There has been an ongoing debate about the sidebar when it comes to blog design. From a brand experience perspective, it can distract the reader from the content, reducing on-page time and resulting in lower engagement. Let’s discuss reasons why they detract from the brand experience, and what to do about it.
Is the Sidebar Completely Unnecessary?
From the early days of blogging, there has most always been a sidebar that would allow the blogger to present ads for revenue, provide links to their friends’ blog, and grow their community. As the online consumer has grown up with the internet, things have changed.
1. The Lack of White Space is Distracting
Blogging is still around and is incredibly important to a brand’s online growth strategy. However, because of the immense amount of ads, pop ups, pop unders, and ‘subscribe to my email newsletter’ forms, people have grown tired of it.
Online readers are sick of it. I sure am. As a designer, when I come across a blog where there is not a sidebar, it is a breath of fresh air. There is white space. My eyes can breathe. I am less distracted and instead, focused on the content itself. The brand experience improves.
2. The Focus is on the Content, Not Converting a Reader
When you come across a blog or an article where you can focus on the content itself, it builds trust. The brand promise is critical to building trust in the eyes of the reader. When I trust a brand’s site, I am much more likely to subscribe and want to learn more about their offers. Brand trust builds relationships. And delivering pure, distraction-free content builds on that trust.
3. The Content Becomes Customer-Centric, Improving the Brand Experience
This is an add-on to the reason above – when you shift the design to focus on the content, you are also shifting the brand experience to be customer-centric instead of focusing on your business goals (i.e. getting subscribers).
What’s the Solution?
Here’s an idea to try out: Instead of having a sidebar full of distracting content, try weaving the content natively into the content. A relevant call to action to a product, service, or email newsletter that fits with the content in the article is a much softer way to entice your readers to take the next step.
What’s Your Take?
Not everyone agrees with the no sidebar design. I’ve experimented with both designs here on #Orbit. I’ve decided to focus on delivering an exceptional brand experience for my readers by removing the sidebar on #Orbit in order to improve the reading experience.