spring clean your blog sidebar with these 7 essentials

May 07, 2017

sidebar essentials

So I recently did a little refresh here what with all the new updates and outposts that I have been releasing lately. I am really passionate about creating easy, clean online spaces and things had been getting a little muddled. So I decided a little blog detox was in order.

In determining what to include in my newly refreshed sidebar I looked at a number of industry influencers, picking their brains for their perspective.

Surprisingly to me the recurring advice over and over was that a sidebar should act as a site directory that enables visitors to navigate your content rather than drag them away to offers and external outposts. This was interesting as on the surface many people support the idea of promoting your offers in this location.

The other pertinent advice and one that definitely helped me keep things straight in choosing the order of content, is to prioritise what you want potential visitors to do and in what order. Of course, taking into consideration my own habits and usage patterns when interacting with a site also guides the overall interface design.

With these thoughts in mind what I have ended up with is to have all my off-site offers and service links in the top navigation bar, keeping the sidebar solely for blog navigation and supporting resources.

The 7 essentials for your blog sidebar

1. Search

The number one tool that was mentioned so many times it was silly, was the humble search bar. I have to say I agree: it is incredibly frustrating as a user to go to a site wanting to locate a specific article or topic and have the option to search unavailable. The number of sites though that do this is bizarre. Ultimately it leads me (and likely other visitors) to be a little disappointed and ultimately rather than persisting, turn and look elsewhere.

Categories and indexed archives are all well and good in their place, and certainly they are also among this list, but a good old-school keyword search tool is the fastest way for a visitor to find that pertinent piece of information they are seeking. Have one.

2. Introduction block

Including a portrait of the editor-in-chief, an overview of what the site is about and link to the about page for more information.

Another old-school favourite, the introduction block gives new visitors a quick overview of the chief personality behind the site and the site’s mission. First contact.

3. Social media links

Most people have between 5 and 7 social media accounts though not all will be actively used or pertinent to your blog or business activity. Beyond your blog, visitors will be interested in connecting with more of your content and interacting with you elsewhere. Include links to the most relevant and active of your social outposts so that you can engage readers at their favourite watering holes.

4. Mailing list sign-up + email capture

Other than your social media outposts the only other way to keep people in the loop is via a mailing list. It is not surprising then that the call to encourage people to subscribe this way is a top priority and often one of the first items in the sidebar hierarchy.

| related | Introducing the New Moon Missives

5 + 6. Popular posts +/ categories

Categories, recent posts and most popular posts are all ways of highlighting at a glance the key types of content and articles your blog includes. Again, another way of helping visitors discover more of your content that may interest them and encourage further exploration of your site.

However, whichever way you choose to highlight this content the big rule here is to limit the number of options. Gone are the days of lengthy strings of labels and tags. Even if you do have more than half a dozen topics that you rotate between, try to condense these lists to the top 5 that you want to focus attention on.

7. Archives

Finally the last of the old-school site navigation tools, the reverse-chronological archive list got a mention.

Depending on how long you’ve been writing, how many posts you have and how many other options you have in your overall sidebar, the decision of how to include this tool is up to you.

For a long time because I had few of the other options available I went with the expanded archive method that allowed visitors to see at a glance my posts. Taking into account the length of time I have been creating content and my preference for streamlining my site visuals, I have reduced this to a simple drop-down menu.

Only after all these essential and really basic site navigation tools did the mention of anything to do with content upgrade promotion come into the picture.

Meaning that, the purpose of your sidebar is to assist in the navigation of your content and direct folks to the information that matters most. Primarily this is your free content. If you can capture your audiences’ attention with this and build a relationship of trust then they will be more inclined to upgrade into your paid offers.

And what should go?

Gone are the days when cramming everything under the sun into your sidebar/s was the norm. Less is now considerably more. Rather than bombard visitors with so many options they are overwhelmed, keep the focus on what matters most: your core points. This means, as much as they may give you the warm-fuzzies, no more:

:: ads or links to other sites, or for that matter, share buttons for your own site
:: widgets that give previews of your social media or outpost feeds
:: or award and community badges

Remember, white space is your friend.

| But tell me:

What do you think? From this list, what is your number one essential? Have I missed something that you think is absolutely necessary? Let me know in the comments below.

:: BEKA ::

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