How To Add A Sidebar In Wordpress - Full Guide

Published June 05, 2024

A WordPress sidebar can help show more content and features on your website. This article will show you two ways to add a sidebar to your WordPress site: using the Theme Customizer or making a custom sidebar by changing your theme files or using a plugin. It will also cover how to change your sidebar with widgets and give some best practices and tips for making a good WordPress sidebar.

Adding a Sidebar in WordPress

You can add a sidebar in WordPress in two ways: using the WordPress Theme Customizer or creating a custom sidebar.

Using the WordPress Theme Customizer

Many WordPress themes have built-in sidebar options that you can customize using the Theme Customizer. This is a quick way to add a sidebar to your WordPress site without editing code.

Here are some widgets you can add to your sidebar:

Popular Sidebar Widgets

Widget Description
Recent Posts Shows a list of your latest blog posts
Categories Displays a list of categories on your site
Tag Cloud Shows a cloud of the most used tags in your posts
Search Bar Lets visitors search for content on your site
Social Icons Shows icons linking to your social media profiles

Creating a Custom Sidebar in WordPress

If your WordPress theme doesn't have a sidebar option, or if you want more control over your sidebar layout and style, you can make a custom sidebar by editing your theme files or using a plugin.

To make a custom sidebar by editing your theme files:

  1. Open your WordPress theme's functions.php file using a code editor.
  2. Add the following code to register a new sidebar area:
function my_custom_sidebar() {
            'name' => __( 'Custom Sidebar', 'my-theme' ),
            'id' => 'custom-sidebar',
            'description' => __( 'Add widgets here to appear in your sidebar.', 'my-theme' ),
            'before_widget' => '<section id="%1$s" class="widget %2$s">',
            'after_widget' => '</section>',
            'before_title' => '<h2 class="widget-title">',
            'after_title' => '</h2>',
add_action( 'widgets_init', 'my_custom_sidebar' );
  1. Replace 'Custom Sidebar' and 'my-theme' with your sidebar name and theme name.
  2. Save the functions.php file and upload it to your WordPress theme folder.
  3. Go to Appearance > Widgets in your WordPress dashboard, and you will see your new custom sidebar area.
  4. Add widgets to your custom sidebar by dragging them from the Available Widgets section.

You can also use a plugin like Custom Sidebars or Easy Custom Sidebars to make custom sidebar areas without editing code.

Popular Sidebar Plugins

  • Custom Sidebars: Lets you make and manage custom sidebars for different pages, posts, or categories.
  • Easy Custom Sidebars: Gives a simple interface for making and adding custom sidebars to specific pages or posts.
  • Sidebar Manager: Allows you to make and manage multiple sidebars, and add them to different pages or posts.

After you make a custom sidebar using either method, you can add widgets to it using the WordPress Widgets page or the Theme Customizer, like a built-in sidebar.

Customizing Your WordPress Sidebar with Widgets

After you add a sidebar to your WordPress site, you can customize it by adding widgets to display extra content and features. Widgets make it easy to add to the sidebar without editing code.

Adding Widgets to Your Sidebar

To add widgets to your WordPress sidebar:

  1. Go to Appearance > Widgets in your WordPress dashboard.
  2. Find the widget you want to add in the Available Widgets section.
  3. Drag and drop the widget into your sidebar area.
  4. Click the widget to expand its settings.
  5. Customize the widget options, such as the title, number of items to display, and other settings specific to the widget.
  6. Click the Save button to apply your changes.

You can add multiple widgets to your sidebar and rearrange them by dragging and dropping them into the order you want.

graph TD A[Go to Appearance > Widgets] --> B[Find the widget in Available Widgets] B --> C[Drag and drop the widget into your sidebar area] C --> D[Click the widget to expand its settings] D --> E[Customize the widget options] E --> F[Click the Save button]

Best Practices for WordPress Sidebar Design

When creating your WordPress sidebar, keep it organized and clutter-free for a good user experience. Here are some best practices and tips to help you make a sidebar:

1. Avoid Overloading Your Sidebar

  • Be selective about the widgets you include
  • Pick widgets that are most relevant and helpful to your audience
  • Limit the number of widgets to 5-7 per sidebar to avoid clutter

2. Use Clear and Concise Titles

  • Use specific titles like "Recommended Resources" or "Popular Posts"
  • Avoid generic titles like "Links"
  • Clear titles make it easier for visitors to use your sidebar

3. Implement Collapsible Widgets or Accordion Menus

  • Save space and improve user experience
  • Allow visitors to expand and collapse sections as needed
  • Prevent overwhelming visitors with too much information at once

4. Promote Your Best Content

  • Highlight your most popular blog posts or pages
  • Use a "Popular Posts" widget or manually select and link to your top content
  • Encourage visitors to look at more of your WordPress site

5. Use Eye-Catching Images or Graphics

  • Draw attention to important sidebar elements
  • Use visually appealing buttons or icons
  • Encourage visitors to sign up for your email list or follow you on social media

6. Regularly Update Your Sidebar Content

  • Keep your sidebar fresh and relevant to your visitors
  • Rotate in new blog posts
  • Update your email subscription form
  • Change out your social media links to reflect current profiles

Tips for Optimizing Your WordPress Sidebar

Tip Description
Prioritize important widgets Place search bars, email signup forms, and recent posts at the top of your sidebar for better visibility
Use images and icons Break up text-heavy widgets and add visual interest to your sidebar
Limit the number of widgets Aim for 5-7 widgets per sidebar to avoid clutter and distraction
Test on different devices Make sure your sidebar looks good on both desktop and mobile devices
Use A/B testing tools Try out different sidebar layouts and widgets to see what works best for your audience