Here We Go: Sidebar

Today we’re discussing the sidebar! Exciting, huh? When I first started blogging I didn’t really give a lot of attention to my sidebar. You can see it here. Ugly ugly ugly! I’m going to list a few key components that I think you should consider when constructing your sidebar:

It’s really important to keep all of your important information at the top of your sidebar. What’s important? Well it’s obviously up to you. I would definitely suggest keeping a small photo to “introduce yourself” to new readers that links to your ABOUT page. It’s also important to make it easy to connect or subscribe (whether that’s RSS, links to social media, or something like Google Friend Connect). In a nutshell: introduce yourself and make it easy for people to stay in touch.

I think this was one of my biggest mistakes when I first started blogging. Most of my links were literally links. You can really spruce up your sidebar by creating buttons and graphics that allow your readers to dig deeper into your blog. It’s also important to keep one single width. On my blog I make sure that every button is 200 px wide. Since your sidebar (whether it’s on the left or the right) essentially frames your blog, it really keeps it clean.

There are many opportunities to share lists on your sidebar. It could be your blogroll, categories or tags. I would suggest keeping it short or using a drop down menu when possible. Heck, go crazy in your blog posts but I definitely wouldn’t overwhelm your readers with a lot of text. Oh…and make sure your links open in new tabs. Why would you want to point them away from your lovely space?

Sometimes I get so frustrated when I return to a favorite blog (or find a new one) and can’t search for content. Perhaps I read about your great pesto recipe but forgot to bookmark it. I should be able to go back to your blog and use your search bar to find your delicious recipe! Make it easy and if you use Google search, make sure it’s searching ONLY your blog’s content and not the entire internet.

I also found another easy post about adding images to your sidebar and sizing/aligning them correctly with HTML. I hope those four tips help. Obviously there are many other great things that you can add to your sidebar and I’d love to hear what works for you! What do you include on your sidebar? What bugs you about other blogs’ sidebars? Let’s aim to improve!


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Comments (15)

  • I literally, just two days ago, redesigned my site (well, really, my tech-savy husband did) from a one-column theme to two columns and I’ve been thinking about what to do with the new sidebar. Great timing!

    Here’s something I would love your thoughts on: blogroll. To do or not to do?

    • Often times a blog roll can be a great to share your favorite reads. I try to keep my list (which I call “Daily Reads”) under 10. I also don’t accept sponsors so it’s my way of promoting blogs that I love. I often see blog rolls get out of control and I personally think it can be overwhelming in a sidebar. I have seen some bloggers categorize favorite blogs on a separate page and that feels better (in my opinion).

      • Just wanted to thank you for the advice, which I put into good use today, turning my ‘list of reads’ into a separate page that links from the front. I feel better about it–it was great to bounce my question off someone!

        • I’m so glad I could help! I absolutely love how clean and simple your blog is. Looks amazing!

  • Oh gosh…where do I start with things that people do with their sidebars that bug me. (Mine actually is in need of some revamping, but I’ll get to that soon – I hope.) I agree with pretty much everything you said! My only thing against drop-down boxes or non-text links is that some people might want to be optimizing for search, and those aren’t the easiest to optimize…but I doubt that’s something that most lifestyle bloggers are concerned about.

    • That is very true about non text links or drop down menus. But you’re also right in saying most lifestyle bloggers would prioritize aesthetic over SEO (aka me!) I do think that you could eliminate a drop down category menu by really reducing the amount of categories you have. For SEO’s sake, you shouldn’t categorize a post more than once. Keep it to one and don’t use them like tags.

  • My sidebar is always a work in progress. I really like the idea of using sidebar images for featured categories like you’ve implemented. I currently have them in the navigation bar under the header. I wonder if switching them to the sidebar is the way to go?

    • I really love your sidebar! And I don’t mind the categories at the top. The only thing I would say is that sometimes I correlate top navigation with pages (vs categories and posts). No matter what, I think your design is so clean that it’s easy for your readers to find what you’re looking for.

  • question. i have a 2-column layout but i’m thinking of cleaning it up BUT going to a three column so I can feature some of my favorite posts and things, and keep sponsors JUST on the far right.

    • I really am drawn towards blogs with one single sidebar BUT I’ve seen some blogs handle 2 sidebars really well. I am not a fan of two sidebars right next to each other but this is all just preference. There is something nice about not cramping your blog post area. If you really want to clean up your sidebar, I bet you could attain that by still only using one. Let me know if you ever want to chat via email! I love to help consult :)

  • These are great tips! I’m always trying to pare down my sidebar to the essentials, but it’s hard sometimes! But I also know how annoying it is to be on a blog where the sidebar just goes on and on.

    • Yes sometimes I see bloggers adding every badge and icon to their sidebar and it can be overwhelming. I tend to stop looking at the sidebar once it extends past the first post. I just don’t think we all have the attention span anymore to handle a lot of info (sadly).

  • Great tips Allie! Love your posts about blogging :)

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