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Why sidebars don’t work on homepages anymore

Jan 8, 2017 | Vee's blog, web tips, Wordpress | 0 comments

Here’s an article on why side bars don’t work on a homepage anymore. Smart phones and tablets have changed the way we consume stuff on the internet and this has had a surprising knock on effect how websites are designed today.

Sides Bars on Home Page

Up to around 3-4 years ago, most people accessed the internet via their desktop computer or laptop. These devices have large screens and traditionally websites had sidebars and it was typical to show a few options like sign up boxes to newsletters and free content or links to blog posts or other content. And we thought that was a good thing – to offer as much as we could in that first screen – above the fold, on the home page or landing page.

Then as we used our mobile devices more, those big screen layouts shrunk down which meant the text was unreadable without pinching and zooming in which was a nuisance.

Mobile Friendly

Google also got wise to this and started favouring websites that were mobile friendly in their search results. The definition of mobile-friendly according to Google’s rules were sites that didn’t require you to pinch and zoom the screen to read it.

So web designers got clever and made their site designs single columned for mobile devices. Which meant that you were restricted to one article or feature at a time.

Less Choice

As a user you had less choice. You have just a yes/no option – yes I want more (scrolls on or clicks through) or no (this is not what I want – clicks away).

This meant that you had to grab the user’s interest to read on in that first screen and make it clear you were the right site to solve their problem or pain. And you literally have a few seconds to do this because information is so readily available at the click of a button, we’re able to cram so much more in our waking hours, so we make snap decisions about what’s to take up our precious time.

Less Really is More

This became quite successful as users were staying on sites longer and clicking through to more content. Designers and marketers realised that by offering far less was a good thing (less really is more!), so they adapted the mobile layout to the desktop version of their websites. Which is why now, you see far more websites with just one clear message, overlaid over a compelling image on a modern home page or landing page – no sidebars.

Recently you have what’s called a parallex effect where instead of scrolling line by line down the page, it scrolls screen or section by section. This way you can have a succession of messages that lead the user to the next action – scroll to next section to read on and eventually sign up for something useful

What should you do

  • Ditch the side bars – in themes designed for WordPress most themes have the option to have a no-side bar or single column layout – choose this one for all your pages, not just the homepage. If you don’t have this option, then its time to revamp – let’s talk – set up a free clarity call with me.
  • Don’t let your logo or any other image that doesn’t add value dominate the above the fold space – it’s a waste of valuable collateral and to be honest, nobody cares about your logo except you and perhaps your logo designer. Instead…
  • Make sure your message of who you serve and the problem you solve dominates that important area above the fold on your homepage. This is not the place to be clever with cryptic or clever headlines as you risk losing them in that 3 seconds they take to decide whether this is the right site to spend time on.
  • Images are really important and help relay what your business is about. Consider professionally taken photos of you looking welcoming or of happy people who’ve had their problem resolved.
  • Make sure there’s a clear ‘what next’ action for the user to take. A ‘what next action’ might be ‘read on’, ‘see more’, ‘find out more’, ‘sign up’, ‘call’, ‘email’, ‘buy now’

So there you have why side bars don’t work on websites anymore and what to do instead. This was one of the areas I covered in my free online training. You can get access it  here.

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