WordPress turning “next” into “previous”

One of my favorite WordPress themes is Twenty Thirteen and I’ve been using it as the parent of my child themes lately. However, on my most recent project, Illinois Doberman Rescue Plus, I discovered a weird little thing with how this theme’s archive pagination function is operating. (Also true for this website‘s theme. However, I’m keeping it here as my post sorting is always chronological descending.)

No matter how you sort your postings, when you get to the bottom of the page, the link that is supposed to take you to the next page of posts is labeled “Older posts”, it’s in the lower-left corner and pointing towards the left (just like the browser’s “back” button). This only makes sense for one narrow case, when the newest post is at the top of page 1. (Even then I could argue that the link to next page of results should not be displayed like a “back” button.)

So for cases when the sorting is different depending on the type of archive page, let’s simply change the “Older posts” and “Newer posts” labels to something more generic… but to what? Hmm, how about “Next page” and “Previous page”? Yes, that makes sense. Err wait, the link pointing to the next page (page 2) is down in the lower-left corner and pointing to the left (just like our browser’s “back” button). This is getting goofy… a link called “Next page” but it’s pointing backwards.

I suppose we could redesign all the templates and re-work the CSS but I think we need to take a closer peek at the workings of the twentythirteen_paging_nav() function which is located in Twenty Thirteen’s functions.php file. This function is called by the various archive template files to automatically create these pagination links as needed. Ignore the “older/newer” labels for now.

Did you catch that? They’ve place the next_posts_link() function inside of a div with the nav-previous class. And conversely, the previous_posts_link() function is contained within the nav-next class. This certainly explains a lot.

In defense of Twenty Thirteen, the context of the newest post being on top, the “next” page would be “older” posts. In this theme, the link to the “next” page is labeled “Older posts” and it’s pointing to the left signifying “back”. I call it “goofy” because it will break when posts are sorted in any other fashion. When oldest posts are on top or when they’re sorted alphabetically, etc., the “older” label is rendered totally meaningless. Since it, technically, always goes to the next page of the results query, it should be labeled as “next” and indeed the next_posts_link() function is how it’s created. However, simply re-labeling it as “next” is not good enough as it’s in the lower-left corner and pointing backwards towards the left.

My fix is simple. I copied this entire function into my child theme’s functions.php file. Since the original is wrapped inside if ( ! function_exists( 'twentythirteen_paging_nav' ) ), the version in the child theme will take precedence. Then I rearranged the function a bit…

Now using this slightly modified version, I get a “Next page” link that always points to the right and it always goes to the next page in the results. The link in the lower-left corner is labeled as “Previous page” and always goes to the previous page in the results. This is the most logical way as that it breaks all dependance on the sorting order.

As you can see my proposed arrangement perfectly corresponds to more traditional numbered pagination with “previous” on the left and “next” on the right…

You’ll still need to adjust your CSS a bit as Twenty Thirteen makes the “previous” link in the lower-left corner (formally called “Older posts”) about 60% larger than its mate. I think their idea was to make the button going to the next page larger. Since their positions and labels are flipped, you must adjust the CSS sizes.

Since you’re over-riding the parent theme, you’ll need to over-ride everything dealing with spacing and size. The following is the bare minimum required in the child theme to flip the sizes to correspond with our previous changes.