Yup, I’ve given my sidebar an overhaul. The reason? I’m not sneezing enough.

It’s been gaining popularity lately – the idea of ‘sneeze pages’ which summarize your content and thus propel people deeper and deeper into your blog. You may already have them, as I had in the three categories in my top menu for Blogging, Writing and Social Media and Platform Building, respectively. But if your blog theme places your menu above your header, who says your literary tissues are even being seen?.

We tend to skim down a page, so once our eyes have spied the most obvious image first – i.e. our header – they’re unlikely to travel up to the menu if placed above it. So, mimicking the ‘F’ shape our eyes naturally follow when processing web pages, I re-enforced my categories by placing them in the sidebar as widgets. I took my own photos (starring my gorgeous, new books, squee!) to ensure they matched my header and thus strengthen the visual pull down the sidebar. I also decided to show a miniature blurb beneath each sneeze-page widget, to entice that bit more than a caption-less heading can.

My new babies... only 143, 159, 191, 105 and 112 years young!

My new babies… only 143, 159, 191, 105 and 112 years young! ©Katherine Amabel

I placed my ‘Follow By Email’ widget next, so that new readers would see it almost immediately and thus have it in their minds as they explored my content. As any experienced telemarketer (don’t hate me!) will tell you, if you want a response you have to get your customer warming to it from the word go. You’ve also got to add a little ‘but wait, there’s more!’, and I did this next by adding a Top Pages widget.

A Top Pages list is essentially another sneeze page in itself, but by having something grouped by popularity you’re adding a certain authenticity to what you’re trying to promote. It’s also a great way to intrigue readers with catchy post titles, and you have the options of displaying a photo with each link to draw attention to it. If you’re considering this, though, remember you don’t want so many photos your page takes a year to load. You also don’t want so much content you drown everything out, so I forgot the photos and also deleted my Facebook widget (I wasn’t getting time for it – a huge no-no of marketing).

With all this going on in my sidebar, I realized next that a full archive list would be too much. However… changing the archive widget to a drop-down menu means readers still get important information such as how regularly you post, but you needn’t waste white space with messy, unimaginative post dates. In that space I  set my first ever widget explaining how my blog came about, to keep my WIP in people’s minds and (hopefully) show where I’ve come from and how hard I’ve worked to build this blog. Twitter makes an appearance next, followed by my category cloud – Atchoo!

All in all I’m thrilled with the new look. What do you think?

P.S. If you liked what I’ve done with my new photos, check out my tutorial on the program I used, here.