How the Heck Did You Do That?!? -Let’s talk sidebars

May 31st, 2014 Kimberly Blogger Tips and Tricks 76 Comments

31st May

Blogger tips and tricks

Let’s Talk Sidebars

Today I thought we would chat about sidebars. It’s where we show a bit of our personality, maybe some fan pictures or blog love. I am not going to talk about cleaning it up, or the time load those images and widgets require, not to mention how they distract the eye. Or the fact that last year’s read-a-thon is still posted there … have heard it all. Today I am going to mention things that should be in your sidebar to help visitors  navigate your site and stick around.

1. Recent Posts

This is especially true for WordPress blogs since a lot of us have landing pages that display several posts. When I come to your site for a particular post sometimes I want to check out other posts. Without a recent post widget in your sidebar I have to repeatedly click your home button (do you have a home button or link?) and scroll down the page then click on new post.  A recent posts area in your sidebar allows me to quickly pick things that interest me. It encourages others to move beyond the present page.  It also eliminates a few steps and I may not have a high speed browser. Make it easy and showcase recent posts.

  • Collapsing Archive Plugin- this is a great way to showcase recent posts. You can upload it here for WordPress and it is a gadget or Blogger.
  • Recent Post Widget– this is a feature of UBB but you can also upload the widget for WordPress here.

2. Search button 

Either in your sidebar or header offer users the chance to look up reviews or particular posts

3. Social media Buttons

Make these visible. Don’t make me work for it. While that twitter bird is cute I might not find it if it’s on the right side below all of your scrolling widgets. House like things together and keep these at the top of your blog. There are tons of free social media icons and you can create a nice neat html widget for them all.

4. Hosting 

If you host an event or challenge have a link in the sidebar or menu that I can easily find to update my progress. This is good practice and one I suggest when you are doing hops as well. It increases traffic to the event.

5. Follow Options

Offer at least two ways to follow and make sure these are easy to find.

Photo of kimbacaffeinate
About Kimberly
Kimberly is a coffee loving book addict who reads and listens to fictional stories in all genres. Whovian, Ravenclaw, Howler and proud Nonna. She owns and manages Caffeinated PR. The coffee is always on and she is ready to chat. Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

76 Responses to “How the Heck Did You Do That?!? -Let’s talk sidebars”

  1. Dani

    Awesome suggestions! I always worry about having too much stuff in my sidebar. But these are really good ideas.

    • kimbacaffeinate

      Yeah, I like to keep mine clean, but certain items make navigating easier and increase pages views.

  2. Michelle

    I hadn’t thought of the benefits of the recent posts widget. I’ll definitely keep that in mind when my blog gets its little redesign in a little bit! (eek!)

    • kimbacaffeinate

      Michelle, a lot of people responding say they you utilize that and the search bar so I am glad you are looking to add them with the redesign.

  3. Tanya

    You made me go in search of my archives. WAY too low on my sidebar, going to rearrange some things now. I can’t wait until I have a good bunch of posts scheduled and I can sit back and work on design a little bit. Great post!

    • kimbacaffeinate

      Thanks Tanya, these items really encourage folks to read more than one post

  4. Jennifer

    This post made me realize that I took that down and meant to put it back up…but never did (the recent posts). Whoops! Thanks, chick!

  5. Ginny

    Great tips! I think I have most of them covered. Although, I do need to go through and clean up my side bar area. I try to do it at least once a month but I’m running about a week behind this month. Darn internet issues. I use the search bar and recent posts section a lot on blogs.

    • kimbacaffeinate

      Once a week is good, we all slip up once in a while, but I giggle when I see my Ho-Ho-Ho read-a-thon or last years Take Control button on someone’s sidebar.

  6. Lark

    Wonderful tips as usual, Kimba! And I appreciate that although you use WordPress, your suggestions in terms of content are pretty much universal, meaning Blogger folks will find them useful as well. (Still trying to find time to learn to do the WP switch!)

    • kimbacaffeinate

      Thanks Lark, I try to mix up my posts and include tips that are universal.

  7. Michelle

    Search bars are a must! Especially now that I do a lot of promotional emails. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve found a blog asking for review requests, but had no search bar for me to make sure they haven’t already read the book! Or I’m looking to for a scheduled posts and I have to click and scroll, click and scroll…only to find out it’s not there! (That and contact info are my two biggest issues when trying to contact people)

    Great post as always Kimba!

  8. Franny

    I was in the middle of tweaking and altering my blog layout when I noticed your post! Even though I’m not on WordPress, I followed every tip you gave and I have to say that some of the additions I made look pretty great, so THANKS!! 🙂
    I’ve now revamped my blog, hope you’ll like it! And there’s also a giveaway for the occasion! 😉

    • kimbacaffeinate

      That is awesome Franny and I am glad you liked the tips. I will check it out 🙂

  9. Samantha

    This is a great post. I actually just moved my blog from to self-hosted so my sidebar is a work-in-progress. I do like it though! I have an email signup form and a link to my Bloglovin’ feed for followers.

