A website sidebar is a vertical column or vertical bar of supplemental content that is displayed alongside the main content region of a page.
In the old days of the web, most websites used a sidebar/content layout, with the sidebar running down the left side of the web page and the content on the right side of the web page. But today the most common website page layout is a content/sidebar layout, where the content is on the left side of the web page and the sidebar runs down the right side of the web page.
Depending on the theme design, your WordPress website could include different page templates, different layout options, and multiple sidebars, including:
- Content (no sidebar)
WordPress themes from StudioPress, powered by the Genesis Framework, have all six of these layout options built into the themes and available for you to use. As a Genesis Recommended developer, Bourn Creative works with entrepreneurs and small businesses around the world to:
- Customize the existing off-the-shelf StudioPress themes
- Design/develop one-off, completely custom WordPress themes
Which Layout Is Best For Your Website?
Layouts using multiple sidebars are often used on media or magazine sites, and sites that leverage the ad revenue model.
For business websites and conversion based websites, a single sidebar is highly recommended to keep the focus on converting visitors into clients, customers, and subscribers — and getting them to hire you, buy from you, and learn from you.
When mapping out the website strategy and content strategy for a site with our clients, we most often use a single default sidebar for the blog, no sidebar on pages in the core conversion funnel, and unique sidebars on pages that have a specific purpose — or unique widgets in the default sidebar.
Create a Strategic Website Sidebar
We recommend looking at your sidebar as an opportunity to provide more value to your visitors and to help them move through your site and access your most important content faster and easier.
When deciding what to put in your website sidebar, don’t just add widgets and things willy-nilly just because you can and fill the sidebar full of junk. Instead, assess each item first to ensure it has a purpose.
- Does this add value to my visitors?
- Does this guide visitors toward a conversion — toward hiring me, buying from me, or learning from me?
- Will this improve my conversion funnel, or is it a distraction?
- Will this improve my website or will it just clutter it up?
If you’re considering adding social media icons, widgets, and buttons to your sidebar, seriously consider whether or not it is the best choice.
For some businesses this is a great choice and it makes sense. For others, this is a terrible choice, as every social media icon, widget, and button is a link taking people away from your website to a social site, where they may see a photo or post from a friend, get distracted, and never come back. You must assess whether the prominence of social media is worth a potential loss of conversion.
What Should Go In A Website Sidebar
The exact items that should go in your website sidebar should be determined by your overall website strategy, and individual page goals.
With that said, here are some of the most common things our clients add to their sidebars:
- Opt-In offer to build your email list
- Menu of links to your most important content, sales pages, and other conversion pages. It’s okay if these are already in your website navigation menu — you’re just making your content more accessible by giving them multiple ways to reach it.
- As seen on logos / featured in logos (for social proof)
- Sample testimonial and link to testimonials page
- Featured product and link to sales page
- Affiliation, certification, or accreditation logos
- Promo for an upcoming event, course, or program
- Invitation to apply for a free consultation or strategy session
- Recent video or promo video
- Social media icons or widgets
- Blog post categories
- Recent blog posts
- Popular blog posts
- Recent comments
- Short bio and photo with a link to the about page
- Affiliate ads (be careful with this)
Just remember, these are just suggestions. You shouldn’t put all of the items listed in your sidebar! Otherwise, your sidebar would be much longer than your page content — and that just looks ridiculous, like you didn’t plan your site very well.
Unique Sidebars Or No Sidebar
Every WordPress website has a standard or default sidebar that shows up on every page that uses the sidebar.
Luckily WordPress provides incredible flexibility, and you can choose on a page-by-page basis to either use the default sidebar, remove the sidebar and use a full-width template, or to use a custom or unique sidebar (like with Genesis Simple Sidebars).
- EXAMPLE: A blog post (like this one) will more than likely be best served by using the default sidebar
- EXAMPLE: A products or services page would best be served by removing the sidebar to reduce distraction and keep the visitor focused on checking out the products and reviewing the services.
- EXAMPLE: A speaking page would best be served by a unique sidebar, containing a menu of links to interviews and features, as seen on logos, or even a list of past speaking gigs.
On the Bourn Creative website, we have a default sidebar used for the blog section of our site. We then remove the sidebar and use a full-width template for our web pages like our portfolio and our testimonials, to eliminate distractions and keep visitors focused on the content. This approach works great for us because we first pared down the site’s primary navigation menu to include ONLY the key pages that are part of our client conversion funnel.
A few other pages on the site that have very specific purposes — like my speaking page — use a unique sidebar that contains content that is relevant for that specific page.
What About You?
What do you think of websites with mile-long sidebars? Do you use different sidebars or different widgets in your sidebars based on the page and the goal of the page? Did you learn something new and are excited to take action and improve your own website sidebar?
We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!
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