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I'm working on a new site for a charity. They publish a printed magazine & we would like the website to always reflect the current issue of the magazine.

So far I have a front page (home page) with excerpts from 3 most recent lead articles (wp posts). For layout purposes, the articles are categorized as frontpage-left, frontpage-right-top & frontpage-right-bottom. We also have a sidebar with a menu to all the articles in the current issue (posts list).

Now looking for advice on the best way to store old/previous "issues" of the website as a complete, working archive so visitors can view them?

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I'd say go with categories: it seems your categories are already being used for 'back-end' purposes, so I'd imagine they're already hidden from the front-end users.

Otherwise, go for a custom taxonomy (something like 'issue' taxonomy perhaps), which is a bit more work, but gives you a lot more control. Take a look at the register_taxonomy function as a starting point.

If you want to go all the way, you could create a widget for the front-end which would list all those custom taxonomy terms (i.e. issues) so that users could visit the old issues with one click.

It's tough to consider all possible scenarios, but assuming the 'issue' web pages are created by the index.php file of your theme, when visiting something like 'example.com/category/issue_1' (in case you're using native categories) or 'example.com/issue/1' (if using a custom taxonomy) WP would automatically filter only those articles belonging to issue 1, and index.php would process and display only those articles. (Note that this also assumes that all taxonomies are correctly assigned, and that you have pretty permalinks, etc. But you get the idea.) If this is not the way your theme is structured, you should really consider it: it's only one file to maintain, and it let's WP's native query functionality do the rest.

I see no need for a more sophisticated or customized approach than the two options above. WordPress' native functionality is pretty robust as it is. How to create the theme which displays the information that's been organized in a certain way is a much more open-ended discussion, though.

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Thanks for the thought. I'm sure you are right there is a simple way to achieve this just with categories, but I'm not sure how... As an example.. suppose the current website has a homepage with the desired 3 lead articles. The template arranges these based on 3 most recent article categories (homepage_left, homepage_right) etc etc. If they then create a new version based on the latest issue of their magazine then yes, the articles on the homepage will change, but how to recreate or visit the previous version of the mag/site is what I'm stuck on???? Thanks –  speedypancake Feb 17 '13 at 13:50
    
See updates on answer. We can go so far when discussing templating, though. –  tbuteler Feb 17 '13 at 15:07
    
Thanks again for your further comments - plenty to think about here –  speedypancake Feb 17 '13 at 15:34
    
Think I'm beginning to get it... I create a new page as the home page / front cover for each edition, and use a special category template I'll desigin. Then for each "issue" of the site, every article gets a parent category of that issue eg. "March_2013/News" etc. Sounds like a plan... - thanks again. –  speedypancake Feb 17 '13 at 19:12
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Important to realise you don't need to "store" the previous issues in a separate location to have them available as old/previous issues. As each issue is just a wp post you can present your posts in different locations based on the relevant criteria - in this case current & previous.

You could set up [previous] as a post tag (I don't see the need for the slightly increased complexity of categories or custom taxonomy) and then use this tag to filter your posts. There are plenty of plugins available to do that easily on individual WordPress pages.

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