It’s important that when readers visit a webpage or blog, that they don’t feel overwhelmed. Poor design and layout plays a critical role in increasing the reader-friendliness of your website. Today, I’m outlining 11 tips to making your blog sidebars more reader-friendly.
Your sidebar(s) are reserved for the most important content. Think about what your readers really care about when they visit your blog: your content (eg, your posts!). If they stick around they want to know a little bit about you and where they can find more inspiring posts and content — and that is precisely what should be in the sidebar. The majority of visitors don’t stick around too long and you need to prioritize what they see to best market your brand and website. Therefore, it’s imperative you reserve the sidebar for the most important content. Having an easy to navigate page and attractive layout and design will then get them to the lesser important content that you care about (like those below).
Other than your social media icons, follow me on widgets just add clutter.
There are very few exceptions and those usually are for you to follow their newsletter or if they simply don’t have a lot of other sidebar content to begin with except their Instagram slideshow or their Pinterest boards.
Fix: move to the bottom of the sidebar. People will see it as they scroll through to older posts and if they want to learn more about you and your blog, they will probably migrate down and see it. Limit these widgets only your top one or two used social media channels.
Don’t get me wrong, you should display your archives; but it’s simply not important unless a reader is sticking around for a little bit longer for most or they are a long time follower trying to find “that one post” you wrote. So, it’s just one more thing to add clutter.
Fix: move it to the footer or make it a dropdown menu.
Unless it’s a big time website, community, or blog, most people aren’t impressed. It’s still a great accolade that you are a member of a community or that you contribute to another blog and you should definitely promote everywhere that you are on the Internet… just not in your sidebar.
Fix: This is a great idea for your “About” page. Again, if it’s a big time website, blog, or community then you should put it in your sidebar, but make sure it’s clean: for example, make sure they are all aligned the same and of similar sizes.
This also goes for “Featured On…”
It makes your sidebar unnecessarily long. And the generic Blogger widget just generates kind of a tacky feel.
Fix: If you love a blog so much, promote them on social media, include them in your posts, collaborate with them, or add their button to your sidebar under your “friends” or “affiliates” (or similar) section. You could also make this a separate page.
You need to promote your content, but too many categories gets overwhelming and can add excess length. Sure, you can use smaller fonts and use less height, but a reader doesn’t want to read 16 different graphics to know all the categories they can choose from.
Fix: Consider having generic topics on the sidebar, but move your series to the navigation bar. Or vice versa. Regardless, don’t have too many topics. I don’t have a good number to tell you; but considering you really don’t want to overwhelm with too many topics, I’m thinking under ten.
This includes having some graphics center aligned or some left aligned and/or a variety of sizes in terms of graphics, images, advertisements. Having a clean design and layout is probably the first most important thing any blogger can do, this includes proper formatting such as those.
Fix: try to keep most every graphic the same width. If there are smaller graphics, maybe center align them.
Include a picture and a few lines just to quickly introduce yourself and welcome readers to your blog. If you have anything more to say, direct them to your about page.
In the form of appropriately sized icons. I do feel the need to mention that Facebook, Twitter, and the likes have the legal right to enforce we use their icons and their icons only — but c’mon, most bloggers absolutely do not.
Make sure readers can search for topics and content. This is a no brainer.
If you have some great posts, definitely promote them. The best way to do this is in your sidebar. People will visit your blog and if they are interested in learning more they would want to click on some of your more popular posts. Chances are if they are there for one post, they will want to read more. So take time to create great graphics (that don’t take up too much space, since you’ll most likely want more than 2-3 of these) and put them high up in your sidebar.
Break up those sections with titles or headers! It is very aesthetically pleasing and it helps a reader better find content on your sidebar, especially if you do have a lot on your sidebar. Plus this will just help break things up a little bit to look more organized and controlled.
Some bloggers don’t find the necessity of having this at all in the sidebar, but some companies actually do read this. Plus, for legal reasons you need to have one somewhere. This could also go on your about me page or your advertise/pr page if you have one.
While you make think some of these elements I listed to get rid of are important, I promise you most of your readers don’t. And if they do want to see these things, there are other places to put them or better ways to include them (which I tried outlining better locations in my “fixes”).
Of course, there are exceptions to the rules, but for the most part the point is: is having a blog roll more or less important than having an about me blurb? Is displaying archives more or less important than displaying your most popular posts? Is having an Instagram slideshow more or less important than featuring the shops and bloggers that are paying you to be featured? Is having a “Follow Me On” section more or less important than encouraging readers to sign up for your newsletter or click to learn more about an upcoming event? If you think they are important still, then cleanly include them more towards the bottom of your sidebar.
Here are some great examples of sidebars:
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