These days I’m seeing more and more sites ditch the left or right sidebar that’s such a staple of website design. And indeed, how many of us include a sidebar merely by habit? Because we saw it somewhere else? When making the decision to keep or remove the sidebar, we also need to rely on hard data. Are people clicking on it? Is it helpful? Do we want advertising?
In this article, I’ll give you three good reasons to remove the sidebar from your site. And a few situations where you might want to keep it. But first, how do we do it?
How to Remove the Sidebar in WordPress
This process will vary depending on what platform you’re using. With WordPress, we have the theme customizer which most probably will include an option to choose the layout of your site. Most well-designed themes have this option.
For example, I use Genesis on my site, and here are the options to choose the site layout, including the option to disable all sidebars entirely:
You can see that we can choose to go the opposite direction – have another sidebar on the other side!
If you’re using something other than WordPress, you’ll need to consult the documentation of that particular platform.
So let’s get to the main reasons to remove the WordPress sidebar.
Cleaner Layout – Easier to Focus on Content
The biggest reason I would say to remove the sidebar, is so that users can more easily focus on the content they’re reading instead of being distracted by something on the side of the screen. They get more real estate, and it feels uncluttered. This might leave visitors with a better impression of your site and encourage them to stay longer.
The dimensions of the screen that people are using have an impact as well. Narrow screens with lesser horizontal real estate will most greatly benefit from visitors having more space to read.
Mobile Design Discards the Sidebar Anyway
By now we know that all websites need to be designed in a responsive manner. The days of having a separate mobile website or theme are long gone. In such situations, the trusty sidebar is the first UI element to get the axe. It’s usually relegated to the very bottom of the mobile screen where almost no-one goes.
So, the sidebar which often makes up a good chunk of a website’s data usage is almost never seen on mobile devices! And with the latter becoming more and more popular, that’s a massive segment of wasted downloaded data.
Faster Website Download and Rendering
Beyond the fact that the sidebar uses up data and so increases the download time, the browser rendering engine will also have an easier time displaying your website just a little bit faster if it’s missing. We don’t often consider ease of rendering when designing our site pages, but it does play a role. Google’s guidelines themselves recommend having fewer DOM elements.
It might not make a huge difference, but every little bit helps.
Considerations While Removing the Sidebar
Before you remove the sidebar, make sure you have alternatives for the following, or don’t need them in the first place.
A sidebar is a convenient place to have a search form. Ideally, you should be able to relocate this to the navigation menu, or ever next to the site title.
The sidebar is the standard area to have an advertising block. Removing it will seriously hamper your ability to sell ad space.
Either do away with them completely or find a new place for them – like beneath your post. Better still, link out to all your related posts in the article itself!
Keep the above considerations in mind when removing the sidebar on your site. In most cases, you’ll be able to come up with alternatives, and will be able to axe a potentially complicated hunk of code from your site!
I’m a NameHero team member, and an expert on WordPress and web hosting. I’ve been in this industry since 2008. I’ve also developed apps on Android and have written extensive tutorials on managing Linux servers. You can contact me on my website WP-Tweaks.com!
I’m seeing the same as you with regard to the trend in new theme design to dump the sidebar.
Most of my clients report that their viewership is 80% mobile, however, because they monetize via ads, they are required to keep their sidebar. This doesn’t make any sense to me. Nobody is seeing those ads anyway due to them being so far below the post.
I’m hoping ad agency will re-evaluate their stance on this as having a sidebar does usually increase overall load time due to folks filling it up with images that are not properly optimized or worse, bringing in feeds from social media like Pinterest and Instagram that are overloaded with images.
dimiter kirov says
I’m pretty novice but I use WordPress popular posts plugin from an year
It’s in my sidebar indeed and it’s not discarded on mobile devices but it’s UNDER the content of a post.
The downside which I agree with ,is that the images there are not scaled which is bad for speed of course.
However they increase my users’s engagement on my site .
Judy Kahansky says
My site is so much faster when I remove the sidebar. I use Divi theme and had almost removed all of them from my posts, but when I started to apply to Mediavine I was told I had to have a sidebar. I agree with MaAnna above, it makes absolute no sense!
Thanks so much for the shoutout. We can definitely work with sites that don’t have sidebars, but if you have significant desktop traffic, sidebar ads are recommended. It is true that a short sidebar can perform better for Mediavine ads and can help with site speed as well. We have this blog post if you’re interested in learning more: https://www.mediavine.com/rethinking-the-sidebar-less-is-more-for-rpm-ux-alike/
— Susannah at Mediavine