Well, the widgets are one reason I think the sidebar is dead as a resource on a blog.
Don’t get me wrong here, the sidebar still works for search fields, category listings, subscribe options (although I doubt they’re ideal there), and advertising. But for actual content, services, promoting valuable stuff on your blog, and so on, sorry – it’s dead.
The reason is that they’re too crowded, with widgets and the need to cram in everything at once.
Why would you want to do that? Do you wear five T-shirts and nine caps when going out? No, you take what fits together and leave the rest in the closet.
The sidebar should be the same.
By not keeping the sidebar clean and useful for your readers, you’re effectively teaching them not to look at it. So you have a great blogroll, links that are really valuable for your visitors. Good for you! Too bad nobody’ll see it since it’s in the sidebar, and they’ve long wearied of its clutter of crap, no matter how useful it is.
This isn’t just your fault. The blogosphere is full of sidebars containing one-time things (subscribe buttons comes to mind), long category listings, and ads. Not counting the accursed widgets of course…
Let’s face it. We’re used to surf the blogosphere looking at content, avoiding the clutter of the sidebar.
I just realized it’s gone so far that I momentarily were stunned by a “that’s good design” moment when checking in on Skelliewag – a clean and sober site with an un-cluttered sidebar. Honestly, it looks good but it’s nothing special – the pure fact that the sidebar wasn’t full of crap made it feel a lot better. It almost went as far as to cloud my eyes for other design problems, but that’s for another day and post…
My point is, most sidebars are wasted blog real estate, and you want to use it. So do that, but make sure your sidebar only contains the necessities. Like Speedvine did and pointed out in a comment here on Wisdump. The two sidebars feels clean and warranted, so I don’t mind it, will even look at the links – or would if I gave a damn about cars at least. Sure, there are problems here, especially with the “Forumroll” heading which I don’t think is as obvious as it should be, but it’s a great resource and if it were presented with some descriptive text it would be obvious how to use as well. And lo, there’s a sidebar worth looking at!
Is your sidebar worth looking at, and what are you doing to get your readers interested in it?