The design of your blog is every bit as important as the content you publish on it. It needs to be visually appealing, easy to navigate and attract the kind of readers you desire.
The sidebar of any blog is an important part of that design, so today I’m going to share some quick tips for an awesome sidebar that will help boost your blog’s appearance and function.
Your sidebar needs to be in proportion visually to the rest of your site. You want it to be not too wide as to be too much of a feature and distract from your main content, but not too narrow as to make the elements within it too hard to read and therefore, pointless. Most blog themes set the sidebar around 300px wide, which is a great place to start. It is also best to place your sidebar to the right of your main content, so the main content is what readers see first.
Say Hello – About Section
One of the first things a visitor to your blog will look for is your face! Many new bloggers shy away from having a photo of themselves in the sidebar, but it really will harm your connection with your readers if you don’t have one there. Add a short welcome message, include your name (that’s super important) and add a link to your full About Page where readers can find more information about you and your blog. These little things will help readers connect with you, trust what you have to say and make them feel like they are interacting with a person, not just a computer.
Make it super easy for your readers to connect with you on social media by displaying icons that link to your social media profiles in your sidebar. It is a pretty standard place for readers to look to find a way to connect with you, so add them here and make them pretty. Social Media icons are a great way to add a little extra piece of your branding and add extra design elements. Many blog themes will already have custom social icons included!
It’s also great to add in your Instagram feed or Facebook like box to engage with more followers.
Add a search bar to your sidebar so that your readers can quickly and easily do a search for specific content on your blog.
Avoid Extended Archives
No one needs to see a big long list of every month’s worth of blog posts in your sidebar. Especially if you have been blogging for a number of years. It’s ugly and purely unnecessary. If you do choose to display your archives (which you don’t need to do at all if you don’t want) choose a drop-down display.
Also Avoid never-ending category lists
Like archives, no one needs to see a never-ending list of all your categories in your sidebar. Choose your most important or most popular categories and display only those. However, if you have a minimal sidebar and are using it mainly to display your categories, then a larger list is ok. Just make sure the list is designed well and looks aesthetically pleasing.
Remove the clutter
I’ve said it so many times over the years as a blog designer – your sidebar is not a place to display every bit and bob and widget and gadget and flashing this or that. Remove the clutter. Remove that button a friend gave you as an “award”, remove the “I’m a part of such-and-such blog group” graphic. Anything that isn’t given to you by a big company, recognised authority or that isn’t absolutely necessary should be removed.
There is a fine line when it comes to having ads in your sidebar. Remember that for good branding, everything, and I do mean everything on your blog should fit with your brand. That includes the design of the ads you display and the content of the ads. More than that though, ads are a supplement to your blog, not the main content and you never want your ads to detract from the main content. So request the design of the ads to be in keeping with your colour scheme and style and avoid flashing or animated ads! There is nothing worse than trying to read someone’s amazing blog post while a whole slew of ads are flashing and changing in the corner of your eye! It will cause readers to click away, and they may never return!
Headings and Order
Headings help to keep your sidebar organised and easy to view. The order you display things in your sidebar is important too. Always have your about section first, then social media icons, then order everything else with the most important things near the top and the less important things further down.
So, there are some quick tips to help you get your sidebar looking and functioning the best it can.
If you need some inspiration, check out the sidebars of some of your favourite bloggers and see what they are doing that you like and what you don’t and you will get that perfect balance for you and your blog.