What is a Sidebar in WordPress?

Different websites have different agendas and aims. Some are for informative purposes, while others are for interactive purposes. Whatever may be the case, designing a user-friendly interface is of utmost importance.

Now there are many elements that go into making a page. Some of the notable ones being text, graphics, icons, menus, scrolling, and the like. But do you know that there can be a thing called a sidebar on your webpage? Yes! It has its own purpose and needs, but has to be used with much thought, and its aim must be to complement your webpage. Remember, the real estate on a webpage must be used optimally always. Let’s check it out in more detail.

What is a Sidebar in WordPress Website?

In the computing world, the definition of a sidebar can be put forth as an element of a user interface that goes on to display a list of choices. Mostly, this element appears to the left of a page, though in some cases it can be put at the right of the page too, and of course even on both the sides of the main content of your page.

This element can have a profound effect on your webpage and the way it is used. If done properly and with great thought, it can go a long way in positively affecting user experience, and even increasing website views. But, the other side being, if done hastily and just for the heck of it, it can be irritating and drive users away.

What Does a Sidebar Do?

Make no mistake. A sidebar shouldn’t be the most prominent element on your page. It is not meant for the main content, nor should it aim to be a primary tool of navigation. It should be there for secondary content purposes. This content is very much important to the website, but you don’t want attention drawn towards it upfront.

Do not confuse a sidebar with the main menu and navigation tools. It should just be a tool that holds great content without taking away a user’s focus from the main content on the page. A good example is a sidebar that highlights different sections of a website that have good content, whose footage is also very important to the overall site’s goals.

Types of Sidebars

1. Left Sidebar
a. Most noticeable
b. Good for primary navigation
c. May overshadow main content
d. Can interfere with design
2. Right Sidebar
a. Noticed after main content
b. Good for smaller resolutions
c. Not great for Ads
d. Not ideal for extremely important content
3. Splitting Sidebars
a. Good for holding lots of information
b. Can confuse users
c. Can be overwhelming

What Should You Include in a Sidebar?

You have to balance it here. A sidebar should not sit idle at the side with no one ever bothering about it, not should it bulge out with unnecessary junk which creates a distraction from the main content. Do not try and fill a sidebar just because you can. Don’t overwhelm your users ever. It should improve overall user experience.

As mentioned, every website is different with different aims, and that should be kept in mind when you decide what to include in the sidebar. Here are all the things that one can think of including there, depending on the purpose and need.

a) Navigation
b) List of categories
c) List of related posts
d) Most recent posts
e) List of documents
f) Ads and promotions
g) Contact information
h) Upcoming events
i) Social media icons
j) Widgets
k) Testimonials
l) External links
m) Website logo
n) Author bio
o) Search box
p) Software program

Of course, besides these there are many other things that one can think of to include in a sidebar; the list can be endless. What you need to determine is what out of these would enhance a user’s experience while he or she is on a particular page. If you have an informative website, then maybe related articles and supporting documents would be a good bet. If you have a business, then related product Ads could be the answer. If you are looking to go viral, then social media might be what your sidebar needs. If you have a travel website, then testimonials would be great. You see how in each case the sidebar is only going to enhance user experience.

Tips to Make a Sidebar?

First and foremost, determine whether you really need a sidebar. If yes, ask yourself, for what! Try to keep the sidebar really simple. Preferably, do not let it extend below the page fold. Use an icon or button to break text in a sidebar. Get the sequence right. Information that is more important should be at the top in a sidebar, and the least important stuff should go at the bottom. After you are done, sit back for a moment and see if the sidebar has relevant information for a user on that page, and it actually complements the page.

A Sidebar in WordPress

As far as WordPress is concerned, the sidebar is called a widget-ready area. WordPress sidebars display content that is not part of the main content. It can be a vertical sidebar on either side of the page, or even a horizontal one that is above or below the main content. In WordPress, you can simply drag and drop items into a sidebar by going to the Admin panel, and then Appearance – Widgets. Some WordPress themes are so dynamic that they even allow users to add their own sidebar from a drag and drop interface.

Examples of Great Sidebar Usage

These examples will give you a better idea of how to make one for your website. Goltzgroup has used the left sidebar really neatly for navigation purposes. If you are reading this, check this page itself on the right. This is the perfect example of a great right sidebar. It simply highlights recent posts and recent comments. And check how it is not interfering with the main content on the page. Most of the CyberChimps’ themes has various sidebar options. You can choose to keep left, right or both sides sidebars.

So do your homework well and set up a nice sidebar for your blog, but only if needed. Easiest way is to put yourself in the user’s shoes and see what he would love to see in a sidebar in WordPress. This always works.

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