This suggestion goes beyond what @Mike Creuzer asks for here: https://xenforo.com/community/threads/consistency-in-sidebar-html.68349/ which is the standardisation of the code and css for sidebars.
And it echoes this suggestion https://xenforo.com/community/threads/rearrange-the-sidebar-blocks-by-drag-drop.83103/ by @Weydigo which suggests a gui for the sidebar management. It would be a useful, if not vital way to manage sidebars.
And apologies if this duplicates what is available in [bd] Widget Framework or what has already been suggested elsewhere.
Why have this in the core software?
The popularity of the [bd] Widget Framework is testament to the fact that a fair few people value this functionality https://xenforo.com/community/resources/bd-widget-framework.297/
I’m not familiar with that addon, so this suggestion comes independently of that.
Having sidebars on all pages is valuable for lots of reasons and here are a few advantages of sidebars on all pages which I can think of:
- Standard place for the social share buttons. I would put them at the top and the bottom of the sidebar.
- A useful place to put a highly valued MPU advertising banner (which is why sidebars have to be 300px wide). Not only at the top, but at various positions down the sidebar. Only the ‘above the fold’ MPU generates the real money, but the others down the page could generate revenue also.
- Somewhere to put price comparison information and affiliate links related to the forum or thread. If you have a forum or thread about a category of products (e.g. Xbox games) or a particular product (e.g. COD for Xbox), you could put a price comparison widget or affiliate links for people to check prices. Earn some revenue.
- A place to show related threads. Big sites often have a huge bounce rate. Most people land on your forum via a search engine directly into a thread, do or don’t find the specific information they want and then click the Back button. If there was a block showing related content (similar threads, showcases, media gallery items etc.) then the visitor is more likely to click one of those and stay at your site. This is potentially a very useful addition for retaining users, increasing impressions and reducing the bounce rate.
- A place to put statistics information about the forum and the current thread. Remembering that most new visitors will first land at your forum in a thread, showing statistics about the forum and the current thread reinforces the perceived popularity of your forum. You could show the number of thread views in total, number today, number of people viewing it now, average number of views per day, number of posters in the current thread, list of posters by post count etc.
- It’s a place where a written piece about the forum topic can be located. This would have big SEO benefits. Currently Google will see forum nodes as a list of links and will not display the page high in search results because it contains no actual content. Having a sidebar containing several paragraphs of content about the subject of the forums will give your forum nodes more value to google meaning it will return them as content rich pages. For example an Xbox forum could contain a few paragraphs (maybe including small images) about the Xbox, its history, the latest developments. Like a Wiki article designed to both inform people hitting the forum node and to get you into Google. Note that the sidebar HTML on these pages should be located before the rest of the page so that the search engines see the written content first. We do this here: https://www.avforums.com/products/televisions.3/
- Somewhere to put related addon sidebar widgets. If you have the Showcase or Media Gallery addon associated with the current forum (or child node of the current category or forum), you could display the Showcase and Media Gallery sidebar widget in sidebar. This will mean the addons are better integrated into the forums.
I would like to see a well thought out system in the admincp for managing sidebars and their content.
I think admin should have an option to display a sidebar on any page type.
I think there should be some new pre-defined sidebar blocks like
- Similar Threads for use in the thread sidebar
- Thread Statistics and Information for use in the thread sidebar
And, of course, users should have an option to position the sidebar on the left or right.
Just a few of the very obvious ideas.
Page width and responsive positioning of sidebar content
I think that fixed width sites like ours will stand having sidebars on every page if we widen the site to around (what is becoming a more popular) 1200+ pixels width. Bearing in mind the studies which generally indicate that the optimal width of text for the most efficient reading is about 70 characters, that should be plenty of room for reading threads.
For responsive design, the sidebar would need to be shunted to the bottom of the page (as it is now) or possibly hidden completely. If the blocks in the sidebar are set to be fixed width, but the site is being displayed on a narrower window, then the sidebar blocks could be arranged in a grid layout above the footer to suit the page width.
E.g. using 300 pixel wide sidebar blocks and 8 pixel spacers between them horizontally, then if the page is narrower than your standard page width, then you could display
- Three columns of sidebar blocks above your footer – 300px + 8px + 300px + 8px + 300px = 916 pixels width or higher.
- Or two columns 300px + 8px + 300px = 608 pixels to 916 pixels.
- Or one column if narrower than 608 pixels.