The sidebar, the column that runs, beside the content area of most blogs has become increasing useful to bloggers. In early blogs the sidebar will probably only contain a list of blog entries and a search box.
Programmers quickly developed other features such as a display of important posts, a blogroll, (useful links outside the blog), a link to the login page and increasingly important the display of small advertisements.
Nowadays a new feature has been added to most blogging systems which is the development of widgets. These are are effectively small add-ons that can be quickly added, removed or have their position changed by the non-technical user.
There are now widgets allow you to sign up to an e-mail letter, use Twitter, Facebook, display video, automatically list the most popular posts and allow advertising systems, such as Google Adsense, display advertisements will link to to content.
It used to be that the sidebar was displayed on the left-hand side of the content. This sidebar will contain an important navigation aid listing sections, topics and categories. However, most blogs nowadays display their sidebars on the right-hand side of the screen. I believe that scientists have demonstrated that this is the best way of getting the visitors to interact with the website. In particular the top of the right-hand sidebar is the best place to put a sign-up form for newsletters.
On a blogging pack each, such as WordPress, there are more like a few built in widgets for the sidebar. Recent posts, a search form, a list of categories, the archives of the blog,list of blog pages, calendar and a tag cloud, (a box that displays the popularity of tags used on the blog).
In addition there is the standard text widget that allows the blog owner to add writing, images, links, video and even add quite clever coding to enhance the site.
There are several hundred free WordPress plug-ins, that provide new widgets, for the blog writer to use. In addition there are a number of developers that provide premium, paid for, widgets.
As I have only set this blog up a couple days ago my sidebar is quite boring. I have a simple search box, a video, (in a text widget), a list of my recent posts at my archives, which only have entries for this month.
Once I have written, or re-written, around 30 posts on this website will then concentrate on the look of the blog. the navigation particular is important and I will be adding quite a few internal links to the sidebar. There was a plan to make some money so I will be adding links to social media as well, of course, a few advertisements. I will write an article on these developments some time next month.
Your content is the most important factor in your blog’s development. Learning to use widgets to improve navigation around your blog, build up e-mailing list and encouraging your visitors to recommend you on social media sites is an important part of promoting your blog.
I will be exploring widgets and plug-ins in the future. Managing widgets is a simple, but vital, skill that you should be able to pick up fairly quickly. There will be quite a few articles on this in the very near future.
Blog Basics: WordPress standard widgets
Blog Basics: How to install a widget
Blog Basics: What is a blog?
Blog Basics: Components of a Blog
Vandelay Design: The effective use of sidebars
Google.co.uk: Images of blog sidebars
Shout Me Loud: 5 WordPress plug-in that enhance a blog’s sidebar
Over to you
Browse the net. Look at how different websites used their sidebar. Do they improve navigation? Do they encourage you to stay longer on the site? Do you see any interesting gizmos or features on a blog’s sidebar.