Tips on Using the Right Hand Side of your Website Without Having it Ignored
During the earlier years of web design, the right rail (or right hand) side of a webpage was the most commonly used area to feature advertisements—something still actually happening to this day. But with the overload of information users get on the Internet, many of them have grown accustomed to ignoring these areas and anything else that resembles advertising. However, when used the right way, sidebars can actually increase the usability and discoverability of your web content.
Seeing as how the right rail side of a page accounts for up to 20 percent of its available pixels, it would be foolish to completely abandon it without at least giving it a try. The sidebar can be a good place to feature secondary content, where you can help users move on to other areas of your website.
Below are a few tips from web usability experts the Nielsen Norman Group on how to use the right rail side of your website more effectively, helping you get a better return of investment from this section
Give your Sidebar a Clean Design
Cluttered sidebars look like banner ads, so go for a design that’s clean and minimalist, as it garners trust more effectively. Since users these days tend to focus on goals and want to see information they actually care about, anything that feels forced or spammy is immediately ignored—you obviously don’t want this happening to your sidebar.
Many site owners however, gravitate towards designing their sidebars to be loud and colorful out of fear of these spaces looking empty. Unfortunately, they’re only doing more harm. In their usability studies, the Nielsen Norman Group found that users will still ignore items they actually need even when it’s in plain sight, all because it looks like an ad.
With that said, it’s best to go for a lightweight and simple design for the right rail side of your page, one that flows smoothly with the content on the main section.
Keep Sidebar Content Clear from Banner Ads
Since it’s unlikely that you’ll let go of banner ads, the best thing you can do to prevent your sidebar content from being mistaken as an ad (and therefore ignored) is to keep it away from ads. The human mind is conditioned to see connections between things, so elements on a page that are close together are seen as being related.
Make your sidebar stand out by not wedging it between ads. Keep your sidebar content in clear site, giving them a design that again, flows with the main section of your page.
Have Content that’s Actually Useful
When it comes right down to it, users will use a sidebar if it actually provides useful content. Many site owners often don’t know what to with the right rail, choosing instead to place redundant links on it. Provide suggests that are natural and actually useful, like nested list of useful categories (for products and the like).