Traditionally, sidebars have been an integral feature of a great many websites. In fact, if there is such a thing as a standard website layout, then it would likely include a left or right sidebar.
On WordPress sites, just about every theme allows you to add a stack of very useful widgets to the site sidebar with ease.
To be sure, sidebars are a fantastic way to display important content to your site visitors. And much of the sidebar content appears in the top part of the browser (above the fold) where a visitor can easily see and interact with it.
So long as the visitor is using a desktop or laptop computer.
There in lies the problem. If your website is responsive – that is, the layout adapts automatically to the size of the screen that the visitor is using – all of your precious sidebar content will usually be pushed down below the site footer on small screen devices such as mobile phones. And, the sad fact is that many site visitors on mobile may leave before they scroll all the way down and see your sidebar content.
Given that a great many of your site visitors – probably more than 50% – will be using phones or tablets, this is an important consideration.
Let’s say that a product site search is vital to the success of your online business. Displaying it on a sidebar will make it easy for desktop and laptop visitors to see and use. But your mobile users may not even see the site search and may leave your site without finding what they want. Which translates to lost sales, lost leads, lost opportunities. The same could be said for other important calls to actions such as email sign up forms, contact forms, or eCommerce links.
That’s not to say that sidebars should never be used. They still provide a simple and useful way for websites to display content. But, when designing a website, you need to ensure that ALL of your visitors can easily and quickly see your most important content elements, regardless of the screen size of the device they are using.
So, these vital elements may need to be placed above the fold and outside of sidebars so that they don’t disappear into post-footer oblivion for your mobile visitors.
Or, you might want to go for a clean and modern “no-sidebar” layout and eliminate the disappearing sidebar problem completely.