When you create a website, you’ll likely spend a lot of time thinking about the homepage in order to make an impactful first impression. However, content mapping is actually really important for your ENTIRE website. When carefully designed, your header, footer, and sidebar can be equally as impactful as the homepage itself. They’re each important parts of your website anatomy and work together to create a positive user experience.
When it comes to your website anatomy, the header, footer, and sidebars play a crucial role in your website design and function. Each section helps visitors navigate your site and showcases additional content. Whether you’re first-time site owner or planning a website redesign, understanding these website components is essential for creating a cohesive and user-friendly website.
Note: This post is part of a website anatomy series detailing important website elements. If you haven’t read my post about creating the perfect homepage, that’s a great place to start. You’ll also find more website anatomy posts here as I finish them.
Why Are Headers, Footers, and Sidebars Important Parts of Website Anatomy?
As you browse a website, your eyes are immediately drawn to the header because we’re trained to scan this area for important links. Next, your eyes often scan to the sidebar before reading main content. Finally, the footer closes out the page. Each of these components has its own purpose.
- The header serves as a visual anchor and helps your visitors quickly understand your website’s purpose.
- The footer includes important links, contact info, copyright notices, and other resources that reinforce your credibility and authority.
- The sidebar guides visitors through your content by providing them with additional information, links, and offers.
Together your header, footer, and sidebar all contribute to:
- Website navigation and user experience
- User engagement
- Important calls to action
- Brand consistency
What Makes a Good Website Header?
The header is the first area visitors see when they land on your website. It’s located at the very top of the page and typically contains your logo, navigation menu, and other important information about your website. It can make or break your user engagement.
For reference, this is my current website header. It features a CTA bar, logo, navigation menu (with drop-down links), cart, and search bar. It is also mobile responsive.
Here are a few key elements that make a good website header.
Top CAll To Action (CTA) Bar
A call to action bar in your header can be a great way to drive traffic to your most important link. It immediately grabs your user’s attention and provides a direct, easy way for them to take action. Consider a link to your newest product, a seasonal lead magnet, or a wait list for an upcoming launch.
Clear Branding / Logo
Your header should prominently feature your brand logo so visitors can instantly recognize your website and associate it with your business. This also increase trustworthiness and helps you differentiate yourself from other teacherpreneurs, which is crucial in this niche. If you don’t have a logo yet, I include one in all of my WordPress website packages, but I also offer stand alone logo design.
To learn more about branding tips, head over here to learn more about colors, fonts, and images and how they can help elevate your website.
Your header should also have a clear and easy-to-use navigation menu, allowing visitors to easily find what they’re looking for on your site. In addition to helping users navigate your site, the header navigation menu also plays a key role in SEO (Search Engine Optimization).
Your top level links should include the most important pages of your website because they pass SEO power. While it’s tempting to put all of your links here, I recommend keeping it simple so you don’t overwhelm users at first glance. Here are some must-haves in your navigation menu:
- START HERE – which can be especially important if you have a lot of important links that you want your audience to go through first
Then you can add drop-down links below your main links as needed. For example, you might want to add a few key categories below the Blog link in a drop-down menu. This is the perfect place to highlight category landing pages.
Adding a search bar to your header can help visitors quickly find what they’re looking for. It can aid in content discovery, particularly if you have a large number of pages and posts. A search bar allows visitors to navigate your website more efficiently and discover specific information much faster than going through menus or pages.
Social links have become a given on all websites as social media has expanded over the previous decade. I personally scan for Instagram links when considering any business in my niche as a way to learn more about the person behind the business.
Many users are “trained” to find social links in the header. However, sometimes visitors use these links to immediately leave your website and then get lost on social media. This contributes to a high website bounce rate, which is no good!
If you want to keep your social links in the header, consider having them open in a new tab (a good rule of thumb for all external links) or even moving the links to the footer if they are a less important part of your business marketing.
Finally, a quality website header should also be responsive, meaning it adapts to different screen sizes and devices, ensuring that visitors can navigate your site no matter how they access it.
What Makes a Good Website Footer?
Footer menus are often seen as a last thought because you don’t actually see them until you scroll through the entire page. Even though it’s at the bottom of the page, the footer is a valuable piece of real estate because it shows on every page of the website. Don’t let it become a “junk drawer” though– every item should serve a purpose!
For reference, this is my current website footer. It features a slider of testimonials, email opt-in, brief bio, footer navigation links, and legal information.
