I am a curious person by nature. But I’m only curious about things regarding my area of competence, like marketing, social media, visual marketing and everything related to these.
This is why today I want to talk to you about a thing that keeps my mind occupied:
Why more and more blogs quit the sidebar?
And I’m sure that you already have the answer, but guess what? if you look closer to my question I didn’t say that every blog is quitting the sidebar and I didn’t give a flat statement where I say we need to quit the sidebar either.
And yes, the answer stays in the content marketing consumption. But until we have the answer, let’s start with a few examples and then reach a conclusion:
Yesterday I saw the Verge’s exclusive article on how Michelle Obama is mastering social media. And I read it all, from top to bottom. Then I got again to the top and look through the article and realized I had everything I wanted to consume that article: the great headline, the simple but interesting mouse over play, the big picture, the 360 video and the clean content that can be consumed without getting other popular articles, new comments or other links in a sidebar.
It was an exclusive content that gained exclusive attention.
Then I thought: reading this article was too simple without being disturbed by other right or left sidebars with social media icons, popular posts, new comments, buy/learn/signup banner ads.
There wasn’t any sidebar on the article.
So I started looking at other websites I read every day and I found out that there are 2 types of websites/blogs that create and publish content:
- The ones that are simple and clear, that don’t use any sidebar or other types of distracting content that only stands between me and the content.
- The ones that use sidebars but in a clean way.
1. Websites and blogs without sidebars
If you go to MOZ.com/blog you will see a clean blog with a constant branded featured image and also easy-to-read content. Exactly. Consuming their article is easier and you are not interrupted by other text/visuals in the right or left sidebar. Also, their articles are aligned to the center of the page.
I saw this trend after the social network Medium made it’s own way on the internet.
There are people who love Medium because it’s easier to create/publish content but also easier to read content.
For example, if you read this article you will see that the only focus you get on your display is the text. You don’t have anything to your right or your left. But if you scroll down and you stop, then scroll back up, you see 2 bars appearing at the top and bottom: at the top you find the user and the Medium logo (which takes you to the Medium homepage) and the bottom where you have the Like, Share, Bookmark and user profile links. But just look at how simple they insert these bars regarding their branding elements.
Another example that I saw lately is the Crazy Egg blog that redesigned itself. Of course, I love the job they have done. The KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) is so obvious on their homepage and in their articles as well. If you click on an article and you start reading it, you won’t get any interruptions by the the categories, top article or other links that you want to click on it.
The only interrupting thing that we see here is the social share button on the left, but it’s kind of OK for it to be there. But after you get deeper in the content, you will see some kind of banners on the right that are recommending you other articles (this is kind of interrupting, but I don’t think it’s that aggressive) and at the bottom of the article you will get the banner ad to try their product.
Working with my friend, Marius Ciuchete, on a big project that we will launch soon we talked about how people consume content today and how they don’t want to get distracted with the very well known sidebar. They only click the link because they want to consume the content and that’s it.
But the marketers wants to sell the product by using the content, so what should they in order to let users consume the content and also distract his attention with the product?
By giving them the right Call-To-Action in the right place and at the right time with the right format.
1. Websites and blogs using sidebars
There are still websites that use sidebars but they designed them in a way that the user won’t get distracted from the main content.
Let’s look at copyblogger.com and see how they redesigned their blog (here you can read the article when they launched the new CopyBlogger). If you go to their homepage you will see a commonly known pattern in the blogging design – the left bar for content and the right bar for widgets (I recommend you read Rafal Toma’s article on How to Create Visually Effective Calls-To-Action).
When they redesigned their new blog I asked Marius Ciuchete why do they have the same design as before. So he told me that when you redesign something for the internet user you should try to keep it familiar but come up with something new and classy.
When you redesign something, you just don’t redesign because it looks good, you redesign it first for the audience and then for the brand.
Also, another example that is using a right sidebar is Blog Tyrant who only has an about and newsletter widget, social media widget and 9 classic posts. But as you read 4 or 5 paragraphs (theat are also kind of short) the widget on the right is fading so you only have the text left in front of you.
Unfortunately the bottom bar talking about how Ramsay will teach you how to start a blog in just a few minutes (exactly, it’s a selling proposition) will follow you throughout your reading experience.
Will the sidebar on the blog die?
Well my friend, I can’t say if it will die but publishers and bloggers will definitely start using it smarter. It’s about delivering the right CTA at the right time in the right platform and many of us are trying to use the same sidebar in aa wrong way.
I believe that we need to think smarter not only for the content itself but also for its home – where will it be hosted, what will it look like, how is the user going to consume it and when is the right time and right place to make the selling proposition.
And yes, I also have sidebar on my blog but get ready for something new!
Before you think about the content and how you’re going to create it, you should think about the home where your content is going to be living and more important than that, how the user will consume it.