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Sidebar management and automatic sidebar content creation

Discussion in 'XenForo Suggestions' started by Stuart Wright, Oct 17, 2014.

  1. Stuart Wright

    Stuart Wright Well-Known Member

    This is not a request for a CMS, but for a more organised and user (admin) friendly way to manage sidebars, optionally on all pages, and have automatically created content available to put in them.

    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.
    In Threads:
    • 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.
    In Category and Forum nodes:
    • 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.
    Admincp controls and flexibility

    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
    Plus I would like to see every category and forum have an ‘introduction’ type HTML field which is used to add some useful content (to what are otherwise just lists of links) in order to considerably improve SEO.
    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.
    I'd very much like to see better facilities for sidebar and sidebar block management in the core of Xenforo.
  2. Weydigo

    Weydigo Member

    I agree.
  3. Mr Lucky

    Mr Lucky Well-Known Member

    Some great ideas here.
  4. SelfSufficientMe

    SelfSufficientMe Well-Known Member

    Could we go further than the sidebar and have a grid which could also be used as a homepage plugin say to position different sliders/snippets from addons?

    I know there is widget framework, various portal addons, addons acting as homepages, and I'm part of testing for XenGrid development but doesn't this mash of solutions show the XF core needs to be more flexible and unique because it's obvious that is what people want.

    The problem i see for addon developers is supporting several other grid systems whereas a core grid system would make it much easier for devs, uniform, and less risk or confusion for admins.
  5. dotpro

    dotpro Active Member

    This is a must, nice ideas!
  6. SimonV

    SimonV Well-Known Member

    I agree. Some great suggestions. :)
  7. CreationNation

    CreationNation Active Member

    1,000 times yes. I'm pulling my hair out trying to find an easily manageable way to have sidebars on child nodes and allow each of those sidebars to be unique to a particular style - with their own settings etc.

    I also agree that the popularity of the BD Widget echoes that a lot of people value this. In the age of the dreaded Facebook, this opens up a lot of doors for forum owners to mimic certain "comforts" that people have come to know in the sidebar areas.
  8. Stuart Wright

    Stuart Wright Well-Known Member

    I'd like to add a supplemental request to the sidebars suggestion.
    I'd like to cater better for mobile devices by, rather than shunting the sidebar down the bottom of the page, instead send it off canvas and have it slide in when pressing a button. The button would sit somewhere convenient and obvious. Maybe stuck to the side of the page so that people can click it to slide in the sidebar content.
    Kintaro, mjda, Tracy Perry and 5 others like this.
  9. Bülent KARAYAZI

    Bülent KARAYAZI New Member

    I agree. Some great suggestions.
  10. Joeychgo

    Joeychgo Well-Known Member

    Good call Stu. +1
  11. Tylerss

    Tylerss Member

    I'm not sure how this isn't already a thing, great ideas and hope to see them! +1

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