We Need To Kill The Sidebar

It’s time for the WordPress sidebar to go, and all mention of it to be wiped out from existence. I’m not talking about the visual idea of a sidebar on your blog. No. I’m talking about the WordPress function get_sidebar() and the use of the term, Sidebar in the WordPress admin. This way of thinking is obscuring the vision of WordPress designers and limiting the potential of your blog theme.

Here’s why: A sidebar doesn’t have to be a sidebar.

That’s it really. Any area of your theme can be turned into what is now referred to as a dynamic sidebar that let’s any WordPress blogger control content layout by moving widgets around. Any area. The header, the main content area, the footer. Everything is up for grabs. Not just “sidebars”.

Now, if theme designers want to take advantage of this functionality they run into a problem. They’re making sidebars like, <?php get_sidebar('headerarea') ?>, which tells WordPress to look for a file named sidebar-headerarea.php, which in turn lets you add widget content into a theme’s header, by dragging a widget into the “headerarea sidebar”.

The headerarea sidebar? What’s that beside? Not convinced? How about footerbar sidebar? After-the-first-post sidebar? Belowbar sidebar?

Not good.

Starting to see where I’m coming from? I’ve got a proposal up on the WordPress Ideas Forum to change this. Vote to deprecate get_sidebar and “Sidebar”.

Theme Developers: Check out Doing more with Widgets: Home Page Layout and Doing more with widgets: Changing Layouts for some fun tutorials on using WordPress widgets creatively.

21 thoughts on “We Need To Kill The Sidebar”

  1. I couldn’t agree more Ian. Perhaps simply referring to it as a dynamic content area would be more appropriate; although, perhaps someone can think of something a tad more catchy.

  2. I agree with you Ian. But unfortunately the new widget interface in 2.5 makes moving widgets between sidebars MUCH more tedious. I’m all for seeing more modular themes, completely widgetized, but I can’t IMAGINE maintaining such a site with the new 2.5 widget interface.

    If my layout was that extensible I’d HAVE to be able to see all my widgetized areas on the same page and be able to drag and drop between them.

  3. I have been doing it too. I have created a plugin for the blog loop and then built a theme with all “sidebar” widgets. We should just call them WA’s Widget areas and then give them proper WA names like content, footer, ads, etc.

    With the blog plugin I can just drag n drop where I want the blog loop to be … then we get to where we should be and that is creating plugins to drop and drag content around the web page…

  4. Yeah I think teh problem is not so as much the widgets but rather the way the websites have been designed. Fix the design problems and the solution will come.

  5. Very well said, Ian. The totally non-semantic naming of the sidebar is still confusing people, and – as you rightly suggest – limiting the potential of theming.

  6. Thanks for the feedback everybody. I really hope WordPress picks up on this. Don’t forget to vote! Besides, the WordPress Ideas forum is kinda fun.

    And by the way, I just noticed I lost some comments on this post when I switched hosts. David Yeiser had linked to the very cool post from Jon Tan (with the very cool and amazingly CSS-only logo in his homepage header) on HTML 5 which led to me adopting the class name of “aside”. Sorry about that. And sorry to, I think Circle Reader, and anyone else who’s comment I lost.

  7. District, Ward, Card all seem like reasonable words to replace “sidebar”

  8. “Widget Block” is a nice term. It kind of functions like that. One of my previous themes had a single column for the content (no side bar). I used the get_sidebar() function for my “Widget Block” on the footer.

  9. I’m pretty sure I’m going to stick with Aside when I’m marking things up. Just in case I decide not to use widgets for any reason.

  10. Yeah I think teh problem is not so as much the widgets but rather the way the websites have been designed. Fix the design problems and the solution will come.
    Thanks for this post…

  11. i think WP programmer will do it in WordPress ver 5


    But this is very good idea! ๐Ÿ™‚

  12. This is true, I like the footer sidebars. I’m not a big fan of header sidebars, I like very little area on the header and alot more on the footer. And I think this would be very useful for magazine themes, widgetized footers. Very good idea, I agree that the sidebar should not be just a sidebar.

  13. Well, I have get_sidebar(); in my footer. I just donโ€™t want to change function name, because it already works.

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