcodes to insert series information anywhere
- Custom Post Type Support: create series containing custom post types and pages
You can view the full list of Organize Series addons and their pricing here.
Organize Series is a well featured option for creating a series of posts or a course in WordPress. I’ve used it myself on my own site and you can see it in action in this guide to starting a new WordPress website. Although the out of the box appearance of the series content, such as the list of posts, isn’t perfect, it can be edited to suit your theme and personal preferences.
However, there are other options out there and while Organize Series has by far the most downloads, it’s important to check out the competition to see if they are a better fit for your needs.
Like the above Organize Series plugin this free option also adds a new taxonomy to your website which this time is called Series of posts.
Posts can then be added to the series when they are being created, or via the all posts screen on the admin dashboard.
Then once you publish a post from the series and it’s viewed on your site, a nicely presented info box is displayed listing the posts from the series. The post titles are clickable links making it easy for readers to access the other posts in the series.
While this plugin lacks many of the features of the Organize Series plugin, such as indicating the post you are viewing in the series list, adding an archive page that lists all the posts from a series, or giving you the option to change the appearance of the plugin content, it is very easy to use. There are no settings pages to worry about – simply install the plugin and start adding your posts to the series.
The Post Series plugin is a little rough around the edges, with some elements not having been named correctly at the time of writing. However, on the plugin homepage the developers do claim that ‘extra functionality will follow’. This is definitely one to keep an eye on for the future.
Simple Course Creator
Designed for creating a course that consists of multiple posts, Simple Course Creator is another option for publishing a series of connected WordPress posts.
After installing this free plugin, a brief set of options are added to your site on a settings page. From there you can customize the following properties:
- Course container position: above, below, above and below content, or hidden
- HTML list style: numbered, bullet, or no list indicator
- Current post style: none, bold, italic, or strikethrough
As you can see the Simple Course Creator plugin uses the native WordPress UI for its settings page, making the control panel fit right into to the rest of the core WordPress features and functionality.
Once you the plugin has been configured you can begin by creating a course and then adding posts to it. Like the other options covered here, this plugin handles the series or course functionality by creating a new taxonomy.
Once at least one new course taxonomy has been created new and existing posts can be tagged with that course, either from the new post screen or the all posts list. One nice feature of this plugin is that it allows you to select the course you want to apply to your post by using a dropdown menu, rather than having to type in the name of the series or course yourself.
After creating a course and adding at least one post to it you can then see the Simple Course Creator plugin at work on your site by viewing a post from the course.
As you can see the plugin adds an unobtrusive message box to the top of the post (or the bottom depending on your settings). The message box displays the optional course description that was entered when the course was created. When the full course text is clicked the box gracefully expands to list the course content.
Each item in the course is a link except for the current post being viewed, making it very easy for reader to see where they are in the course or series.
Simple Course Creator comes with built-in hooks and filters to allow you to customise how it works and looks, including changing the text from full course to full series or something more appropriate for your content. The plugin documentation includes some helpful pointers on carrying out any customizations.
However, there are a small number of addons available for this plugin, which are also free to use and make it even more useful and easier to personalize:
- SCC Customizer: customize the appearance of the course display list
- SCC Post Meta: add author and published date to the display list
- SCC Front Display: adds the course name to the posts archive page
- SCC Updates: lists the course content in a timeline format
This plugin has been created by Sean Davis, the creator of the Volatyl framework for WordPress, and is available for free from the WordPress plugin directory.
This is my pick of the bunch due to the pleasant formatting and the way the course list is displayed. I will be testing it out on my site to see how it compares to my current series plugin of choice.
The only obvious downsides compared to Organize Series are that it doesn’t include a way to list all the courses or series on one page, or organize the order the posts are displayed in on the course list. Also, there isn’t support for custom post types. However, the look and feel of the plugin makes is a great choice that should be enough for most users.
There you have three options for creating a series of posts on your WordPress website. Each of the above plugins uses a custom taxonomy to allow you to organize multiple posts together into a series or course.
The main difference between these three options is the way they output the course or series list, and which plugin you choose will be largely decided by which method you prefer.
However, if you are looking for the simplest option that includes a nicely presented post list box with no settings to worry about, then the Post Series plugin is for you.
While the Simple Course Creator plugin has the best looking post list and has a very easy to use customizer addon, the Organize Series plugin does have more useful features. These include being able to set the order of the posts (without having to change the date) and having the option of displaying an archive list of the posts in a series on one page.
If those features are important to you then the Organize Series plugin is recommended. However, if not then go for Simple Course Creator as it looks great and is easy to customize.
How do you create a post series and what features are important to you in a plugin of this type? Let us know in the comments below.