    • kimbacaffeinate

      Welcome to the dark side Samantha. You are going to love self-hosting. I will stop by 🙂

    • kimbacaffeinate

      I know, What I did was put some of them in my menus. Like blogs I stalk, tours, and groups I belong too. It really cleaned things up. It was simply a matter of letting go. It really does impact load time, Especially blogs to stalk since the page has to wait for whatever online site they use for the image of their button.

  10. Jeann

    Thanks for the tip Kimba, I never thought of putting recent posts in the sidebar before but you make a good case for it.

    • kimbacaffeinate

      Sorry, replied to wrong comment. You at least have a home button, but I still need to go to home, click on link and go to post. Having at least a few in recent posts lets me see what I would have missed.

  11. Lupdilup

    Great tip about resent post, I bought a pluggin for displaying news and other stuff and use it for this, but I have to do it manually and is a pain in the arse. But I like pretty so that’s why I got But I think I need to look at different options.
    Thank you Kimba!

    • kimbacaffeinate

      What? Wait? Don’t you have UBB plugin? That does recent posts. Both the recent reviews and recent posts I use are UBB.

      • Lupdilup

        UBB conflicted with the plugin I have for my editor and I love that pluggin!! It does so many different things ( I bought that one too, and I paid a lot) I never contacted Ashley to see if she could fixed mine, but that’s one of the options I’m thinking of, maybe I can have parts of UBB and still keep my editor plugin. Although I’m thinking this might be the reason why I’m alway running out of memory. I have to think of a lot things once audiobook month and the contest are over.

        • kimbacaffeinate

          Oh bummer. Ashley wasn’t able to do a work around for you?

        • kimbacaffeinate

          Do me a favor and talk to Ashley first. The memory thing is weird, because I know you bought plugins for that. She may be able to help or at least see what the issues are. It could be your theme too, some of them are wacko.

  12. Miriam

    Really good points. I like how simple your side bar is. I feel like mine is a bit busy, although I do have the bits and pieces you suggest above. Will get around to a redesign eventually 🙂

    • kimbacaffeinate

      As long as you have key bits, then your sidebar can contain whatever you want. Some peeps like countdowns, author love, blogger love. I want to keep my page load time down, so I keep things like blogger love on pages in my menu bar instead. To each his own.

  13. Lori

    I’m proud to say I have most of these in my sidebar! I think I just have to add the recent posts, I didn’t think it was super useful but you’ve convinced me after this post! Thanks for sharing 🙂

    • kimbacaffeinate

      So glad you are adding it. I use them on blogs all the time 🙂

  14. Braine Talk Supe

    My search widget is whacked! I swear it used to work before the first domain change, after that it never worked again including LinkWithing. Grrr!

    • kimbacaffeinate

      Hmm, are you on blogger or WordPress? You can refresh your permalinks and that should re-sync things.

  15. Lorna

    I totally agree with having a search button on a blog for previous reviews. I have only been reading blogs for a few months and it’s my pet peeve for that on some(not all) blogs. Good info!

    • kimbacaffeinate

      Agreed Lorna, and sometimes I stop by and want to read check for posts I missed. Having those recent posts/archive etc helps.

  16. Faye D'Social Potato

    Thanks for these tips, love! Thankfully, I took the initiative of putting a search thingy already, although maybe I should put a recent post as well. I only have the Top pages/posts. Also, thanks for the heads-up regarding social media icons. I’ve been planning to put some for a long while but I always keep forgetting. I want personalized/customized ones, so finding a good design for me has been my obstacle. Haha!

    • kimbacaffeinate

      There are quite a few free ones, and of course you can make them. I also think you could buy them for less then 25.00 from a designer.

  17. Andrea

    I completely agree on these. I sometimes need to check a certain blog for links, but this blog doesn’t have an archive section, recent posts, or a search button. They also post, like, ten times a day, so I have to scroll through page after page looking for a post. It makes me not want to visit again.

    • kimbacaffeinate

      Oh I know exactly what you mean Andrea. I don’t think peeps thing beyond their current post.

  18. Candace

    Search bar and follow buttons!!! It drives me nuts when people don’t have search bars. I think that should be right toward the top. I also don’t like digging for social media buttons. I think right toward the top is good. I hadn’t thought so much about the recent posts, I think mine is at the bottom of my blog because wordpress is weird for me still and I can’t figure out what is the bad image or bad code that made everything drop. Great post though, hopefully some heed this advice!

