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Blogging 101, Day Ten: Dress Up Your Sidebar

Today’s assignment: add and/or customize two widgets. If you want to write a post, try something shorter-form.

You’ve done a lot so far — published a few posts, worked on your About widget and About page, and dabbled in personalizing your theme.

Widgets are another great way to tailor your site, while providing more info for your readers, so let’s add a few. If you’re already happy with your widgets, customize the ones you have. And if you’ve already done that, write a short-form post on the topic of your choosing.

Today’s assignment: add and/or customize two widgets, one text-based and one image-based.

Why do this?

  • Because you want to make it easy for your readers to find all your content, follow you, get engaged, and get the most out of your site, and widgets add features to help them do it.
  • Because widgets are another opportunity to add a personal touch and create a consistent look and personality.

Today you’ll add two widgets: one that adds a text-based feature, and one that adds something image-based. If one of those doesn’t fit with your bloggy vision, feel free to change that up.

Get started by browsing the full list of available widgets. Feeling overwhelmed? Here are some ideas. First, a few simple-yet-useful text-based widgets:

And some image-based widgets to try:

  • The Instagram Widget displays your latest photos.
  • The Gallery Widget creates a gallery or slideshow of images, so you can add a graphic element to your blog without any graphic design know-how.

Check out other quick and easy widgetswidgets to showcase your community-to-be, and more image-based widgets. Review our tutorial series — Widgets 101201, and 301 — or take a step back and think about your overall sidebar strategy.

You can spruce up widgets even more by personalizing the titles to match the theme or niche of your blog, so be sure to explore all the options each widget offers. You can also control which widgets appear on which pages of your site — keep your home page streamlined but add the Recent Posts Widget to post pages, for example, or add a Goodreads Widget to your page on favorite books.

If you’re still a bit confused on how to add widgets, this video tutorial will help.

To add a widget, go to Appearance → Widgets in your dashboard. Here, you can drag a widget from the ”Available Widgets” area on the left into a section on the right, called a sidebar and/or footer (depending on your theme, you might have multiple sections). When you see a dashed line appear, drop the widget into place. You can also re-arrange the order in which existing widgets appear on your site by dragging-and-dropping.

If you also want to publish a post today, we suggest a shorter-form post — a post of under 400 words; under 200 if you can.

Questions? Ask away! Head to The Commons to talk widget with your co-bloggers.

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  1. Waddup! Hope ya’ll are having fun with the challenge thus far. Thought I share with you guys some tips on what to do if you prefer not having a sidebar, or you’re not entitled to unfortunately. I was having problems like these before, and I’m sure a minority will encounter as well, so I’m sharing it so everyone can learn from my mistakes and not repeat them.

    My theme doesn’t allow me to have a sidebar (they only allow menus), hence I’m only able to customise my footer. Even though I initially thought it will not be effective because people aren’t able to view the important things (like follow, subscribe buttons, and my tweets), it was not as bad as I thought because I managed to get a couple of followers.

    Also, since my sidebar is muted, I have to keep my page short because I wouldn’t expect my viewers to scroll all the way down to the footer area. Hence, I make use of widgets, or posts if you want (you can always stick it to your homepage so they’ll become permanent, ie. the upload of new posts wouldn’t be an over-writing issue), to link my readers to sections of my blog that was previously the purposes of my sidebar widgets. It’s definitely way more dynamic (to my surprise), and it’ll look more concise at the same time since you get to place more emphasis on the content you want your readers to see.

    Side widgets are usually pretty important for me, as I was using it to direct readers to the other parts of my blog before my current theme (Moka). What you can do now is to add a link to the end of every blog post, encouraging readers to visit the site. Your side widget can be moved to the footer in general, so now the exposure of your posts will compensate for the lesser amount of traffic the footer position (instead of at the sidebar) will draw in for you.

    My blog is http://LhuWenKai.com. You can see what I mean by clicking on the URL. Any questions, or feedback and suggestions, please let me know in the comments :) I really appreciate it.

    On a sidenote, I noticed Blogging 201’s task today was to support each other by leaving comments and nice words on each other’s blogs. Kudos to us for doing that to a really great extent for the past week. Don’t be afraid to interact with the Blogging 201 community as well. Even though the agendas don’t exactly coincide, connections still can be made, and we might get to learn more things from them as well.

    Happy blogging guys!

    1. You have a really nice theme and blog there, Lhu! It looks so clean and sophisticated at the same time! It’s also very reader-friendly. :).

      And I agree with you on the commenting thing! It’s really nice to get to know other people through this project. :).

    2. Taking your advice, I went and visited your site. But now I’m faced with a problem.

      I’m worried that I might be one of the “Five Types of People to Avoid to be Happy” and can’t bring myself to reading. Yet, without reading that post I won’t be able to determine the answer and not knowing is far worse than knowing.

      This is going to be tough.

      In unrelated news, it appears your Instagram embed or widget is acting up – doesn’t seem to be pulling the pictures.

