Sidebars on Blogs: Does Anyone Read Them?


Well, I do. Anytime I find a new blogger who seems interesting, the first thing I do is look at their archives and category lists to see what else they’ve written. It’s fun to stumble across someone who has addressed a subject that interests me.

However, I suspect I am in the minority. When I asked for advice on redesigning this blog, quite a few of my readers and fellow bloggers said they rarely look at sidebars, and from all indications, few of their readers look at the sidebars on their blogs. And my impression from my traffic stats is that visitors almost never look back through the archives or browse a particular category. And never mind the “ads”, which is effectively what the book icons are. My hunch is that people have been trained by internet marketing tactics to automatically ignore anything that looks like an ad.

Given that, is it worth having these sidebars if only a small percentage of visitors use them? It seems like a waste of space for the majority of users. And yet almost all blogs have them, including some very widely-read ones.

I admit, I have a slightly irrational attachment to my sidebars—they represent a gateway to nine years’ worth of writing, and I’d be reluctant to lose that unless readers say it actively harms the site’s usability.

But I still can’t help wondering if that space could be used better. Devoting 35% of the blog to content that 80-90% of users ignore seems inefficient.


  1. I think sidebar material is ignored when people read posts on tablets or phones. When I read on a tablet, I often enlarge the text, which pushes the sidebar off the screen. But I have looked in archives on some blogs, and occasionally click on a book’s image or other extras. I don’t have much use for other sidebar stuff, however. I also don’t like a lot of visual clutter on a page. And I HATE gifs — but that’s another topic. Thanks for the link to my Unreliable post!

    1. I agree; a visually cluttered page is horrible to look at. Hopefully my site is not too bad, though I worry that its flaws are invisible to me since I look at it so much.

      I was so delighted when I read your post–I love unreliable narrators, and it’s all because of reading “The Repairer of Reputations”. One of my all-time favorite weird stories. Your post said everything I always wanted to say about it.

  2. Like you, I’ll check them out on a new blog, but beyond that I don’t often look at them. Sometimes I’ll browse categories though, and I’ve often searched for something, so it’s always nice when a blog has a search widget on it.

    The theme I use has my sidebar on my blog page only. The other pages don’t show it. That way, it’s there if someone wants to visit my blog, but my home page is free of it, as are my other static pages.

    1. Search is very handy. I’d definitely keep it even if I got rid of the other sidebar stuff–just in case someone wants to see if I’ve written about some specific topic.

      I really like the layout of your site. It’s very user-friendly.

      1. Thank you. It’s a paid theme but not all that expensive. I’d like to expand the text screen, but I’m too scared to play around with HTML to do it. Maybe some day.

  3. When I found your blog, I checked out your sidebar materials. I even clicked on one or two things just to see what kind of stuff you were writing on different topics. I may do that with new blogs I decide to follow, but once I follow somebody that drops away at some point. It’s a shame, because I’m willing to bet if I spent some time diving into your archives I would find some pretty incredible stuff. But seriously, who has time for this? And that’s the problem. There are so many things out there that keep us busy and distracted, it simply isn’t possible to take that deep dive very often.

    But …

    I still think the sidebar information is important. It’s a part of who you are. It’s your history. And for those who care, it provides access to that piece of you. It may be a small number of people who care enough, but it would be a shame if they couldn’t look into your past and learn a little more about you. Because here’s the reality, when you blog like you do (and I do), this is a record of you. Why get rid of that record?

    1. Thank you. That’s just how I feel, but said more eloquently than I could.

      Although it’s true there is probably a lot of stuff in my archives that I’d be embarrassed about now. I guess the “glass half-full” way to say it is that I’ve improved greatly as a writer…

  4. I don’t usually look at them unless I’m looking for a recent post. It’s sad in a way but there’s just never enough time to really look through a blog. If it’s a new one, I’ll look at the “About” page or something like that instead. Then at least it feels like I’m sort of meeting that person in this weird virtual world.

    1. “This weird virtual world”. Good description of the blogosphere. Thanks for the comment! 🙂

  5. WordPress–please, please, don’t listen to this guy and don’t take away the sidebar! 😉

    Seriously, I love the idea of going through people’s archives and reading their old blogs. At least, I love that idea in some fantasy world in which I actually have the time to do it!

    I think I’m just old and still stuck on thinking of writing as a “book,” so part of me wants to read a blog from beginning to end…even though it technically doesn’t have one.

    One of the things I most dislike about Facebook (besides the fact that it sells my data to Putin) is that it makes it so difficult to look at people’s old posts.

    1. Yay! Somebody who enjoys reading the archives like I do. But yeah, it’s true there isn’t really time to do it. I try to at least look at categories that interest me when I find a new blog, though.

What's your stake in this, cowboy?