Here are a few key elements that make a good website footer.
As mentioned above, social media links are important for building connections and authority. Moving them to your footer will help keep visitors on your website longer and decrease your website bounce rate.
You could also consider adding a social media feed (like recent Instagram posts) to your footer. However, feeds can slow down website loading times. For this, weigh out the pros and cons of having a feed vs. a link
Including your contact information (email address, physical location, map, phone number, hours, or Contact page link) in your footer is a great way to make it easy for visitors to get in touch with you.
Email Opt In
An email sign-up form or lead magnet in your footer can be an excellent way to gather leads because they’ve already scrolled through your website and demonstrated a clear interest.
Your website pages contain a lot of information, but they all don’t necessarily tell your brand story or who you are. Consider including a brief about section in the footer that links to your longer About page.
Stories sell and testimonials are powerful. Your visitors want to see others who have had positive success with your products or services. Consider adding testimonials to your footer as a final push that drives conversions.
I don’t know many people who get excited over legal compliance, but it’s important. Adding copyright information to your footer can help protect your website content and let visitors know that your site is original and trustworthy. Legal pages are also commonly linked in the footer for easy reference.
By incorporating these elements, you can create a strong and effective website footer that enhances the user experience and helps visitors find the information they need.
What Makes a Good Website Sidebar?
A website sidebar is a vertical column that appears on either the left or right side of a website, typically containing additional information or navigation options. If users first land on your website through a blog post found via Google search, Pinterest, or social media, then your sidebar is the first “static” informational piece of content they’ll see.
For reference, this is my current sidebar. It features a short bio, social media links, email opt-in, important booking information, post categories, shop sidebar, a featured product, a featured free guide, and a legal disclaimer.
A sidebar also helps with:
- Content organization
- Lead capturing
- Navigation and search
- Call-to-action placement
- Advertising and monetization
- A/B testing and analytics for different layouts
Note: The sidebar is most relevant on desktop vs mobile for most WordPress themes because of compatibility and mobile optimization, so keep that in mind as you’re content mapping. It most commonly displays beside blog posts, so use it to highlight key information as visitors are reading.
Here are a few key elements that make a good website sidebar.
A Photo of You With a Short Bio
A sidebar bio should include a short description of you or your business. This bio should be brief, typically no more than two to three sentences. Get straight to the point and highlight the most important information about your area of expertise to help establish credibility and build trust with your visitors.
You can also include a CTA, such as “Learn More” or “Get in Touch” to encourage visitors to engage further.
Social Media Links
Even though you’ve likely added your social media links to your header and/or footer, the sidebar is another good place for them. Again, if visitors first land on one of your blog posts, they’ll see these links to connect with you as they’re reading.
Even if you’ve added a search bar somewhere else, adding another one to your sidebar is convenient. If you have a store on your website, you can include a product search bar too.
When I first started blogging, it was popular to include a blog post archive by date. Now, it’s more common to include topics in your sidebar for easy browsing. If you have several topics, consider a dropdown menu instead of a list to side sidebar vertical space. For example, if you’re a teacherpreneur offering lesson plans, you may consider using sidebar sections to categorize your posts by grade levels or subject areas.
You can also include custom sidebars that display relevant product recommendations for each category of your posts. For example, your book recommendation category could have a custom sidebar that displays Amazon affiliate lists.
In addition to categories, your sidebar is the perfect place for a few featured posts. These can be your most popular posts of all time or hand-selected posts that you change periodically. Include the thumbnail/featured image of each post to grab your visitors’ attention.
Just like featured posts, you can also use sidebar space to highlight featured products. I recommend including a few evergreen staples and a few seasonal items that you regularly update.
When you leverage your sidebars, you’ll have one more spot to showcase key aspects of you and your business in order to drive conversions.
Carefully Consider Your Website Anatomy
Understanding website anatomy is essential for creating a cohesive and user-friendly online presence. The header, footer, and sidebar are key components that need careful consideration. By incorporating best practices for each of these elements, you can create a strong and effective website that engages visitors and drives conversions.
I hope this post has given you actionable website anatomy tips to improve your website’s design and functionality!
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Designing a website can be challenging, especially if you’re trying to DIY it while also running the other aspects of your business. Website anatomy, tech, design decisions, copywriting, content strategy, SEO… the list goes on and on! When you work with me, I become your digital marketing business bestie; one point person who helps you get it all done and saves you time with a website that will be beautiful outside and powerful inside.