Most people are familiar with the tag “the_content” as it is one of the fundamental tags in WordPress. It is what goes and grabs the content (go figure). While the_content is an invaluable template tag, I think that there is some real value to the_excerpt that people should know about.
So, what is the_excerpt? Thorough documentation can be found in the WordPress Codex, but I will give a brief overview. The_excerpt basically shows a brief preview (or dare I say, excerpt) of your post rather than the entire post. You can easily go to your blog index page and replace the_content() with the_excerpt() with little effort. Here are a few reasons why you would want to do that
1. Save load time on your blog page
Your blog page is a wealth of information, but no one wants to wait 5 minutes while you pretty pictures and text loads. Generally, I give a page a second or two before I move on to something else. Sure, I’m a little ADD, but so is the internet. It is about instant information, and using the_excerpt can help you embrace that.
2. Save bandwidth
Unfortunately, the internet is not an unlimited resource. While it may seem unlimited at times, you can’t just pour huge amounts of data from a server onto every user’s screen that visits. I have been to blogs where the home blog page loaded over 5mb of data. That is a huge drain on bandwidth for your server. On a site with high traffic, that load could be detrimental.
3. Really, it just looks better
Not in all cases, but as a general rule, I think sites look much better when you can see a headline and a brief preview of a lot of posts. That makes me more likely to click more of them. If you have one blog post that takes up all of the page that I can see, I may never scroll far enough to see what’s next. With the_excerpt, I can easily decide which posts I care to read, without having to scroll through tons that I don’t.
You can see an example of using the tag on the iThemes blog page. If you would like more information about usage, feel free to ask in the comments section below.