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Declutter your Sidebar

Building-A-Better-Blog-2Today’s task in the 31 Day Project is to Declutter your sidebar

Blog clutter has a way of creeping up on almost all bloggers. I’ve let it creep up as much as the next blogger and a big task in getting a new design together has been working out what to remove, what to move and what to keep in my sidebar.

Take a critical look at your blog’s design today and work out what you can live without.

  • What widgets, links, buttons or tools are just adding to the clutter of your blog and which are serving a purpose?
  • What could you move into your footer or other key pages (sometimes things could be more suited to a contact or about page)
  • What could you redesign or feature in a different way?
About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Dan Cole says:

    Good Tip Darren, so may website I’ve been to have too much on the sidebar and it’s too much work to find the things you want.

  2. redwall_hp says:

    I’ve been thinking that my sidebar is a little cluttered lately, but I can’t seem to find anything to do about it.

    Take a look: http://www.webmaster-source.com/

    I may need to totally overhaul the sidebar design. Maybe use some sort of expandable menus or something. I have no idea.

    Any opinions on how I could de-clutter it? I’m a designer/coder/writer, not a miracle worker.

  3. It is funny you mention this!!! I have been working on mine all night and still have a few things that I want to finish!! LOL

    This is Great advice.

    Jason MoneySpace

  4. One way to think about decluttering would be to combine widgets. Find new widgets that can combine the functionality that you once had 2 or 3 widgets doing. For example, use the AddThis.com widget instead of 3,4,or 5 separate bookmarking widgets.

  5. danae says:

    I did this very exercise a few weeks ago — I took quite a few links out of the sidebar itself, and wrapped them into an “introductory” paragraph at the top of the page. It includes our about page, categories, and some of our most popular topics. All the categories got moved to an internal page.

    I’ve found it works quite well and is a lot more new-reader friendly as well.

    You can check it out at http://www.knickersblog.com on the right-hand side. Other examples are http://www.megnut.com and http://www.happycog.com for the “sentence” navigation idea.

  6. Brian says:

    redwall_hp – I don’t think your sidebar is cluttered at all. Especially since you only have one sidebar (I can’t imagine what my blog would look like if I had to stick to one).

    I recently did a sidebar overhaul of my own and am pleased with the results. I don’t think there will be much else added to them in the near future.

  7. Markus says:

    That’s exactly what I tried with the latest design-update. Sometimes it’s hard to let something go. Sometimes less is more.

  8. Glen Allsopp says:

    Nice tip, ive been struggling of actually thinking to put things up there rather than take things off

    Need to think of a tidy way to add this email subscription box aswell ;)

  9. Good one. When I first start a blog I really plan to keep the side bar neat and clean, but then I keep seeing widgets and adds and such that I want to put in there, plus the never ending social badges and directory icons… oy! But yes, it’s definitely time to go through my blogs and start moving things around!!

    thanks!

  10. Tammy Lenski says:

    Darren, you’re right about sidebar clutter creeping up over time! A year ago I had a nice clean look and when I worked on my site last month, I decided it had gotten too full again. I ended up moving the non-essential but-still-want-it-on-the-site stuff down to my footer. Had to make some tough calls, though!

  11. Faisca says:

    Hey, that Addthis.com widget is great! That definitely helped me clean some stuff up. Thanks!

  12. Bob says:

    I had a good laugh when I saw the headline in the RSS feed! I can still remember my reaction when I first found your site… “OMG THE NOISE!!” Lucky, your content was so good, I was extra motivated to get past all the distractions. I can’t wait to see your new design ;-)

  13. BeingParents says:

    Less is more. Clutter turns visitors away. When in doubt remove it.

  14. Of course I’m biased, but in the process of decluttering, it doesn’t hurt to add GoStats. (especially with the newly released features)

  15. Dean Taplin says:

    I couldn’t agree more. You can use packages like Google Analytics or Crazy Egg to track what a user clicks. I find my sidebar is practically ignored by visitors. This could either be because of bad web site design or visitors are not just interested or notice the sidebar.

    Most user clicks on my site happen within the main content. I’ll be tidying up my sidebar soon.

  16. Deborah says:

    Good advise, i try to make sure everything flows in a natural pattern.

