Improve Your WordPress Website's Sidebar

Top Tips for Getting More out of Your Sidebar

The WordPress sidebar is an overlooked feature that can be very useful, if you know how to take advantage of it. Too many site owners simply fill their sidebar with ads and links to old posts, but this part of your webpage can be doing so much more. Today, we’ll be giving you some handy tips and tricks to make the most of your sidebar and give your site an edge. You might not even need to change too much.

Many people use their sidebars to display social media widgets, advertisements, “About Us” sections and links to past posts, and all of these things are perfectly suitable for the sidebar. However, you can change things up to make the sidebar itself a more attractive and prominent part of your site. Now let’s look at a short list of ways to give your sidebar a boost.

Why Stop at Just One Sidebar?

traditional-layoutYou might not have realized this, but you can actually make multiple sidebars for your site, with each one being attached to a particular page. This can be very helpful as it allows you to customize the content of the sidebar relative to the page it appears on. This gives you a whole new level of control over your website. By using just one sidebar, you are effectively limiting yourself and forcing users to see the same content, regardless of the page they visit.

By adapting multiple sidebars to the various parts of your site, you’ll be appealing to a wider audience, and this is especially effective for sites that cover a good range of subjects.

Get Your Priorities Straight with Sticky Widgets
There might be one thing you really want every user to see on your sidebar. Let’s take the example of a social media button, encouraging people to follow you on Facebook and Twitter. Obviously, you can place this button at the top of the sidebar, giving it the best spot on the page, but the button will disappear from view as soon as people scroll down. This is where sticky widgets come into play.

You can make use of various plugins to make your widgets stay on the screen at all times. With this system in place, that social media button will be ever-present as users view your content and explore your site, which means there’s a much higher chance of them clicking on it.

Don’t Overdo It

wordpress sidebar too muchThe problem many site owners face with sidebars is that they simply put too much information into them. It’s not uncommon to see sidebars asking visitors to follow the company on several different social media sites while also signing up for the mailing list, viewing the latest and most popular articles, and registering a new account.

It’s good to have options, but too many of them will confuse your viewers. You need to look at your site and analyze the most important things to include in your sidebar. Focus on relevant content and widgets, rather than overdoing it by putting too much on the bar.

But Don’t Underdo It Either

Despite what we’ve just said in the point above, a case can be made for busy sidebars. Some sites manage to pull this look off very effectively, it’s all about organizing the content and keeping it relevant. If there’s a lot of content you want to share in the sidebar then you should feel free to do so, but make sure to keep it looking clean rather than cluttered.

There are many examples of great sites that put ads, contact forms, links and widgets all down their sidebars without the page being confusing. They do this by organizing the content effectively, keeping the most important buttons at the top and spreading out the ads.

Search Bars Aren’t Necessary

It might be hard for some people to believe, but not every site needs its own search bar. This is especially relevant for blogs and sites with relatively small amounts of content. On sites like these, the search bar simply adds clutter to the page as it isn’t really needed.

Even if people tried to use it, they would struggle to find the results they desire as the site itself doesn’t have enough posts. We’ve talked about the ways in which the sidebar needs to be optimized, rather than cluttered, so if your site doesn’t really need a search bar then you should get rid of it.


Use Your Sidebar to Build a Loyal Userbase

The sidebar can be a very effective tool for encouraging people to come back to your site. When designing your own sidebar, you need to think about new users, rather than regular visitors. Someone visiting your site for the first time probably won’t be too interested in signing up for mailing lists straight away and checking out the Twitter feed. What these people need is content.

To get people interested, you need to show off what you can do by providing links to your best pages. We would recommend the use of a popular posts plugin over a recent posts plugin. Recent posts can be interesting now and then, but the average new user will usually get more enjoyment from reading your most popular posts of all time than the ones you published in the last week.

Choose Your Side Carefully

We commonly see sidebars situated on the right side of the page, but this isn’t always the best option. In fact, studies have shown that the average user tends to focus more on the left side of the screen than the right.

This is particularly true when using very large and wide monitors. Therefore, it’s easy to see that people will be more likely to check out the sidebar and interact with it when it is positioned on the left. We can’t guarantee that a switch from right to left will boost your popularity, but it’s certainly worth a try.

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