Squarespace has been pushing their latest template family – Brine – which has more kids than any other template! There are many reasons to love Brine: it's modern, has optional parallax, lots of styling options and advanced blogging and commerce features. I've enjoyed designing on it very much and my clients love it!
There is one big caveat though: Brine does not have a blog sidebar.
Like many designers and individuals out there I love the clean one-column look, it's aesthetically pleasing, well balanced and keeps the reader's focus on the content. However, I also still love the sidebar and in the following I am listing the main reasons why.
Five Benefits of having a sidebar
1. Welcome your readers
If someone comes to your website for the first time via a blog post it's nice for them get an intro to you via a welcome photo and summary in the sidebar.
2. Encourage subscriptions
The sidebar offers an easy place for a newsletter sign-up box. Some people say they just put this at the bottom of a post which is great, I do that too. But I can tell you from my stats that most people use the sign-up box in my sidebar.
3. Sell your products
The sidebar is a great place to showcase your products, give a brief overview and encourage your readers to check them out.
4. A sidebar is good for SEO!
A sidebar with links to other areas on your website – e.g. popular posts, blog categories, your About page, etc – encourages your readers to stay and browse, search engines love that! The longer someone spends on your website the better.
5. Use it for advertising and sponsors
This one is contradictory to point 4 as it will take people away from your website. However, many bloggers earn money through affiliate links and website sponsors and the sidebar is a natural fit for that. Personally I am not a big fan of advertising but it *can* be done tastefully and I have clicked through on sponsored links on people's blogs so it works.
Bonus 6: A sidebar is great for e-courses!
If you've ever taken one of my courses then you'll know that I use the sidebar for easy navigation through the lessons. Any changes I make to it automatically show on every lesson page, and you can use the summary or archive blocks to further automate this. People love the ease of it all.
As a designer my main considerations are aesthetics and functionality. If a client is not bothered about a sidebar then I prefer the clean look of a no-sidebar template like Brine. However, as you can see, I use a sidebar on my own blog and I love it! Naturally, I keep it clean and simple, and my stats tell me that it works: it keeps readers on my site and they find my courses this way, too.
Templates with a Sidebar
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