A sidebar seems to be a standard part of any well-designed webpage. However, deciding whether to use one in the first place, or even which side it needs to be on, are common questions asked by business owners. So is there a right or wrong side to your sidebar – and do you even need one in the first place?
What’s the main purpose of the page?
Both questions can be answered with a slightly vague ‘it depends’. To get the right answer for you, you need to take a step back and ask yourself ‘What is the main purpose of this page?’
Each page on your site should have a specific purpose. For example, your home page is to introduce your company and inform visitors of what to expect from your site. The contact page is primarily there to make it easy for people to contact you and ask questions etc. It therefore makes sense to not have a sidebar on either of these pages.
Your blog page
The blog page has a main purpose too – and usually this is to encourage interaction (via the comments box), as well as to inform and educate (with the blog content). A sidebar may be useful on this page, as it can contain a bio about the author of the blog post, as well as links for readers to connect with you (via the social media icons) and to further interesting read (via previous posts). It therefore makes sense to also have an opt-in box in this sidebar, to encourage readers to enter their details and sign up, in exchange for further educational and informative reading material.
Sales pages and conversion-based pages have a main focus on specific actions. It can confuse the visitor over where you want them to focus their attention and what you want them to do, if these had a sidebar. Therefore, having a sidebar on these will only serve as a distraction.
Left or right?
When it comes to deciding whether to put the sidebar on the left or right, this really comes down to testing. However, as a general rule of thumb, if you want to increase opt-ins, putting it on the left side of your website will work marginally better. If you primarily want to educate and provide readers with interesting content, a right-hand sidebar will keep their focus on the actual content of the page – but ALWAYS test this on your own website and see what your target audience prefers.
A sidebar is primarily there to promote other products and services, as well as providing additional information to back up the main content of that page. Bear this in mind and you’ll be able to work out what really is the best option for you and your audience.
Which do you prefer – no sidebar or a sidebar? Have you tested which side you put your sidebar on? If so, what were your conclusions? Why not share your experiences in the comments box below?
Image © Marek/Dollar Photo Club