      1. Oh Chris, that made me laugh. I genuinely thought that my post had a problem. I had to read it five times (no kidding) to finally realise what you really meant hahaha. You liked my comment, so I assume you’ve read it. Were u one of them? :)

  2. Hello! I am having a little problem in making my categories look different than my tags…I thought I could make categories look more like a list, one under the other…is there something I am doing wrong? Thank you for the help!

    1. While I might be biased – we’re using the same theme – I love your customization and colours. I really should look at sprucing my blog up similarly. I think it’s harder for us self-hosted WordPress bloggers – unless you’re self-hosted too. Then it’s just hard for me.

  3. Hi guys! I tweaked my sidebar a bit, just to make it more unified with my blog’s overall feel! :).

    Feel free to check out my blog posts and other pages here: diaryofafathappybitch.wordpress.com . <3.

  4. I finally got Flickr to cooperate, so I’ve added a picture of myself. Anyone know how to make it centered in the space? http://cassiezemer.wordpress.com/

    Also, I’m creating a sort of gallery page (PAINTING.), where can I find tips on how to set this up. I’d like a main page with thumbnails of all the paintings, and a page/post about each one linked from there. Would it be better to create another blog altogether with a different theme? Welcome advice!

    1. Are you able to edit the code at all? I could probably suggest a workaround or two, but as my know-how is somewhat limited, my solutions would probably be equivalent to sweeping things under the rug and calling the place clean. Or lazy cheating. I think that’s what my wife calls it.

      As to creating a different blog, you could do that I suppose. But why not categorize and do both? Keep in mind I’m an eclectic blogger with no central theme, but I seriously don’t see the issue with the combo.

      1. I have a little experience with editing code, but I’m not sure how to get to the code to edit it. (Does that make sense?)… If you have no central theme, I think mine is the same, it’s about religion, life, and art?? Call that a juxtaposition – because that’s what it is!

        I’m pretty good at the lazy cheating stuff too – luckily my house (and soon my blog) has lots of cabinet space to hide it all! :)

    2. I think centering depends on which Widget you’re using. If it’s the Image one, there’s an “Image Alignment” drop down menu. There might be in other widgets too. I’m not sure.

  5. My sidebar is narrow and that’s my only disappointment with my theme before. I removed my Twitter Timeline because it couldn’t fit on my sidebar no matter how I changed the size. But now, I think it’s better without it (since I’m not really tweeting much) . I played with the text widget and just created personalized images for social links. I also removed my about.me widget because I wanted to change my profile picture and put some effect on it. Please visit my site and I’m so happy I get to learn a lot for the past week. :)

      1. Gracias! I stopped by your blog. I relate to trying to decide how much of yourself to reveal. I’ve found that it can be liberating to not care about who’s judging you. Wishing you the best. KA

    1. I love cows so I was sold from your header! I love the look and style of your blog and I am definitely looking forward to seeing more from you.

      1. Hi Alanna!!!… Thank you so much for your comment… I have to say that I absolutely L-O-V-E your blog, you truly give people with really bad allergies (I’m allergic to all seafood) a solution and a new lifestyle… I’m following your blog now…

    1. Your blog is amazing! It is so colorful and happy and bright…yet still very uncluttered and appealing to the eye. Hmmm…are you a graphic designer? :) I did a little reading while I was there. Wonderful vibe and posts!

    1. I’d push the “About Me” and “Follow” widgets to the top if possible. But that’s just me. And not sure the answer on taking the image from square to circle. Sorry.

    2. Yes, I would push the About.me, Follow by Email and Search at the top…I’d consider going About.me, Follow, Search maybe? You want to make sure people who want to follow you can find it quick…same when they want to find out about you…Good looking post!

  6. Hey…. commenter, there’s a timeless blog to re-discover. Hey…. reader, know the posts are sweet but comments are sweeter. Oh…. if this gimmick doesn’t work for you. There’s more I can do to promote for you.

    Think Avicii would approve? Probably not. But it seemed to me that this tune was brighter than the lyrics I used at the end of today’s post. With my sidebar tended to (yesterday – I cheated), I figured I’d try the short-form post.

    Just under 400 words. No clue how to get it down to 200. Them’s are hard, yo’!

    But back on topic, being a good ol’ boy from Vancouver, BC I figured I’d share some emotion on what it’s like to cheer on the local hockey team.

    http://www.leftcoastbydesign.ca/2014/04/zero-to-hero-fans-pain/

  7. I love widgets! I was concerned that my “free” theme would not allow much creativity, but I was surprised at how many options I have. I don’t think image widgets will necessary benefit my site right now, but I have several other widgets installed. I would love to know if you think it’s too many widgets. :-) http://soysurvivalist.wordpress.com.

    1. Definitely not too many widgets! :) Have you thought about adding your photo to the sidebar? It would be a great way to personalize the site!

