Many bloggers are choosing the “No Sidebar” option as the best layout for their blog sidebar right now. You still see many blogs with a sidebar (like this one!) but more and more blogs seem to be removing sidebars on some or all of their pages and posts.
So, what’s up with that?
A sidebar seems like a great place to put things like email list signup forms, social icons, ads, about me profile boxes, category lists and more.
Since the sidebar shows up on most or all pages and posts, it’s a great place to put elements you want your visitors to “see” and interact with.
It’s a great place to add extra “navigation” elements like category or archive widgets. And to encourage readers to sign up for your email list or check out your social network profiles and follow you.
So, why are so many bloggers ditching the sidebar?
And if you aren’t ready to join their ranks, is a left or right sidebar a better choice?
In this post, I’m going to dig into these questions about the best layout for your blog sidebar.
* This post is #1 in a 4 Part series about sidebars. Yeah, sidebars really do need their own series.
Check out the other posts here:
- How to Choose the Best Layout for Your Blog Sidebar –> YOU ARE HERE
- How to Pick the Best Sidebar Widgets for Your Blog
- 5 Must Haves for Your Blog Sidebar
- 10 Rockin’ Blog Sidebar Examples
So, first let’s tackle the questions of…
What is a Sidebar?
A sidebar is an area on the right or left of your web page where you can place content.
A sidebar is generally a full-length column that runs alongside the main content section all the way to the bottom of the page just above the footer area. You can have a single sidebar or one on each side.
Most WordPress and Blogger designs have at least one sidebar.
Many WordPress themes offer the option of a sidebar on the right or left. Some advanced frameworks and themes (like Genesis) offer the option of setting your sidebar layout (left, right, none) on a per page and per post basis.
Both Blogger and WordPress use a widget (or gadget) system for placing content in the sidebar. Widgets/gadgets are like little apps you can use to easily add pre-formatted content to your sidebar. Examples include profile widgets, social icon widgets, popular post widgets, search box widgets and many more.
The widget options are nearly endless!
Sidebars are not the only widget areas that can be found on many blog designs. You can often also place widgets in footer or header widget areas.
But sidebars are the most commonly used type of widget areas on blogs.
Role of Sidebars
Sidebars are an area to display secondary content and can be used in a multitude of ways.
Neil Patel, a huge, HUGE blogger of Quick Sprout and other popular blogs, states that he mainly uses his sidebar to display his profile widget. This helps connect with his readers and build a loyal community.
A sidebar is also a great place for “secondary” navigation or menu elements. Placing an attractively styled list of your categories in the sidebar is a great way to help your readers discover more content.
Another popular sidebar widget is the Popular Posts widget which can display images linked to your most popular posts. This is a great way to engage visitors and keep them reading. It also passes on “SEO juice” to these posts, helping with organic SEO and traffic.
A search box is really a must for a sidebar as well. And many bloggers add an email list sign up box to their sidebar to encourage visitors to follow them. Ads in sidebars are also a popular way for bloggers to generate revenue with their blogs.
So, a sidebar can serve a really important role in a blog.
So, Why are People Removing Sidebars from their Blogs?
The “No Sidebar” movement is really hot right now.
Major designers/bloggers like Brain Gardner from StudioPress (the guys behind Genesis and Rainmaker) are in the forefront of this movement, designing really gorgeous themes without sidebars. (Check out his gorgeously minimal personal blog – https://briangardner.com/ ).
Also check out Brian’s guest post at Becoming Minimalist for his argument on preferring a minimal, no sidebar design.
The main reason to remove the sidebar from your blog is to highlight your post content.
Your content is really the superstar of your blog. It’s the raison d’etre (“Reason for being”, if you’ll pardon my French) for your blog. So, why not put it center stage by removing the sidebar?
If the Purpose of your blog is to share your content, removing your sidebar may be the perfect approach for your blog.
A sidebar can be a valuable piece of real estate on your blog, but it can also be a distraction from your content.
A reader might be reading a post, catch a glimpse of Featured Image for one of your Popular Posts in your sidebar and decide to read that instead of the article they’re currently perusing.
If you’re counting on your readers to finish your posts because you have a Shop the Post widget at the bottom of your post or an affiliate product link or an email list sign up form, a reader bouncing from post-to-post may not work for your content and revenue strategy.
Many items that are often found in the sidebar can also be incorporated in the blog post footer. I use an author box in the post footer instead of cluttering up the sidebar. You can also place an email list signup form (like I do) and use this space for very targeted ads like the popular Shop the Post ads.
