Blog Sidebar Basic Reconstruction Tips [Part 1]

by Wayne Liew

in Internet Business

Blog sidebar is one element of blog design that bloggers cannot ignore. However, blogger often face the few problems below with the sidebars on their blogs:

  • Underutilized sidebars
  • Flashy sidebars
  • Never-ending sidebars
  • Slow loading sidebars
  • Sidebars in readers’ blind spot

Blog Sidebar Reconstruction Two Part Series

Ruchir touched on the downside of long articles with 7 Things I Hate About Blogging and it made me split this piece of blogging content into a two part article.

Blog Sidebar

The first will be covering on step-by-step guide for a blog sidebar reconstruction and the next part (up next week) will be covering on blog improvement tips which you can use to enhance your sidebar and its usability on your blog.

If you have, seems to have or have doubts whether your sidebars have the few problems listed above, continue reading as this article and the upcoming one will present you with a packed guide and tips on how you can improve your blog by just tweaking the sidebars.

1. Setting the Aim of a Blog Sidebar

What is the aim of your sidebar? This is an important question that you will need to ask before you start the whole blog sidebar reconstruction process. Bloggers like Skellie want to have a clean sidebar and she only fills her sidebars with content-orientated elements.

Personal journal blogs might want to have a few mini flash game widgets on their sidebars so that their friends can spend some time playing them while visiting their blogs. A blog that aims solely for monetization purposes might only have ad panels on the sidebars.

2. Sidebar review

Your current sidebar is not to your liking and this is the reason why you are reading this. Looking back at the sidebar itself, which you normally won’t, will tell you the elements and parts of your sidebars that require your attention.

Useless elements

Some widgets might not even get the attention of your blog readers and some ad panels is just not getting click-throughs that earn you money. Removing them is the only way to unclutter your sidebar. Be stern about this as keeping these elements will only waste the space and extend the loading time of your blog’s sidebar.

Lego Toy Writing Check List
Photo by: orangeacid

Unavailable necessity

Traffic building widgets such as Entrecard can be an essential for blogs that wanted to boost their traffic and build up an interacting platform with their readers. A blogger which is constantly receiving advertising requests but with no ad space to offer should be thinking about opening up some ad space on the sidebars.

Prioritize elements

Determine what elements in your sidebars should be above the fold and what elements should fall right down to your blog footer. You will also need to determine which elements of your sidebars that you wish to make them stand out more so that readers will pay attention to them.

All of the above require a fall back onto the aim of your sidebars because you will never know what you want and everything will seems to be important for you if you did not set an aim for your sidebars.

3. Sidebar Optimization

Further optimization on your blog sidebars helps to improve them even more. Sidebars in your blog require more than putting and arranging the elements in it.

Length and space

After putting in all the elements which you think are must-haves for your blog, look at the length of your sidebar. The rule of thumb is to have sidebars that are shorter than your main contents section. You might on the opposite side where your sidebars are not even filling up the top fold of your blog.

Cutting down the amount of sidebars on your blog or going back to step one for the purpose of removing and adding elements will solve this problem.

Sense of design

Ponder for yourself whether you want an element of your blog to stand out more or just to blend together with your blog design as the use of colors will be different. Using colors like white and black for your blog’s background opens up widgets’ design compatibility widely for your sidebars.

You will need a little sense of design when adding widgets or banners into the blog sidebars. Matching colors or the usage of borders will either make an element stand out more or blend into your blog design. Elements which is not matching will kill the design almost instantly even though you might have a nice one.

Sidebar load speed

First, weed the elements of your blog that is causing the slow load time using Web Page Analyzer.

Web Page Loading Speed Report

A sidebar can materially cripple a blog’s loading speed just because some third party scripts, especially javascripts are not loading fast enough. If you find that the loading time of your blog is slowed down by just one element, you way out is to find an alternative for it or to remove it totally from your blog.

What if you want to keep it? You can do so but boosting site load time can be an issue unless you perform other site load time optimization actions such as reducing the number of images used in blog posts.

