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Sidebars suck


I will never use those fucking things again. Ever.

Well, I will if I have to due to a client wanting them. But on my personal websites I won’t use them anymore.

Sidebars suck. I hate them.

How sidebars suck

Imagine reading a book, a physical copy of, let’s say, “50 Shades of Grey”. Imagine the pages having a sidebar attached to them. A sidebar that not only distracts you from the main content but also takes away a third of the page width and makes the book 33% bigger.

Imagine the suffering.

Maybe this is a topic to discuss with a therapist but I feel the very same pain when I use websites that have a sidebar. The pain increases quadratically with the number of sidebars.

The formula goes like this: pain = sidebars²

I’ve seen websites with as many as three sidebars. Three! That’s nine times the pain compared to only one sidebar.

Why sidebars suck

They suck because they disrupt the natural flow of a website. We read from top to bottom and from left to right.

They also suck because with a million different devices with different screen sizes and aspect ratios they are impossible to design in a consistent way. They create so many problems. Compared to the solutions they provide it’s just not worth it in most cases. Wikipedia, despite all the other shortcomings, manages to keep the sidebar to a reasonable size. In their case the sidebar helps to navigate the website. I’d call it a toolbar and it works just fine.

There is still a lot of superfluous stuff crammed into Wikipedia’s toolbar but that’s something I’ll write about in another post. Maybe.

And then, the most common reason why sidebars suck is this: Ads. Yeah, fucking ads. Advertising on the web still works but the most effective ads are placed above the fold and inside of the main content. Most of the time nobody cares for the sidebar. Despite it being very stupid people still put ads in their sidebars. It seems as if a huge number of websites is built around the sidebar or rather the ads that can be shoved into a sidebar.

It should be exactly the opposite. A sidebar is something added “to the side”. The modern HTML5 tag is literally <aside>. Something that could very well be gone. Something that nobody really needs but what might be convenient. Like the toolbar I mentioned earlier.

Sidebars are commonly redundant, repeating the same crap that is visible in the top menu or in the footer. Sometimes even multiple times. It’s a mess.

The solution

I won’t use sidebars anymore. If I’m forced to do so I will. But I will be angry during the whole development process.