    • kimbacaffeinate

      *nods* I feel the same way. Hmm, are you using UBB recent reviews?

  19. Laurel-Rain Snow

    Great ideas, Kimba….It is a constant thing I do, looking at my blog(s) as if I am a stranger visiting, eyeing each one for any changes needed. I love Bloggiesta for the opportunity to regularly remind myself of what needs to stay…and what should go.

    • kimbacaffeinate

      Bloggiesta is a fantastic reminder to organize and clean things up!

  20. Amir

    Awesome tips Kimba! I’m going to look into that collapsed archive option! I only have recent book reviews on my sidebar but I don’t only post reviews and maybe the archive instead of recent posts is not as redundant! We’ll see! Either way, I do agree that a sidebar show’s your blog personality and keeping it organized and clean is a good way for people to navigate around your blog 🙂

    • kimbacaffeinate

      Same here. My recent post widget shows the last 7 posts, and I think that helps. I get traffic to them all week long

  21. Jenea

    Great tips! I try to keep my sidebars cleaned up. I check it a couple times a week to make sure if there is current things and take down the old. 🙂

    • kimbacaffeinate

      That is good that you keep up on it Jenea 🙂

  22. kim { Book Swoon }

    Thanks for the sidebar tips! I’ve recently applied some these changes to my blog and admire how organized and clean your sidebar is. 🙂

  23. Bieke

    Thanks for the Recent Post widget! 😀 I’ve been looking for that for ages! 😀

    • kimbacaffeinate

      I love your design Sharon 🙂 I am doing better. I still have a cough and get tired easily but making progress.

  24. Jennifer Bielman

    All great things we should have on our sidebars. I can’t wait to move to wordpress this summer (Ashley will be creating my new blog and I am changing my name) so I can have appropriate plugins.

    • kimbacaffeinate

      Yes, I am glad you are coming over to the dark side and cannot wait to see your new design.

  25. Livia

    Great advice, and I’m proud to say I’m following it all already 😀 But then again, I am quite OCDish, lol 😀
    I went through a pimped-out sidebar phase for a while, but then I did this drastic cleaning and only left the really necessary (imo) stuff up there, asking myself what I’d wanna find about my blog if I was a first time visitor.
    P.S.: I love your neat&tidy sidebar 😀

    • kimbacaffeinate

      hehehe..I feel you on the OCD tendencies. 🙂

  26. Kate

    I’m still playing with the set up of mine (do we ever stop?) but haven’t found a widget to put all my social network buttons in one place. What site would you recommend? Every time I google wordpress widgets etc I just get bamboozled by the amount of stuff out there and always end up on a rubbish site. LOL.

    • Terri M.

      Kate, when I first started, I searched for “free social media icons” on Google and came up with tons of hits. I uploaded each image to PhotoBucket and then you can then use HTML to link each image to the respective profile page.

      In my current design, I created my own image with my preferred social media links and uploaded it to PhotoBucket. Then I used a free online image map page to create the HTML which I copied and pasted into my Blogger sidebar. This is the site I used:

      Terri M.
      Second Run Reviews

      • Kate

        Thank You So Much! It all looks so complicated when you google it, but all it takes someone to explain it clearly. x

        • Terri M.

          I found that to be HUGE issue when I was redesigning/tweaking my blog. 🙂 I have a collection of bookmarks saved on my computer for future reference. I’m trying to compile them and share them with others, but the list is so long right now!

      • Kate

        I *really* should’ve gone through your hints and tips pages first shouldn’t I? lol. Thanks ever so, it’s perfect for what I want to do. x

    • Tammy

      I don’t know if this will help at all, but I created a blog post for my social media icons, found ones I like and put them in the post and sized them so they would look good on my sidebar, linked all the images up, then I clicked in the “text” button in the post, copied all the html and pasted it in a text widget in my sidebar. I saved the post so I can go back anytime and update it.

  27. Trish

    I agree that a recent post archive is a must. It just gives a birds eye view and allows me to choose something that interests me.
    And social media icons of course, no one has time to go hunting.

    • kimbacaffeinate

      Thanks Trish, and some blogs don’t have home buttons either making it hard to navigate beyond the current post.

      • Sandra

        I’ve come across a few blogs lately that don’t have home buttons! So I think I’ll just go up to the top and click on the banner, but that doesn’t work either!

        Another thing I dislike is no way to follow except via email. What if I don’t want to follow you via email? Give me a choice!

  28. Christy

    I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve wished a blog had a search button and/or a collapse archive. I’ve gone to blogs and wanted a certain post, but just gave up because was a pan to find. Or I want a post, but can’t remember the name, only about when it was posted – the CA comes in handy for that.

    • kimbacaffeinate

      I have been there, done that. The CA is nice, especially if they don’t have an archive.