By Princess Jones
The sidebar is the area that runs alongside a website, particularly a blog. Generally, it runs vertically but you can also find horizontal versions. Sidebars are full of widgets and information to help improve your users’ experience and also to direct them to information you’d like to showcase. How effective your sidebar content can be depends on how you structure it. Here are a few best practices to improve yours.
Many websites use the sidebar as a catch-all for every possible design element. It’s tempting to try to pack in everything that looks good, but resist that urge. Sidebar clutter will just confuse or overwhelm your visitors. Every element you use should have a specific purpose.
Take a few moments to review your sidebar. Consider the purpose of the elements. Be honest! Are there elements that don’t serve any purpose at all? Are there several elements that serve the same purpose. Is it there just because you saw something similar on another website? Well, it’s time to get rid of it.
Once you’ve gotten rid of the unnecessary stuff, prioritize your sidebar elements by value. Some of the most valuable sidebar elements include a quick search bar, a contact form, a testimonial section, and/or social media links. But keep in mind that value is defined through your users’ eyes. Take into account what they need and design your sidebar elements around this.
Once you’ve thought about what your audience is looking for, find a way to combine that with your business’ conversion goals. What do you want your users to do? Sign up for your mailing list? Make an appointment for your services? Click the “Buy Now” button? These are the sidebar elements that are most valuable to you and they should also be prioritized in your design.
Traditionally, a website’s sidebars are the same throughout the entire site. But not all pages need the same sidebars. Consider customizing yours based on the purpose of the page and what you expect users to do with it. For example, you may expect your users to be interested in different information on your about page than you would on an order page.
If you don’t have a website developer on the payroll, you can still create custom sidebars. Many WordPress themes have this feature built right in. WooThemes has an easy to use little plugin called WooSidebars that can customize your sidebars. There are also a number of plugins right in the official WordPress plugin directory to help you if you’re using a theme that doesn’t offer that.