Monday, June 06, 2005

Super Sidebar Hacks #1: stacking hierarchy

[NOTE: This is Post #1 in a continuing series on Super Sidebar Hacks. Stay tuned for more.]

COPY & PASTE Your Blog Template Code

CAUTION: Before you tamper with any blog template code, be sure to copy and paste the entire thing into a Notepad, Wordpad, or word processing program (like MS Word or Star Office) document. If you make an permanent, non-recoverable mistake, you can then paste the original template code back in.

How To Think About Sidebar Organization

Prioritizing what you display in your sidebar is the first step in enhancing your blog's sidebar.

List, in order of importance, what you want your sidebar to contain.

Think of it like this:

If you were going to explain your blog, or your company, or your services, in what order would you present the relevant details? This approach may help you get started in forming a consistent, effective sidebar strategy.

I call this the "stacking hierarchy" or "presentation priority".

Sidebar Strategy Not Rigid "Law"

You may change your sidebar strategy, as the mood strikes you, or as new concerns emerge.

You may shift things around to adjust for new focus in your blog.

Or to temporarily emphasize specific items, issues, products, etc.

For example, you may want to announce, like I've done recently, a Special Podcast, or some other new feature in your blog.

Artistic Beauty vs. Sidebar Strategy?

There are strategic communication concerns...and there are also beauty, aesthetic, artistic developing sidebar stacking hierarchies.

As you find functional objects and graphic badges, or create them yourself, you'll introduce an aesthetic (artistic, sense of beauty) dimension into your stacking system.

You may think "this image looks great, especially next to this other item!"

But you'll be deviating from your planned or loosely conceived sidebar strategy, violating the stacking hierarchy.

I think it's best to make your sidebar contents conform to a systematic presentation of items, but visual artistic considerations also must be factored in.

With a coherent sidebar strategy, as you acquire new objects and items for sidebar content, you won't be confused about where to place them.

You'll insert them according to the logic of your sidebar's organization plan.

For example, an item or function related to blog updates or syndication for readers will naturally be placed within the section of your sidebar devoted to such.

Your blog's type, purpose, target audience, and other factors will influence how you structure the stacking of content in your sidebar.

NOTE: "badges" is a peculiar word I use to indicate small graphic images that are not hyperlink buttons. In other words, they makes statements or display symbols, without being selectable as a hot link leading to another destination online.

I tend to add hypertext captions under sidebar "badges" so readers can visit the site from which I got the image.


Sidebar Content
Stacking Hierarchy

(1.) Welcome/Photo/Illustration

(2.) About/Profile/Bio

(3.) Contact Info

(4.) Blog Purpose/Topic Area

(5.) Testimonials/Endorsements

(6.) Comment Policy/Privacy Policy

(7.) RSS Feeds/Email Updates

(8.) Previous Posts

(9.) Archives

(10.) Group Affiliations/Issues Advocacy Badges

(11.) Product Badges/Link Buttons (Firefox, Blogger, WordPress, etc.)

(12.) Ads/Sponsored Links (Google AdSense, Amazon Affililate, etc.)

(13.) Blog Directory Reciprocal Links

(14.) Blogroll

(15.) Copyright/Creative Commons Notice

This is just one way of organizing sidebar contents.

There is no one right way to do it, although certain structural principles may apply to many types of blogs.

Knowing users, and being able to predict what they need to know, and in what order, is important.

Observing successful blogs and noting how they prioritize their sidebar contents is another good technique to help you model your own sidebar.

My primary principle of organization is asking myself, "What do I want readers to see first? What if they only scroll down a little? What do I want to make sure they see, and what can be relegated to a lower location?"

I'm still pondering my basic sidebar structure.

I'm shifting my priorities, re-arranging the contents, then viewing how it looks, and evaluating it.


What is your blog sidebar stacking hierarchy?

your feedback makes the blogosphere go round Posted by Hello

[signed] Steven Streight aka Vaspers the Grate aka Leopold the Told

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