Early last month, I talked about how I wanted this website to look. I was talking about the background image, and how much of it should show behind the actual content portion of the page. What I did not talk about was this actual content portion, and how I further divided the amount of space available into two sidebars: one left, one right, with the content in the middle.
Back when I was first designing this website, I looked at websites I already visited, and studied their layout. I paid attention to what I liked, and what I did not like. Websites such as Plaid Stallions and Shorpy had the two sidebar layout (and still do). I liked this layout, and envisioned using one sidebar for internal navigation, such as the search box, and the other for external interaction, such as social media and affiliate links. The internal bar ended up on the left, and the external on the right.
Now I have read this post by Jason Yingling:
and it got me thinking. Overall, I agree with what he says. His first point, “Sidebars distract users from your content”, is the reason why the exhibit pages do not have sidebars. When you visit an exhibition in a museum, you have the items being exhibited, and small signs with information about the items. Visual distractions are kept to a minimum (or at least they should be!) I wanted to duplicate that feeling, and that is part of the reason the blog and comments are on one page, and the exhibit with its photos and table of interpretive information (its “small sign”) are on another page without sidebars.
Jason goes on to make several other points about why sidebars should not be used, then concludes:
I’m not saying sidebars aren’t useful in any case. I’m pushing for you to consider if the use of a sidebar is really helping to improve your user’s experience.
So I am asking you, my readers, are the sidebars helping improve your experience? Is there another way to accomplish what the sidebars are currently doing? Please leave a comment below, or use the Contact the Curator form to share your thoughts!