The Mixed Method Approach
You may also want to look at removing your sidebars on a per-post or per-page basis.
On a results-oriented page like a shop, services or blog post page, removing the sidebar can help encourage your readers toward your desired results (buying your product, signing up for an opt-in, etc.)
On search results pages or category/archive pages, a sidebar is a great way to present “secondary navigation” elements like category widgets, search boxes, popular posts lists and more. On these pages, visitors are already looking for more posts to read. Adding a sidebar with useful widgets will help them in this objective.
So, when you consider going No Sidebar, you definitely want to consider this change on a per page-type basis. What will work best for the individual Purpose of the post or page?
On our home and shop pages, we are No Sidebar. This is because I want visitors who are shopping to be able to focus on our products and not be distracted by blog posts and signup forms.
On our blog, we are Right Sidebar. We’ll get deeper into the Left vs. Right sidebar debate in a minute.
The reason I use a sidebar on our blog is for enhanced navigation. I am a menu minimalist…
RELATED POST: The Right Way to Organize Blog Menus
But I want to make my blog content easily discoverable for our visitors, so I’ve included a search widget, category widget and a popular posts widget in our blog sidebar.
But as I’m writing this and researching the No Sidebar movement, I must say I’m considering re-evaluating my sidebar strategy…
Make your sidebar decisions based on individual page or post-type Purpose. It may be perfect for your blog to remove all sidebars. Or a mixed method may be the perfect approach. Tailor your sidebar strategy to your Purpose and you’ll win-win all around.
So, You Can’t Live Without a Sidebar…Are you a Righty or Lefty?
Back in my post on menu design, I discussed website heat maps.
Heat maps are visual representations of the areas on a website that visitors spend the most time looking. See the classic example of a heat map on the left.
Red and orange are the areas highest visual activity.
Most visitors eyes linger on the top, upper left and left side of the screen. This makes the left side of the page prime real estate.
So, when deciding on your sidebar position, consider your blog goals.
RELATED POST: Find Your Blog Purpose & Goals
Is your blog content-focused? Do you want readers to focus on your blog post content and read to the end? A right sidebar is your best option in this case.
If you’re more focused on getting email list sign ups, social media followers, ad clicks or readers clicking on those popular posts, consider a left sidebar.
Neil Patel of Quick Sprout has done extensive testing of sidebar placement and he recommends a left sidebar if you’re looking for a higher conversion rate for those items in the sidebar.
Neil personally decided to keep the Quick Sprout sidebar on the right even though it reduced his opt-in signups by 13%. This is because the right sidebar layout increased the number of blog post reads by 9%. His blog purpose is to share his content and get it read by visitors.
Other sites have A/B tested sidebar placement and found little to no difference in factors like Pages per Visit, bounce rates, conversion rates, etc.
Sum It Up
A sidebar can be a useful design element on your blog and a valuable piece of real estate. Located on the right or left side, it can help your visitors navigate your site or encourage them to sign up for your opt-in.
But a sidebar can also be a distraction from the superstar of your blog: your content. Removing your sidebar altogether from your blog may be the best choice for your site, depending on your blog goals. The No Sidebar approach works great for sites that want to make their content the absolute focus of their blog.
A Mixed Method, using a sidebar on some posts or pages and going No Sidebar on others, based on the purpose of the page or post, can help tailor your blog design to your individual goals. This approach is becoming much more common (see this site for example!).
Or you may be a Sidebar All the Way, Baby, type. It all depends on your site and your blog goals and purpose.
You should also choose your sidebar location (left vs. right) based on your blog goals. Some bloggers have found a right sidebar improves the number of blog post reads while a left sidebar may help increase conversions for opt-ins and ads.
1. Are there places on your blog where it would be appropriate to go No Sidebar?
2. When using a sidebar, what is the purpose of your sidebar? What position works best for your overall blog goals?
3. Should you make the leap and go totally No Sidebar? What might your blog gain from this strategy?
Time to concoct a sidebar strategy that works to help you achieve your Blog Purpose and Goals!
As a reader, which layout to you prefer? Let me know in the comments, if you would. Thanks!
The final 3 posts in this sidebar series are going to tackle:
- How to Pick the Best Sidebar Widgets for your Blog
- 5 Must Haves for Your Blog Sidebar (they might surprise you!)
- 10 Rockin’ Blog Sidebar Examples
Sign up now for our email list and you’ll get these awesome, helpful posts right in your email!