10 Minutes to a Better WordPress Sidebar

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10 Minutes to a Better WordPress Sidebar

How often do you think about your sidebar? Probably not often. The sidebar is one of the most overlooked elements of a website, and it’s also one of the most important.

You may not think twice about sidebars, but they help users navigate your site. They can also make your site look nice and streamlined or clunky and unsightly. In short, they can make or break someone’s opinion of your site.

While there are no official rules for what a WordPress sidebar should look like, there are a few design concepts you can keep in mind while designing yours:

  • Keep it minimal. Long sidebars look unwieldy and weigh down the page. No one wants to scroll through a sidebar that’s the length of the page! By trimming down your sidebar to the essentials, you’ll have a much better looking and functioning page.
  • Include the essentials. You want to trim down your sidebar to the essentials, but what’s essential? There are no hard and fast rules, but generally, it’s good to include a short bio, a search bar, and contact information.
  • Accomplish your goals. The sidebar is prime real estate that helps you accomplish your goals. Is your aim to get the reader to join your email list? Use a signup form widget. Do you want the reader to be able to donate to you through PayPal? Throw a donation button at the top of your sidebar.
  • Connect with readers. Sidebars provide an ideal way to concisely communicate your site’s mission to the reader. You can use a short bio to tell the reader what you do, and you can include your contact information (social media network profiles, email, etc.) so readers can instantly connect with you.

    Customizing Your Sidebar: Our 10-Minute Plan

    As a WordPress user, you have a lot of customization options for your sidebar. They’re incredibly easy to do, and in no time, you can have a fully optimized sidebar.

    We’ve put together a 10-minute plan for a better sidebar. This is an easy 5-step plan that you can do on your lunch break or during some spare time in your day. It doesn’t require any heavy development knowledge – in fact, you can do it with just a few clicks and searches. (Of course, you can take longer than 10 minutes, but we’ve designed it to be lightning fast!)

    Before you start, take a screenshot of your sidebar. You’ll use it for comparison after you’re done. Now you’re ready to begin!

    Quick Sprout Sidebar
    Quick Sprout uses their sidebar to place an eye-catching opt-in form.
    Copyblogger sidebar
    Copyblogger optimizes their sidebar with an opt-in form and a section for readers to choose relevant topics.

    The 10 Minute Sidebar Improvement Plan

    1. Declutter Your Sidebar. (1 Minute)

    Most sidebars are set up to automatically display certain elements, like the Meta or Archives widgets. 99% of the time, you won’t need all of these elements. Thankfully, you can quickly and painlessly remove the widgets you don’t need. It’s a simple fix but one that’s easy to miss.

    In your Dashboard, navigate to Appearance and then Widgets. You’ll see a list of all the widgets that are currently displayed in your sidebar. To delete a widget, click on it to show the drop-down menu and select “Delete.” And that’s it!

    2. Download Widgets to Make the Most of Your Sidebar. (3 Minutes)

    This is one of the most important steps to take in order to make your sidebar truly stand out. Think about what you want your sidebar to look like. Want your Twitter feed to show up? The Twitter timeline widget (available through Jetpack) is for you. Need to display your professional headshot? Try the super easy Image Widget.

    This step will take the longest, but it’s crucial. The best place to look is in the WordPress plugin directory, which offers up a smorgasbord of widgets.

    3. Can’t Find a Widget? See If It’s Packaged with a Plugin. (3 Minutes)

    Many plugins include widgets in the package, and often, you may not even know it. For example, the MailChimp for WordPress plugin includes a widget so you can place an email signup form in your sidebar. Jetpack also includes several handy widgets.

    Your widget list (Appearance > Widgets) will show you the full list of all widgets you have available to use, and this includes widgets that came prepackaged with plugins.

    If you’re wondering whether or not a specific plugin has an accompanying widget, you can check the plugin’s info in the plugin directory.

    4. Use Default Widgets to Your Advantage. (2 Minutes)

    Even though we have some fancy widgets now, we can’t forget about these basic ones. WordPress provides you with a host of useful default widgets. While these widgets may not seem like much at first, they can be powerful when used in combination with your downloaded widgets.

    For example, you can use the text widget combined with the Image Widget to show your headshot with an accompanying bio. Or you can create a specific menu and show that menu in the sidebar with the Custom Menu widget. The sky’s the limit here – there are endless combinations, so mess around with it and see what works for you.