4. Sidebar Performance Tracking

Every time we perform something for our blogs, such as reconstructing the blog footer, we need to perform some basic performance tracking. If the rectifying actions we have taken fail to achieve what we wanted to achieve, we might need to redo the whole process all over again.

Navigation

Make sure that all your elements of your sidebars are accessible, free of bugs (invalid codes, broken images and broken links) and of course, does not cause design impairment to your blog.

Visual test

This test is to determine whether your blog sidebar matches your blog design and is user-friendly for your blog readers. What do you feel about your blog sidebars at the first glance? If anything seems to be wrong somewhere, there must be something that is incompatible, design-wise.

Crazy Egg

Crazy Egg

Crazy Egg is a great tracking software for bloggers to monitor which part of a blog that visitors often click when they visit your blog. This piece of information will tell you about the usability of your blog sidebars and whether blog readers are ignoring them completely.

Review by others

Sometimes, subjective tests such as for design compatibility work best when views and opinions from different angles are being collected. Hop over to relevant platforms for your blogging questions and ask for a review on your newly reconstructed blog sidebars and I am sure that you will be flooded with constructive criticisms and recommendations on what you can do to turn your blog sidebars better.

Sidebar Problems, Anyone?

What do you think is the most important element that you would like to see on blog sidebars? Are your sidebars currently performing what you want them to do? I doubt most of us ever pay attention to our blog sidebars. Why not take some time, right now, to take a look at it?

Remember to subscribe to Wayne Liew Dot Com RSS Feed if you want further tips on how you can enhance your blog’s sidebars with the Part 2 of this article which will be coming up next week.

{ 22 comments }

Jug February 23, 2008 at 9:56 am

Great post, Wayne. :) I can’t wait for part 2. Well, for me, sidebars with more ads than content are a no-no. I hate seeing blogs which have lots of AdSense ad units in the sidebars but no other informative stuff like the list of categories, the archives, and other stuff.

Jug February 23, 2008 at 5:56 pm

Great post, Wayne. :) I can’t wait for part 2. Well, for me, sidebars with more ads than content are a no-no. I hate seeing blogs which have lots of AdSense ad units in the sidebars but no other informative stuff like the list of categories, the archives, and other stuff.

Wayne Liew February 23, 2008 at 11:43 am

I tend to see sites with a lot of banner ads as splogs and frankly, I will not punish myself to read through all the ads to find out myself whether the content is good or not.

Wayne Liew February 23, 2008 at 7:43 pm

I tend to see sites with a lot of banner ads as splogs and frankly, I will not punish myself to read through all the ads to find out myself whether the content is good or not.

Ruchir Chawdhry February 24, 2008 at 9:34 am

I try to keep my sidebars as clean as possible but sometimes it gets hard when choosing what to keep and what to throw out…

Ruchir Chawdhry February 24, 2008 at 5:34 pm

I try to keep my sidebars as clean as possible but sometimes it gets hard when choosing what to keep and what to throw out…

Wayne Liew February 25, 2008 at 10:15 am

Set yourself an aim of what you want to achieve with your blog. If it is your authority or portfolio, an About Me widget which seems to be a bad inclusion on the sidebar of other blogs can be a nice inclusion for your blog.

Wayne Liew February 25, 2008 at 6:15 pm

Set yourself an aim of what you want to achieve with your blog. If it is your authority or portfolio, an About Me widget which seems to be a bad inclusion on the sidebar of other blogs can be a nice inclusion for your blog.

Louis Liem February 27, 2008 at 10:44 am

I’ve got 2 sidebars and my rightmost sidebar contains ads, a searchbox and a tag cloud. I prefer 3 columns theme so I can separate blog element links on one column and external ones like ads on the other column. However, I still have a feeling that my sidebar needs more improvement.

The most important element is definitely not ads :) . But something that supports the content column to help readers figure out what your blog is about. Supposedly today you’re posting about ‘A’ and then readers see your recent posts are about ‘A.1′ or ‘B’, then they conclude that your blog is about ‘A-B’ topic

Louis Liem February 27, 2008 at 6:44 pm

I’ve got 2 sidebars and my rightmost sidebar contains ads, a searchbox and a tag cloud. I prefer 3 columns theme so I can separate blog element links on one column and external ones like ads on the other column. However, I still have a feeling that my sidebar needs more improvement.

