Periodically I browse other marketing company websites. I like to see what my competitors are up to, how they present themselves and the services they offer. Recently I noticed something as I cruised from website to website, for the most part, the sidebars are gone.
At first I found it disorienting. I like sidebars, they lend a bit of consistency as I move from page to page. They also provide quick shortcuts to other relevant information.
But the more I thought about it, the more I realized having the same sidebar on every page was really more a function of the limitations of some of the software tools used to build websites. Older versions of programs like WordPress did not allow for custom website sidebars on different pages.
The static sidebar doesn’t provide enough benefits for site visitors who have different needs on different pages. It actually limits your ability to serve up the most relevant content on every page. With new themes like WordPress Divi, custom sidebars are easy to create on each page and just as easy to omit completely.
And then there is mobile
Most mobile responsive themes drop the sidebar to the bottom of the page assuming it is less important than the core page content. As more and more of your visitors are coming to you on mobile devices, fewer and fewer are actually seeing your sidebar.
Custom interior pages are in
So if sidebars are on their way out, what is replacing them? We are seeing an explosion in custom interior pages; each one carefully constructed to serve as a landing page with the most relevant information presented at the top of the page. Sometimes that is a form or link which normally would be presented in the sidebar. Other times, it is a large graph, chart or video. Freeing yourself from the constraints of the sidebar allows you to present the most relevant information on each page, creating the best experience for website visitors.
The pain of letting go
I suppose you are wondering if you should run out and get rid of your sidebars. The answer is not as easy as the question. Here’s why:
- Those glorious, expansive pages work well when you have enough content to fill them. For sites which are relatively light on content, the sidebar helps compensate for the lack of detailed information, giving each page a feeling of completeness
- Abandoning the sidebars requires planning and serious consideration to the primary action you want visitors to take on each page. The sidebar lets you try to serve two masters for a little while longer.
Letting go, slowly
Just as I finally gave up the rotating slide show, I know I will eventually give up the sidebar on the Roundpeg site. For now, we have eliminated it from pages where it doesn’t add value such as our portfolio, case studies and meet the team pages. The rest will follow over time as we decide what will enhance the user experience on each page.