What’s the diff?

Category

Product categories are the primary way to group products with similar features. You can also add subcategories if desired.

For example, if you sell pet supplies you may have categories like “dog”, “cat” or “bird”.

Since WooCommerce 3.3, there will be a default category. Every product must be assigned a category. Best practice is to rename the Uncategorized category as a primary category you use in your store, however you will need to pay attention when adding new products they will automatically be assigned the default category and you may need to reassign products so they are in the correct category for the best user experience. For example, “dog” is our main category but if you add a new product “Bird Seed” we do not want users getting bird category products in dog category products. Category organization is key to a smooth shopping experience.

Categories differ from Tags in that you can have a hierarchy, so “dog” is the parent category but then it’s subcategories are “beds”, “treats”, “toys”. This hierarchy is what provides additional filtering options in your shop to give your user a faster way to get to the products they are searching for.

Tag

Product tags are another way to relate products to each other, next to product categories. Contrary to categories, there is no hierarchy in tags; so there are no “subtags.”

For example, if you sell pet supplies, and you have a brand name that carries itself through all your products, that can be another way for a user to shop. So if your brand name was “Super Pet Brand” that tag can be added to all products that are that brand, but they may be dog, cat, or bird categories.

Attribute

A third and important way to group products is to use attributes. There are two uses of this data type that are relevant for WooCommerce:

First is via WooCommerce widgets. “Filter Products by Attribute” allows you to use the built in filtering function of WooCommerce to filter by attribute, for example we can have an attribute for color. Values under color can be blue, red, and yellow. So If I am looking for a blue dog bed I can begin by using the filter blue to narrow down my search.

Second is via variable products. To create a variable product, an attribute must first be defined for the product. These attributes can then be used to make a distinction between different variations. To learn more about variable products, check out this article by WooCommerce.

For example, if you’re selling pet supplies, two logical attributes are “color” and “size”, so users can search across categories for a color that fits their style and their pet’s type.