  17. Aff says:

    I have put far too many plugins on my sidebar – top commentators, most commented, most visited, etc, etc

    Definitely good advice to streamline and make the user experience better for visitors.

  18. Great tip, I don’t have much on my sidebar.. but I see soo many blogs with tons of stuff on theirs… it really looks crowded, and takes away from the design of the blog.

  19. One thing I wish had done before starting these tasks was to take a screenshot of my blog before I started. I know that my blog has changes a lot in 7 days and it would have been good to compare after teh 31 days.
    Maybe this could be added at the start if you run this series again.
    Cheers
    Frances

  20. Deelip says:

    A lot of things in the side bar can look better if they are organized in a good way. But what I’ve seen really silly is people even put their about me stuff in sidebar. I am dan….I am designer and blah blah

  21. cooper says:

    I think it pays, for those who blog for money, to use something like Crazy Egg to see where the hot spots are and keep their must haves in those areas.

    I prefer clean, but a lot of my readers prefer to have everything out in front like blogrolls and such.

    I found the “srg clean archives” and “categorical links” plug-ins for wordpress were one of my greatest finds in that they took a load off the front page.

  22. You make an important point. I can’t stand reading blogs with tons of stuff on the sides.

    In all things I try to stay simple with both our blog and our new website. By removing the clutter you maintain a better user experience.

    It is so hard to read a blog with a bunch of flashing text and bright colors. Simple is good.

    Tim McCormack
    http://www.iRent2u.com – The Online Rental Marketplace

  23. Bush Mackel says:

    Thanks for the reminder. The sidebar clutter is definitely something I need to get rid of for next month.

  24. marquis says:

    I just cleaned up my sidebar last night. It wasn’t too bad, but it definately needed some cleaning up.

    http://alltalksports.wordpress.com/

  25. I see that Darren is doing a few things to his blog that are similar to what he is teaching here. I love the information he has shared hear. Myself and my partner Adam have a fairly new blog so I do not believe we have a problem with clutter quite yet. I will however keep these ideas in mind when looking into further expanditure of our blog. Thank you for the information.

  26. I see I need a little help with spelling:)

  27. David says:

    Making your page look smooth and removing your clutter is definitely a good way to improve the readability of your blog and attention span of its visitors. Good post, I like these tips

  28. Mike Goad says:

    One of the things that I have just recently done was change to a theme that uses widgets – and the reason that I did it was to get control of my side bars without having to try to figure how it all works every time I want to alter something.

    The tip that I’ll take from this is to try to remember to resist adding too much to the sidebars – to keep the clutter from building in the first place.

  29. Bozdemir says:

    Definetely remove useless link exchanges from your blogroll, that will tidy up the sidebar a bit…

  30. Mark says:

    It is one of the more fascinating piece of real estate we have on our website, the sidebar. I only have one sidebar and I often find myself adding new widgets to it while removing the ones that are not as important as I thought it would be.

    If anything, one thing I learned from your website as well as some others, keep the subscription near the top of the sidebar. Makes it easy and painless for your readers to find the subscription area.

    My problem at the moment is figuring out how long of a page I want, because the longer the page, the more room to fill the sidebar with. And I don’t want to fill it with junk.

    This means I have two scenarios to consider, A) using my welcome page for the front page with a limited sidebar or B) using my blog post page with a limited number of posts (no more than 5) and finding a cut-off point to add the ….more to my longer blogs in order to maintain the consistent look of the sidebar.

    It would be great to hear what kind of ideal “widgets” should be seen on the side bar. Obviously, ads are one option as long as its within guidelines. But should recent comments count? Recent posts? etc… I am using WordPress so other platform may not have the same issues as I do.

  31. lifelessons says:

    Thanks Darren for this post, I will have to look at the sidebars of my blogs to see all that I can do without. I have been thinking of doing this for some time but this post will surely push me into ACTION!

    Thanks once again

  32. redwall_hp says:

    Brian, maybe I just see it as cluttered. I don’t know.

  33. David Mackey says:

    I was running that free ad network, but comments about it being ugly and it was taking up a lot of space – so I canned it.

