Thursday, June 15, 2006

4 blog sidebar tips

(1) Wise Up and Get In.

Learn how to go to your blog platform's Dashboard, or Control Panel, or Administrative Page, or whatever they call the content management functions. Where you can create new posts, edit posts, upload images, and do other maintenance on your blog.

Look at the part of the Template that says Sidebar Content, or similar. This is your work location, I hope you packed a lunch.

Delete those stupid "Edit-Me"s in your new Blogger blog. Go into the Change Settings, then Template, find the code for those "Edit-Me"s, highlight that code, and backspace or delete it.

Once you get into this command center, and know how to do such simple basic coding, we're ready to go.

(2) Make a Sidebar Wish List.

Start by making notes on what you ideally want to have in your sidebar, even if you have no idea how to find or add them to your blog. Just make a list, first. The list will enable you to collect your random concepts and memories of what you've admired at other blogs.

Email me and I'll help you do what you want in your sidebar. Plus, there are books and blogs and web sites that have advice, tutorials, and instructions for HTML, CSS, web design, and usability.

(3) Strategize Your Sidebar.

What do you hope to accomplish with your blog?

I make my own sidebar graphic "badges" and images to try to convey my expertise, usually in an absurd, playful self-parody ("blogospheric Perseus").

You could use your sidebar as a side show, a film almost, like a movie, but it tells a marginal story, a river of symbols and statements that you wish to have permanently in view of all readers, as they scroll down to see it.

Begin with your total blog purpose, which revolves around your passion, product, or personality... your issue, cause, or line of business.

Is this purpose clearly stated in your blog sidebar, do you say you're an auto manufacturer, media network consultant, gardening expert, blogologist, marketing pro, artist, poet, musician, or whatever?

Make your sidebar be an alternate salespitch, catalog, or showcase.

Mostly, you're selling yourself first,
and only secondarily what you know or can do.

(4) Prioritize the Sidebar Elements.

One simple ordering of sidebar elements might look something like this:

Blog or Your Name, visitor counter, slogan or single sentence description of what your blog is all about, feedURL, contact info, profile/about/bio statement, recent posts list, archives list, issue badges, photo gallery link, links to your other sites, special blogroll, glossary link, controversial posts list, RSS/Atom/Email subscription functions, feedrolls, general blogroll.

You have to figure out your own unique strategy: what should come first in your sidebar, what's most important for your readers to know, to view, or to do.

Look at a lot of high quality blogs, and jot down any ideas you like. Ask yourself why they do what they do in their sidebars, what they may be trying to accomplish, and if you could learn from what they do.

Do you want CoComments, feedrolls (like Digg or Lockergnome), RSS/Atom feed subscriptions buttons, a blogroll (not all blogs have them), any political causes you want to promote in a badge?

If you have a blogroll, what will determine who you put on it? Your friends only, or even competitors and "the other side", because they could benefit your audience?

Learn a bit of HTML ...
so you can make saved, sized images clickable links, like I do with many of my images. This makes them graphic links, that are easier to identify and click than plain text links.

NOTE: The most important thing you can do in your sidebar is appear legitimate.

You do this, you gain precious credibility with your audience, by having your real name, a direct contact method (like email, Skype, land address, PO Box), and some biographic credentials, who the hell are you...and why should we care?

Establish trust, user orientation, blog purpose or personality, and content description...right off the bat, up front.

Web users judge a new site in a few the first quick impression it makes visually. Then, if they feel comfortable, or recognize your name or logo, they may inspect your text, looking for relevant information or satisfying entertainment.

Your sidebar can help keep new readers in your site, long enough for you to make a lasting impression on them, when you follow these simple rules.


carrie said...

"don't judge a blog by its sidebar"


this is a good idea to spell this out for people.

'stupid "edit me's"' that's funny

steven edward streight said...

some new bloggers don't do anything with their sidebar, and it looks odd, neglected, barren, amateur.

i have too much baggage on this sidebar, but this sidebar is trying to act like a separate web site.

JD. said...

You're side bar rules, I find something new every visit.

steven edward streight said...

Thanks JD.

I've struggled with sidebars, mine and those of clients, and it's no simple task.

You have to take everything you know about advertising, web surfing behavior, eye scans, web design, writing, art, information architecture, hyperlinking, and psychology...and apply it all to your sidebar, as if it were a separate web site.

A sidebar can act as a "deep reading" marginalia swamp.

Now, go watch the Silver Jews, sucka foo!

Sumiti said...

how do you add images and animations to sidebars? I want to upload images but do not know how to properly write the code for the template set-up. thanks in advance.

steven edward streight said...

sweet Sumiti: I will go check your blog and see what it is.

First, you need to upload an image from your computer, in mine it's in Documents > My Pictures, to your blog, to get the URL for it, the code for the image source, called in HTML img source or img src.

(If you know the img source URL for the image you can proceed to typing in into your blog template, under Change Settings > Template in the Dashboard or Admin controls.)

Then, once you upload the image to your blog, instead of leaving the image in a post, you want the image in your sidebar.

You can upload images via an image uploader, like Hello/Picasa or Blogger image uploader.

Or: you can just type in the image source code for it.

I cannot put HTML code into this comment, Blogger disallows it.

Try the site HTML Goodies or any other online source of HTML code tutorials for what the code looks like.

It begins with the less than sign, then img source = " and the http: slash slash...and the rest of it.

Learn some HTML, it is our duty as bloggers, we are the Web Masters of our blog.

Hope that helps a bit. Thanks for asking for my assistance.


If it is a Blogger blog, you will have a little icon of a picture in your post writing template, when you type in a new post to your blog.

When your cursor hovers over it, it will throw up a tool tip box that says "upload images" or similar.

Click on/select that picture icon

Sumiti said...

thanks for the prompt response stephen! ahhh yes i must learn html! take care...