    1. It looks good, but I was a bit confused because it looks like 4 post synopsis running across the page with the sidebar starting below them. I didn’t see the sidebar until I scrolled down a bit. I’m not sure if that’s what you want or if the right-most synopsis was actually part of the sidebar.

      I like your header photo and it’s easy to see the page tabs below it.

      1. That is part of the theme layout that conflicts with the sidebar I guess. With this theme, I do not have any way to control where the sidebar is drawn.

  8. Can someone please explain the difference between “main sidebar”, “first front page widget” and “second front page widget”?

    I’m at a total loss trying to understand the terminology. My blog is at: http://www.tastylamb.biz

    thank you to anyone that can clarify this.

    1. Hi Gail! Every theme designer sets up different widget areas on their theme. The theme you are using has three area for widgets. Your main sidebar area is the sidebar that shows on all of your posts and pages. If you don’t add any widgets to this area, your sidebar will be hidden and your posts and pages will be full width.
      The Front Page Widget area is used by the Front Page template. This will show if you set your main page to a page (rather than your recent posts) and if you set that page to use the Front Page template. You are using a page for your front page, but it isn’t using the optional Front Page Template. If you want to try that template, you can select it on the Template drop down when you are editing your front page.
      Hope that helps!

      1. Hey, thanks Lisa….but did you switch to some other language besides English part way through that? Just kidding…I think I got it…maybe… :-)

    2. Hi Gail!

      You can read more about your theme at http://theme.wordpress.com/themes/twentytwelve/

      It has a special front page, with two areas for widgets, and it looks like there’s a sidebar for widgets on the other pages. (I’m not sure, since I haven’t tried that theme.)

      The best way to find out is to add some widgets, and see where they go on the page! They are easy to remove if you decide you don’t want them there after all. (Just drag them back to the unused widget area.)

      1. Robin, while working today I had the thought to add a widget to one of the pages to see what happened…I must have picked up your thoughts as you were writing your comment since I get totally turned around with the widgets.

        Thank you for the help, it’s much appreciated.

  9. Loving this Blogging 101 challenge! Just found out about this today so I’m playing catch up, and will have to wait until I get back on my better computer to make my blog look all fancy but so far I’ve changed the theme (I may change again), done 2 posts and my about page.

    Would love some feedback?

    http://themixdbag.wordpress.com/

  10. Hi everyone! I already put the Blogging University badge on my sidebar using a text widget yesterday, and I’m not too fond of cluttered sidebars. So I added a couple of things, but I don’t know if I’ll keep them there.

    I also decided to challenge myself and see if I could write a post that was 350 words long. It’s called “Don’t do anything you don’t enjoy…” and you can find it at http://robinwoodent.wordpress.com/2014/04/24/enjoy-life/

    Hope you like it!

    1. Robin, I really like your blog and the changing headers. Regarding the sidebar, I think your creativity just shines throughout the blog, so consider this ordering in your sidebar: About Robin Wood and Backstory to top (either one first), followed by recent posts, the stacks, search, top posts & pages (I like the photos), follow blog via email with Blogging U badge last.

      Just my opinion, and keep in mind I do not have an artist’s eye.

      I enjoyed your “find the joy” perspective in your “don’t do anything you don’t enjoy”…ya, I’ve got a lot of chores I procrastinate on ’cause I’m not feeling the joy…but you got me thinking about it.

    1. I get a warning message that your link may not be a wordpress.com site…I don’t know if that’s my computer having a problem or what???

  11. I’ve been having some fun with this! I’ve played around with my existing widgets, vamped up the titles for some of them, edited the text etc, and added the bling from Day nine. (Still haven’t written the post for Day nine but I’ll get there!) I did write a post with less than 200 words today, though. Not often I manage that, maybe never again!
    I considered adding the My community widget but abandoned it – the sidebar got too cluttered.

    Now I’m considering dropping either the Conversation widget or the Posts I Like widget and replacing with the Gallery widget. Anybody out there using the Gallery widget? It might help if I can check out a few!

    Anyway, tell me what you think of the latest version of my blog.
    http://jillscene.com/2014/04/25/the-real-heroes/

  12. I did this assignment!!! :) And the “about” assignment but I did it too late so not a lot my fellow zerotohero bloggers got to see it. It would mean a lot to me if some of you can come check that out. I’d really like to make meaningful connections so if you think we’d get along in real life, please follow or even better, comment and follow! :D Looking forward to getting to know you :)

  13. I added the Categories, Search and Follow Me widgets; I recently switched to this minimal theme and almost forgot that these widgets existed. The problem? There are a lot of options and while I’ve only chosen three, I’m open to what else a reader may want to see. Thoughts?

    http://angirach.wordpress.com/

  14. Hello everyone,
    As per the assignment, I have added one text widget(Tag cloud) and one image based widget(Top Posts with an image grid). Please pay a visit at,
    slicesfromlife.wordpress.com

    Thanks :)