A sidebar is a graphical control element often found in various types of user interfaces, but it’s especially common on web pages. WordPress themes for example, divide the areas of the screen into several different sections. Those sections that can be used with widgets are different than the section used to display content, and a sidebar is one of those sections.
Normally, a sidebar is a vertical column that appears either to the left or the right of the main content, but its exact location depends on the theme that you are using. Technically, a sidebar can appear below the main content or above it and be either in the form of a row or a column, but the most common usage is a column to one side of the main content.
Why Do People Use Sidebars?
Sidebars are used to display a variety of additional information separate from the main content. This might include related links, advertisements, subscription options, recent posts, social media feeds, a search bar, or many other types of content.
Types Of Sidebars
- Navigation Sidebars: These typically include a list of links or buttons for navigating the website. They might display the site’s main menu or other navigation tools. You can also use these to direct people specifically to similar or relevant posts and content.
- Information Sidebars: These sidebars display additional information that complements the main content. This could be related articles, recent history, author bios, or other contextually relevant content.
- Interactive Sidebars: These could include interactive elements such as forms for newsletter signups, search bars, maps or social media widgets.
Some themes come with multiple sidebars, which can be given logical names like “left sidebar” and “right sidebar” or simply numbered like “sidebar 1,” et cetera. With some themes, you’ll just have to add widgets to each sidebar in order to determine where they will show up on your website.
It’s also important to understand that sidebars can display differently depending on whether a visitor is using a desktop computer or a mobile device. Always test each size layout after making any changes to the content in a sidebar.
Common Use Examples
One common use for sidebars is to display advertisements because these will appear adjacent to the main content on your site. If you’re interested in monetizing your WordPress site, you’ll need to contact the advertising company in order to get the proper codes for displaying an ad in your sidebar.
In order to modify the content in your sidebar(s), log into the administration panel and then click “Appearance” on the left-hand column and then “Widgets.” From there, you can add, delete, or modify the widgets that appear in your sidebar(s).
The type of sidebar you choose to implement should add value to your site, particularly in the customer or visitor journey. There are some best practices that when followed, should keep you on the right track in utilizing your sidebars effectively.
- Relevance: Make sure the content in your sidebar is relevant to the main content of the page. This helps the user by providing additional, useful information and can make your site more engaging. With some themes, you can set different sidebars to appear on different pages. However, navigation sidebars should always be consistent.
- Minimalism: Avoid cluttering your sidebar with too many different elements. It’s better to have a few well-chosen items that are clearly and cleanly presented. You don’t want to add confusion or hurdles to the customer experience by overloading them.
- Visual Hierarchy: Organize the elements in your sidebar according to their importance. The most important or useful items should be at the top.
- Responsiveness: Make sure your sidebar is responsive and works well on all devices. On smaller screens, like those on mobile devices, the sidebar content may need to be moved or hidden to ensure the page still looks good and is easy to use.
- Usability: Ensure that all interactive elements in your sidebar, like buttons or forms, are easy to use, to read and to understand.
- Consistency: The sidebar should have a consistent design across different pages of your website. This helps users understand and navigate your site more easily.
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