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Author Topic: Designing a new website  (Read 273 times)  

Online Betsy the Quilter

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Designing a new website
« on: December 06, 2017, 05:15:40 AM »
Hey, folks--

I'm having a new website designed, and the question of sidebars has come up (see this site for an example of a sidebar, if you aren't sure about them).

I'm not crazy about sidebars, myself; I think they usually look cluttered.  They have a use in making sure that some information (such as newsletter signups) are always in the viewer's face...but I'm not sure I ever look at them, myself.  They're kind of "noise" to me.  I may end up having them on my blog page only OR  maybe the "about" page and/or the contact page, but not every page.  I prefer a footer.    As a user, I don't use them much.

So, some of y'all have your own websites, everyone uses websites.  How do you feel about sidebars?

Betsy
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Offline NogDog

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Re: Designing a new website
« Reply #1 on: December 06, 2017, 06:46:14 AM »
I'm okay with (used to?) them, as long as they are styled in a way that doesn't keep distracting the readers' eyes away from the main content, which includes advertisements that don't match the site's style, and definitely not anything in terms of animated GIFs or videos.

Also, make sure that "responsive design" is used that will either move the sidebar content to (probably) the bottom of the page, or otherwise just hide it when viewed on a small-screen device. The new "CSS Grid" technology makes that pretty simple to do with very minimal code (no JavaScript).
« Last Edit: December 06, 2017, 06:52:50 AM by NogDog »

(Make your own reading bar)
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Online Betsy the Quilter

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Re: Designing a new website
« Reply #2 on: December 06, 2017, 12:34:36 PM »
Thanks, Nog--

Good advice.  I'll check with the designer about the "responsive design."

And good point about sidebars not being distracting.  I agree.  Still pondering.

Betsy
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Offline NogDog

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Re: Designing a new website
« Reply #3 on: December 06, 2017, 02:15:48 PM »
PS: I'm by no means artistic (like you are ;) ), but if you click the "my blog" link in my sig here, as you make your browser window narrower and narrower, that right sidebar will eventually drop below the main content instead of being off to the side, and if you go small enough even the top header image disappears. That was me learning how to use CSS Grid along with "media queries" for a responsive design. I'm not an expert on it (more of a server-side/database guy), but it seems like a clean way to do it without a lot of code. :)

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Online ThomasDiehl

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Re: Designing a new website
« Reply #4 on: December 07, 2017, 01:19:24 AM »
Looking back at 19 years of blogging, I traced the evolution of elements such as sidebars closely. Once every four to five years I revised my design.

My takeaways from thatregarding sidebars: Ove rthe years, I reduced them a lot, moving stuff into the header or removing it outright, because much of the stuff that goes into the sidebar is superfluous, otherwise it wouldn't be relegated to the sidebar in the first place.
However, there is some stuff still well-suited for this area.
The one area I completely did away with over time was the footer. Nobody looks at the footer. It's good for copyright information, though I even removed that and put it into an invisible iframe that becomes visible once you click a link in the header.

Meanwhile, I optimized my sidebar to have content that is worth the time. My latest video goes into the sidebar so it is always above the fold. As do my latest books. Other than that it's some navigational stuff I have not yet found another place for, a flag to switch between the English and German site, and an Adsense ad. Basically, stuff that can go nowhere else goes into the sidebar rather than cramming it in somewhere else.
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Online Betsy the Quilter

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Re: Designing a new website
« Reply #5 on: December 07, 2017, 04:58:27 AM »
Looking back at 19 years of blogging, I traced the evolution of elements such as sidebars closely. Once every four to five years I revised my design.

My takeaways from thatregarding sidebars: Ove rthe years, I reduced them a lot, moving stuff into the header or removing it outright, because much of the stuff that goes into the sidebar is superfluous, otherwise it wouldn't be relegated to the sidebar in the first place.
However, there is some stuff still well-suited for this area.
The one area I completely did away with over time was the footer. Nobody looks at the footer. It's good for copyright information, though I even removed that and put it into an invisible iframe that becomes visible once you click a link in the header.

Meanwhile, I optimized my sidebar to have content that is worth the time. My latest video goes into the sidebar so it is always above the fold. As do my latest books. Other than that it's some navigational stuff I have not yet found another place for, a flag to switch between the English and German site, and an Adsense ad. Basically, stuff that can go nowhere else goes into the sidebar rather than cramming it in somewhere else.

Interesting!  Thanks for the comments.  I must be weird, I look at footers more than I look at sidebars.  I often search footers for contact information when looking at websites... 

