Have you ever seen a blog with a distracting or even annoying sidebar? How about those sidebars containing long lists of tags in curiously big fonts? Or perhaps you’ve seen animated sidebar dancers with hoola-hoops selling mortgages? Puhleez. We’ve all learned how to ignore that jumpiness on the side. But if your readers ignore it, your sidebar is a missed opportunity.
Generally, blog designers don’t pay enough attention to what’s in the sidebars. And guess what? It matters. Well chosen sidebar content can increase readership, increase stickiness and increase responses to promotionals.
These points are addressed in depth in a recent article by Clayton Makepeace. The article discusses the do’s and don’t’s of sidebars. Though the context of the discussion is the magalog, the points apply equally well to blogs and websites. Incidently, according to Wikipedia, ‘A magalog is a promotional copy of a magazine, usually in a 12-page catalog format.’ Magalog = magazine + catalog.
To summarize briefly, there are two kinds of readers: casual scanners, and straight-through readers. The readers will read through most of the article from beginning to end. However, the casual scanners will flip through the article, sometimes in no particular order, looking for something that catches their attention. The scanners are more likely to find something that interests them if the sidebar guides them to it. In other words, “great sidebars turn scanners into readers.”
For 21 smart kinds of sidebar content, you’ll have to read the article, which is here. You’ll be amazed at the number of good ideas you’ll get for your sidebars.
By the way, you can see a beautiful example of a well designed sidebar on Clayton’s website, www.makepeacetotalpackage.com.