Why your sidebar should play second fiddle to your main content (And the common mistakes you might be making)

Roles of the President and Vice President

Roles of the President and Vice President

Have you noticed the roles played by the President and the Vice President of a country? The President is always in the forefront. And focus is always on the President. Occasionally focus will shift for a short period to the Vice President when he covers certain functions. But then immediately the spotlight will switch back to the President.

But imagine if all of a sudden the Vice President acted like he was the ‘Man In-Charge’. There would be confusion! It would be difficult to decide on which person to focus your attention. That’s why, the role of the Vice President is very clearly defined – to never overshadow the President.

Well, sidebars on a website play the same role as the Vice President. They should always play a supporting role to the main content of your website.

So what is a sidebar for?

First and foremost, a sidebar is not the main content. And it is not normally the primary means of navigation. But it is valuable real estate on your website that should be used wisely.

A sidebar should be used for secondary content purposes. It is a great place to hold content that needs to be included on a website, but where the reader will focus, after consuming the primary content.

A sidebar should be used to highlight sections of the site that need to gain more attention to meet certain goals of the website.

What should go in your sidebar?

There are many choices for content in your sidebar. Here are a few options which should be considered:

  • Search box: So that visitors can search your website for content.
  • Subscription Options: Offer visitors a way to subscribe to your website through RSS or by subscribing to a newsletter via tools like AWeber and MailChimp.
  • Testimonials: Having a few testimonials on the sidebar offers a visitor a way to quickly see why others like your services.
  • Organization of Posts: Having popular or the latest posts, categories or archives are good way to encourage visitors to read other posts.

Of course it is also important that visitors don’t confuse your sidebar with your primary content.

How can we prevent a sidebar from competing with main content?

This can easily be done by making the font of the sidebar slightly smaller that the main content. Just ensure that you don’t make it too small.

Now let’s take a look at some common mistakes.

Common sidebar mistakes

  1. Your sidebar isn’t your hall closet: 
Your sidebar should not be like that hall closet that you are afraid to open because stuff might fall on your head. A sidebar should only have content that needs the secondary focus of a visitor.
  2. Mixing advertisements and content together: 
If you going to place advertisements in your sidebar, ensure that they are the top of sidebar. And can never be confused with the actual content.
  3. Unreadable sidebars: 
Separate pieces of sidebar content into visual groups. Create a title with a different color so that is visually appealing to look at and visitors can find things easily.

In conclusion

Your sidebar should never compete for focus with your main content. Just like the Vice President, it should play a secondary role and only step in for certain functions. A sidebar should have a smaller font that the main content and should be clutter free and easily readable.

Is your sidebar vying to be the president? Then it’s time to adjust it’s role. Contact me at for ideas on how to make your sidebar play it’s rightful role.

Are you considering building a website for your business. Don’t hesitate to contact me. I will be more than happy to answer your questions.

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