I tend to blank out on sidebars which I consider advertising of things other than what I'm at the website for.  Kind of like all the junk stores put in the checkout lane.  ;D. (Not to say your sidebar has "junk," Thomas--it sounds like you have some limited, key stuff.  But I think I've been turned off by the number of sidebars I've seen that just scream at me.)

I'm off to check out your and NogDog's websites...
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Re: Designing a new website
« Reply #6 on: December 07, 2017, 11:55:14 AM »
Interesting!  Thanks for the comments.  I must be weird, I look at footers more than I look at sidebars.  I often search footers for contact information when looking at websites... 

I tend to blank out on sidebars which I consider advertising of things other than what I'm at the website for.  Kind of like all the junk stores put in the checkout lane.  ;D. (Not to say your sidebar has "junk," Thomas--it sounds like you have some limited, key stuff.  But I think I've been turned off by the number of sidebars I've seen that just scream at me.)

I'm off to check out your and NogDog's websites...
I hear you, a lot of sidebars are extremely cluttered ad spaces and they have become less useful over time for this reason.
I think anything that is text doesn't work in sidebars anymore because it's too easy to ignore. There's a reason ads have gone from text to image to animated, we just get better at ignoring them.
Contact info is a good use of footers, because people are used to look for it there (though the top right is also a popular place to put it). I put that down to individual style. The fact contact info is a legal requirement in Germany and has to include a street address played a significant role in not putting it directly on the front page, though.

I just realized, I accidentally removed the contact info from the English version of my site. It would usually be in the right hand corner of the brown header bar.
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Re: Designing a new website
« Reply #7 on: December 07, 2017, 02:18:04 PM »
I hear you, a lot of sidebars are extremely cluttered ad spaces and they have become less useful over time for this reason.
I think anything that is text doesn't work in sidebars anymore because it's too easy to ignore. There's a reason ads have gone from text to image to animated, we just get better at ignoring them.
Contact info is a good use of footers, because people are used to look for it there (though the top right is also a popular place to put it). I put that down to individual style. The fact contact info is a legal requirement in Germany and has to include a street address played a significant role in not putting it directly on the front page, though.

I just realized, I accidentally removed the contact info from the English version of my site. It would usually be in the right hand corner of the brown header bar.

I got to thinking about how major commercial websites tend to not have sidebars...it's mostly something we got used to on blogs, I think.  So I did a search and found this interesting article:

https://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/sidebars-research/

It kind of confirms my initial thought to have it on my blog but not the rest of the site.  Still doing research, though.  I do like NogDog's sidebar, nice and clean and limited.

Do you have any information on clickthrough on your sidebar, Thomas?

Betsy
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Re: Designing a new website
« Reply #8 on: December 08, 2017, 01:34:51 AM »
Do you have any information on clickthrough on your sidebar, Thomas?
Only indirectly.
I did try to put the book and youtube links on the top of the content area two months ago and my sales tanked.

I stopped doing analytics some years ago, because I do what I want either way. But in this case the effects were very pronounced and it went back to normal once I reverted the change.
However, do bear in mind my site started as a blog and still displays as such on its homepage. I did away with the sidebar on static pages such as the book overview on the German version of the site. I will do the same for the English version soon. They serve no purpose there.
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Re: Designing a new website
« Reply #9 on: December 08, 2017, 02:39:58 AM »
Thomas,

I was looking at your blog, and comparing the German and English versions.  I browse on my iPad, and the German site looks great.  I like your sidebar, simple and clean.  But the mobile version of the English version is very different.


I had to manually request the desktop version to see that it looks like the German site except in the mobile version.

Thought you'd like to know.

Betsy
« Last Edit: December 08, 2017, 02:47:41 AM by Betsy the Quilter »
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Re: Designing a new website
« Reply #10 on: December 09, 2017, 02:55:55 AM »
Oh boy, this is definetly not what it should look like. Thanks for letting me know.
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Re: Designing a new website
« Reply #11 on: December 09, 2017, 07:51:51 AM »
PS: I'm by no means artistic (like you are ;) ), but if you click the "my blog" link in my sig here, as you make your browser window narrower and narrower, that right sidebar will eventually drop below the main content instead of being off to the side, and if you go small enough even the top header image disappears. That was me learning how to use CSS Grid along with "media queries" for a responsive design. I'm not an expert on it (more of a server-side/database guy), but it seems like a clean way to do it without a lot of code. :)


Thanks for this, NogDog.  Very nice feature.  I'm going to ask my developer about this.

Betsy
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