The most important element is definitely not ads :) . But something that supports the content column to help readers figure out what your blog is about. Supposedly today you’re posting about ‘A’ and then readers see your recent posts are about ‘A.1′ or ‘B’, then they conclude that your blog is about ‘A-B’ topic

Ian March 2, 2008 at 12:28 pm

Great tips, Wayne. I like 2 sidebars, and on the right. On my blog, I use one for bloggy things like most popular posts, archives, comments, top commentators, blogroll etc, the other for some personal touches I like to show, and advertising. What I don’t like in blog sidebars is scrolling down the screen to find ads, ads and more ads.

Ian March 2, 2008 at 8:28 pm

Great tips, Wayne. I like 2 sidebars, and on the right. On my blog, I use one for bloggy things like most popular posts, archives, comments, top commentators, blogroll etc, the other for some personal touches I like to show, and advertising. What I don’t like in blog sidebars is scrolling down the screen to find ads, ads and more ads.

Wayne Liew March 5, 2008 at 11:03 am

@ Louis
I am somehow skeptical about the use of a recent post list on the sidebar as I don’t want readers to sway away while reading my contents. It would be great if the list is placed in the blog footer.

@ Ian
Do you mean that you like my blog? :mrgreen:

Ads cause some stress to blog visitors like me. Also, it causes slow loading time to blogs.

Wayne Liew March 5, 2008 at 7:03 pm

@ Louis
I am somehow skeptical about the use of a recent post list on the sidebar as I don’t want readers to sway away while reading my contents. It would be great if the list is placed in the blog footer.

@ Ian
Do you mean that you like my blog? :mrgreen:

Ads cause some stress to blog visitors like me. Also, it causes slow loading time to blogs.

Louis Liem March 6, 2008 at 12:09 am

uhmm… how about the best blogging tips you have on the sidebar? does it serve a similar function to the latest post list? :mrgreen:

Louis Liem March 5, 2008 at 4:09 pm

uhmm… how about the best blogging tips you have on the sidebar? does it serve a similar function to the latest post list? :mrgreen:

Wayne Liew March 10, 2008 at 9:37 am

Well, no. A recent blog post list serves different purposes with a popular post list. A popular posts list contains posts that most readers like but a recent post list is just outlining the chronological order of a blog which a reader can find out by scrolling down.

Also, the popular posts list somehow is acting as a section that wonders that can be pulled out by you on your blog. They can be the ones that impress, even though the current article that they are reading is poor or below-par.

Wayne Liew March 10, 2008 at 5:37 pm

Well, no. A recent blog post list serves different purposes with a popular post list. A popular posts list contains posts that most readers like but a recent post list is just outlining the chronological order of a blog which a reader can find out by scrolling down.

Also, the popular posts list somehow is acting as a section that wonders that can be pulled out by you on your blog. They can be the ones that impress, even though the current article that they are reading is poor or below-par.

Flimjo March 12, 2008 at 8:22 pm

Wayne, I think you made a good point about a recent posts widget being on the bottom footer. I think I might do that. Mine is at the top right now, but I know I should move it either to the side or at the bottom.

Flimjo March 13, 2008 at 4:22 am

Wayne, I think you made a good point about a recent posts widget being on the bottom footer. I think I might do that. Mine is at the top right now, but I know I should move it either to the side or at the bottom.

Wayne Liew March 13, 2008 at 12:40 pm

Glad that it helps. Some bloggers suggested that it should be totally removed since all the recent posts are on the home page. However, they should think of the situation of a reader is arriving directly to the single post page.

Wayne Liew March 13, 2008 at 8:40 pm

Glad that it helps. Some bloggers suggested that it should be totally removed since all the recent posts are on the home page. However, they should think of the situation of a reader is arriving directly to the single post page.

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