Organizing Content for Web Design

It’s really tough choosing side dishes at the buffet. There’s an abundance of option, each with their own flavor. Your main course should be the most exciting thing on your plate, but side dishes are the complementary elements that complete the meal. They’re totally optional, but you get the best value from your buffet ticket if you pick a few good ones.

The same can be said about website sidebars. These are the side dishes to your main website content that serve up helpful nuggets of information and calls to action. These items don’t entice your visitors away from the current webpage, but suggest their next bite should be your downloadable whitepaper or most recent blog post. And just like the buffet, there’s a tremendous variety of items available to add in a website sidebar, but limited space. Choosing too many (or choosing everything) results in a lugubrious mush. How do you choose which to prioritize? Let’s start with a few good examples.

Odorox HG rents and sells equipment to eliminate odors and restore property. We worked with them to present detailed material in the main content area while carving out space in the sidebar for smaller chunks of information. For Odorox HG, the most important action a visitor could take on their website is to email or call. So the top sidebar spots go to a bold, straightforward button and emergency contact info. Below that is a short video with a powerful testimonial. Social media icons and links to recent blog posts help fill out the rest of the space.

Another local company keeps it simple on their blog page. Homesense Heating | Cooling stacks their recent blog posts on top of their sidebar. This way their latest tips and helpful articles are always in front of readers. The next item is what really nails it. A quick contact form distills the essence of a service call into three questions. Whether your AC is broken or you’re shopping for a new system, this sidebar item jumpstarts the process of getting satisfaction. The Homesense sidebar is actually a vital member of their sales and service team.

Whether your priority is collecting contact information or getting your phone to ring, use the sidebar to present your visitors with their next step. No one should read your website copy and wonder what to do and how. Wrap your web visitors in opportunities to engage with you. Carefully select the position of your CTAs so they hit at the right moment. You can do your customers a courtesy with a web design that uses sidebars to useful effect.

However, there is a dark side to sidebars. It’s called clutter. Instead of care and restraint, you might jam as much content as possible into that slim right-hand space. Just like an overzealous eater at buffet, your resulting dish will be a mush of unappetizing disorder. I won’t call anyone out on this, but you know who you are. It takes so much more effort to horn-in seemingly necessary elements than to properly prioritize.

Have questions about your website? Want a second opinion or just someone to talk through your option with? If there’s anything we love to do at Roundpeg, it’s talk. Give your two cents in the comments or catch me on Twitter for more.

photo credit: Howdy, I’m H. Michael Karshis via photopin cc