  34. Aaron says:

    Got rid of two widgets that were slowing down my site and chopped down half of my blogroll. It’s hard to stay focused over the life of your blog, thanks for refocusing me.

  35. Miracle says:

    I think a good way to mask the clutter of a sidebar is to not give it a separate column feel. My site is has 3 colums, but many people would never realize it. On the right I alternate colors to make it seem less static. Another problem with many sidebars is spacing. They just drop everything on the side right after the other. Many sidebars could just use a litle more space between its information. Of course, these ideas only work when there is still a manageable amount of sidebar content. Sometimes you just need to trash some things.

  36. Yeah totally agree, my personal blog is cluttered but after making teh mistake on that, I have minimised content on my sidebars for current websites…

  37. Shine says:

    Great tip. We become “collectors” pretty easily. And, BTW, sometimes it’s also about logical thinking. If we can group and put things together in a logical way, they don’t look so messy / clutter-like.

    Time to have a look.

  38. Hi Darren,
    I love the new look, very clean. Something I’m trying to achieve with my blog. I noticed you have not just decluttered your side bar, you’ve also swapped sides from the traditional left and moved your profile to the bottom right. Just wondered what were your reasons?

  39. alanw says:

    It’s definitely good advice. I’m just starting out with my first real website (only about 3 weeks into it) and I can easily foresee how cluttered the sidebars will get. So I’m going to do one thing at a time; make a change, monitor the effect of the change, decide whether to keep the alteration, then move to the next change. Hopefully it’ll work out.

    I think I’ll also move the subscription nearer the top of the sidebar, currently it’s languishing in the footer. Sounds like a good idea to move it.

    thanks for the advice.

  40. Yes, i do find many bloggers are too obsess with overly-done design, loud colors and “hip” layout. Not the content. For a well-established blog, you can afford to forgo a lot of obstructive widgets like diretories, community blogs and whatnot. But personally, I prefer a sparse, well-layout blog filled with informative or entertaining content.

  41. I agree. Your blog tends to get cluttered up like your bedroom if you don’t watch it. You have to do some housekeeping from time to time.

  42. I’ve got an odd design with a “bottombar” rather than a sidebar, but the same applies, it’s looking a bit lengthy and cluttered, definitely time for a bit of a cleanout. I think I’ll strip the categories section to a few key ones rather than all displayed automatically, and see how I go from there

  43. Ross Hill says:

    But don’t de-clutter it too much, if I get bored with the article I need somewhere else to click – otherwise I’ll click on that X thing in the corner which never disappears :P

  44. Truden says:

    I’m a little late with my tip, but it is actually not about decluttering the sidebar.
    It is about giving chance to your readers not to be annoyed by your sidebar.
    They can hide it.

  45. Diesel says:

    I figure the more clutter I have, the less content I need.

  46. Mi says:

    I… fail…

    I think I’ll sort of modify my blog so the other stuff go to the footer area instead of the sidebar.

    it’s just the laziness preventing me from doing it.

    *sigh*

  47. Cleona says:

    Hello Darren
    When I just started going into this blogging thing, I thought the more flashy banners etc you had on the site..the more visitors you would attract. I had to declutter mine the other day because it was taking away the purpose of my blog. I even had one of those players installed.. and one of my visitor said if i removed it then people would want to stick around. I still get tempted in putting stuff on my blog..but I try not to flood it. I will just have to start another blog. Simplicity is still the way to go.

  48. James Mann says:

    Darren you certainly nailed it with this post.

    I would have to say that the clutter that builds up in my side bar gives me the most grief over a clean looking site.

    I will take this post as an kick in the pants and will take a long hard look at my side bar today.

    Thanks for your great posts Darren.

  49. Michael says:

    Great post and got me thinking. I am always adding and removing stuff from my sidebar never satisfied, but I need to check what really needs to be there.

    Great site and I shall peruse some more posts and thanks for the helpful hints and tips.

  50. I’m continually surprised that online banner ads work. Take this site for example, the ONLY way I would click on something in the flashing blinking screaming mess of a sidebar is if my bluetooth mouse started acting up (as it does) and the pointer jumped 3 inches to the right and up.

    Do you make ANY money from them? Or are those little boxes simply more “karma bait”?