    5. Create Your Own Button. (1 Minute)

    Buttons are great for linking readers to another place on your site or another site entirely. You can use it to direct readers to a landing/squeeze page, or you could link it to your online shop.

    To create a button, drag a text widget into your sidebar where you want it. After that, you only need to use some simple code:


<input type="button" value="CLICK HERE" onclick="window.location.href='https://www.example.com'" />


Whatever you define as the button’s value is what the button text will say. And, of course, replace “https://www.example.com” with a link of your choice.

And there you have it in just ten minutes, you’ve given your sidebar a complete makeover. Compare it to the screenshot you took. Doesn’t that look better?

Bonus Tip #1: Want More Control? Use a Sidebar Plugin.

Sometimes, your theme’s sidebar just won’t cut it. Maybe you want a different look or more flexible features.

Lucky for you, there are tons of amazing sidebar plugins that are absolutely free. Here are a few of our favorites:

There are many more to choose from, so if you’re after a particular feature, chances are you’ll find it.

Bonus Tip #2: Want Advanced Control? Define Your Own Widgets.

If you want even more control over your sidebar, check out our article on defining your own widgets. It walks you through creating static (no code required) and dynamic widgets (code required) for your sidebar.

Frequently Asked Questions about WordPress Sidebars

How can I add a new sidebar to my WordPress site?

Adding a new sidebar to your WordPress site is a straightforward process. First, you need to navigate to your WordPress dashboard and click on ‘Appearance’, then ‘Widgets’. Here, you’ll see a list of available widgets that you can add to your sidebar. Simply drag and drop the desired widget into the sidebar area. If you want to create a new sidebar, you’ll need to edit your theme’s functions.php file and register a new sidebar. Remember to save your changes and refresh your site to see the new sidebar.

Can I customize the appearance of my WordPress sidebar?

Yes, you can customize the appearance of your WordPress sidebar. This can be done by adding custom CSS to your theme. You can access this option by going to ‘Appearance’, then ‘Customize’, and finally ‘Additional CSS’. Here, you can add your custom CSS code to style your sidebar. Remember to click ‘Publish’ to save your changes.

How can I remove a sidebar from my WordPress site?

If you want to remove a sidebar from your WordPress site, you can do so by going to ‘Appearance’, then ‘Widgets’. Here, you can simply drag the widgets out of the sidebar area to remove them. If you want to remove the entire sidebar, you’ll need to edit your theme’s files and remove the code that calls the sidebar.

Can I add different sidebars to different pages on my WordPress site?

Yes, you can add different sidebars to different pages on your WordPress site. This can be done by using a plugin like ‘Custom Sidebars’ which allows you to create and assign different sidebars to different pages.

How can I make my WordPress sidebar responsive?

Making your WordPress sidebar responsive involves adding media queries to your theme’s CSS. These media queries will adjust the layout of your sidebar based on the screen size of the device viewing your site. You can add these media queries in the ‘Additional CSS’ section of the ‘Customize’ menu.

Can I add images to my WordPress sidebar?

Yes, you can add images to your WordPress sidebar. This can be done by using the ‘Image’ widget. Simply drag and drop the ‘Image’ widget into your sidebar and then upload or select the image you want to display.

How can I add social media icons to my WordPress sidebar?

Adding social media icons to your WordPress sidebar can be done by using a social media widget. There are many plugins available that provide this functionality, such as ‘Simple Social Icons’. Once installed, you can add the widget to your sidebar and configure the icons and links to your social media profiles.

Can I add a search bar to my WordPress sidebar?

Yes, you can add a search bar to your WordPress sidebar. This can be done by using the ‘Search’ widget. Simply drag and drop the ‘Search’ widget into your sidebar to add a search bar to your site.

How can I add a contact form to my WordPress sidebar?

Adding a contact form to your WordPress sidebar can be done by using a contact form plugin like ‘Contact Form 7’. Once installed, you can create a new contact form and then add it to your sidebar using the ‘Text’ widget.

Can I add a newsletter signup form to my WordPress sidebar?

Yes, you can add a newsletter signup form to your WordPress sidebar. This can be done by using a newsletter plugin like ‘MailChimp for WordPress’. Once installed, you can create a new signup form and then add it to your sidebar using the ‘MailChimp Sign-Up Form’ widget.

Ian ChandlerIan Chandler
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Ian Chandler is a professional writer based in Kent, Ohio, currently studying English at Kent State University. He serves as Editor at Nukeblogger, contributes to Freedom With Writing, and writes for Haircut Inspiration.

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