Friday, January 14, 2011

Sidebar and other gadget areas

Most blog templates include a column on the left or right hand side where you, the blog author, can put photos, text, links, and many automated blog gadgets. Some have sidebars on both sides.

Sometimes called widgets, these gadgets can be dragged to horizontal positions at the top of the blog (just under, but not in, the title-and-tagline block), and the bottom of the blog (in the footer of every page).

Your sidebar, and the gadgets you add, appear on every page of your blog.

There are no end of gadgets; if you are talented you can even make your own. Two of the most popular ones are "About Me" and "Archive," which are include by default in new blogs.

These and other gadgets can add tremendous value to your blog, helping your readers to find content that interests them. That makes your blog more useful and fun, which over time translates into more readers and followers.

However, these benefits do not come free. Consider well the hidden costs of adding gadgets.

Every gadget adds clutter, competing visually with your blog posts and degrading your blog.

In addition, every gadget eats up some of the allowed page size. Adding many gadgets could thus mean fewer posts allowed per page.

Finally, gadgets add to load time--the time during which readers drum their fingers and think about whether to click away from your too-slow blog.

In short, too much sidebar bling can make a blog less useful and fun for your readers.

I urge my fellow bloggers: Put on your editorial green eye shades and be hard nosed about every gadget.

Does it really add more value than it removes? Is it really worth it? And is the net effect of all that sidebar bling acceptable, or is it too much of a distraction from your blog posts?

Special considerations apply to gadgets you put in the horizontal regions above and below your blog posts.
« Header, title & tagline Index Gadgets over posts »

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