Now that we have our base pages in place, it’s time to add some sidebar widgets. This will complete the overall look of the blog and then it will be time to dive in and starting writing.
WordPress sidebar widgets
One of the really neat features of WordPress is the ability “drop” widgets into your sidebars. WordPress widgets are visual “gadgets” that can moved in and out of your sidebar and even moved around in your sidebar. This all happens on on the fly and as soon as you drop a widget, it’s available on your blog.
WordPress by default comes with a number of default widgets. You can see them by logging into your WordPress admin console and clicking on Appearance>>Widgets. The widgets are displayed to the left and the available sidebars will be shown on the right. There are widgets for categories, archives, links, calendars, searching, comments and more. Remember too, this is just the default ones, there are many more available on WordPress.org Plugins library.
Many bloggers make one of two common mistakes related to sidebars:
- They content flows far beyond their sidebar
- Their sidebar flows way beyond their content
Let’s look at the situation of content flowing far beyond the sidebar first. Doesn’t seem like a bad thing right? Once users scroll past your sidebar, they aren’t being presented with anything but your articles. All of your opportunity for them to click on ads, see your featured posts, subscribe, purchase your ebook ,etc are gone. 25 – 30% of your blog page is now white space (read wasted space).
With that in mind, filling up the sidebar and sticking tons of stuff in it would fix that right? Well, if you sidebar flows way beyond your content, than you have the opposite problem. Now you have up to 70% of your blog showing white space and no content.
As with most things, the best option is a compromise. Do your very best to keep your sidebar and content equal in length. Problem solved. You’ll note that I do just that here on Side Income Blogging. Personally, I think it just looks better too. Nothing worse (in my opinion) than a large amount of wasted space.
What WordPress sidebar widgets do you need?
With all of those widgets, how in the world do you decide what to put and in what order? Well, there is no right or wrong answer to that question, and ultimately you’ll have to play around with various combinations until you find what works. But in order to get you started, here are the widgets I recommend an in the order I recommend them:
Subscriptions Widget – I talked about this widget earlier in this series when we did your Feedburner set-up. This widget should always be at the top of your blog. This widget is only available with the Thesis theme. If you aren’t running Thesis, you’ll want to use a Text widget and build your own text and links.
Welcome/About (optional) – There isn’t a widget for this, so you’ll use a text widget. The welcome/About widget will provide a few sentences (i would recommend no more than 5) about your blog or you. The decision really depends on if you are trying to primarily brand yourself or your blog. In general, most of you will want to brand your blog. Those looking to establish consulting or services businesses should work on branding themselves. After the 3-5 sentences, provide a “Read more on our about page” and link to your about page. I noted this widget as optional, as it really is personal preference. I prefer to have this information in the footer rather than the sidebar.
Search – The WordPress search isn’t optimal, but for now it will be sufficient. Later, as your blog grows, we’ll want to incorporate Google search. Search will be an important tool used by your visitors to find your content, hence why it’s high on the list. You don’t ever want someone to have trouble finding your search.
Categories – We’ll discuss this a bit more in a future article, but WordPress provides the ability to relate each post that you write to a category. This provides your visitors with an additional way to browse your content. For example, if you want to see all of the tips on blogging here at Side Income Blogging, than you could visit my blogging tips category page. The categories widget will list off all of the categories that have posts on your blog.
Archives (optional) – Archives again provides an additional way for visitors to browse your content. Archives allows visitors to view your content by publish date. You wouldn’t think many people would do this, but I was surprised at the number of contacts I’ve received that said something like “I just finished reading all of your content from start to finish”. Personally I prefer my archives on a dedicated page, but I’ve seen them in the sidebar frequently on other blogs. The Thesis theme offers a really slick archives page.
Add WordPress sidebar widgets to your sidebar
Adding WordPress sidebar widgets to your sidebar is easy:
- Access the Appearance>>Widgets menu from your WordPress admin console
- Find the WordPress widget you want from the list of available widgets
- Using your mouse, drag the widgets into your sidebar. If you have more than one sidebar, drag it to the one you would like the widget placed on.
- After dropping the widget, it will expand to show you any options the particular widget may have. Set these to your liking and press the Save button.
- Your widget or widgets are now live on your site.
Always remember: Your sidebar should augment your content and never distract the reader from it.
Graphic by: Kurt Thomas Hunt