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Sep 1

Blog sidebar: must-have or design dinosaur?

There’s been a trend over the last couple of years to remove the traditional sidebar from blogs. You know the one – it usually has a bio or profile, links to recent posts, a newsletter signup box and other promo-type stuff.

So do you need one? It depends. There are pros and cons – here’s a quick rundown to help you decide.

A sidebar can be a distraction. It can make the page look cluttered and take the reader’s attention away from your main content. Losing the sidebar eliminates the noise and gives you a cleaner design.

It can confuse the reader. “Read this article.” “Sign up here.” “Follow us on Facebook.” It’s easy to overstuff a sidebar; not everyone can find a good balance between useful content and promotional stuff.

It’s a proven way to increase engagement. Providing links to social media attracts repeat traffic and is a great way to promote products and get users to do what you want them to do. The call to action is right in their faces, so they’re more likely to act.

It increases internal link juice. Google loves it when you have links to recent and/or popular posts.

It increases usability. A sidebar is a great place to have a search tool – but it can also just as easily appear elsewhere on the page.

So… to sidebar or not to sidebar?
Business blogs can certainly benefit from the additional engagement. But a traditional sidebar isn’t always the answer, especially in industries that are really design-focused. The popular “content first” approach is all about giving your blog a clean look – using bigger text and making it easier to read and navigate offers a more premium experience.

So here’s a great compromise: a lot of blogs are now including “sidebar stuff” in callouts throughout the content. Some are putting it at the very end of a post. (Though the drawback to this approach is that if they don’t read to the end, they won’t see it. So it’s on you to make every post compelling.)

Left or right?
If you do decide to stick with tradition, which side of the page do you pick for the sidebar? The right side looks nicer but research shows that having it on the left leads to higher conversion rates and more people reading your bio or corporate profile – but fewer reading your actual content. So decide what your priority is and go with that.

Need more tips on great blog design? Give us a shout.