Creating Smart Sidebars Using Widget Visibility

For years, I’ve been telling WordPress users that the day we can control when and where widgets are displayed is the day WordPress takes a huge leap forward. I always thought instead of having a WordPress theme with sidebars of widgets displayed on specific posts or pages that it would be better if we could control the display of widgets instead. This way, we could use one sidebar but manipulate the widgets to take full advantage of it.

Widget Visibility
Now Available In Jetpack

These days, we have multiple plugins that can control when and where a widget is displayed. My favorite is Widget Visibility located within Jetpack.

Displaying Related Posts In The Sidebar Showed Results

I’ve toyed with this idea before. I used to display certain widgets on the WPTavern front page while hiding them on the rest of the site. On single post views, I’d have the right sidebar filled with widgets such as related posts, the author, and tags. I noticed from the stats that having the related posts in the sidebar worked. However, it was unclear as to how successful the position really was since I didn’t perform any split testing.

The widgets displayed on the single posts view would not be seen on any other portion of the site since it didn’t make sense. The only logical argument where it does make sense are those visitors who are coming across the site for the first time via search engines or some other referral. In this instance, you could argue that you want all visitors no matter which page they land on to see the information presented within the sidebar.

One of the negatives behind using widgets in this way is the extra level of administration that’s involved. Instead of letting widgets be displayed on every page and post, this method may require frequent trips to the widget administration page. Depending on how many sidebars and widgets are used, the additional effort may not be worth it.

What’s Your Experience Been Like Controlling Widgets?

I am wondering how many of you are using widgets and sidebars in a similar fashion. I’m also curious to know whether you’ve found controlling widgets to be an unnecessary burden or if you love the granular control something like Widget Visibility offers. Another question I’d like to have answered is: when does it make sense to have multiple sidebars with predefined widgets show up for a particular page versus having one sidebar and controlling the widgets that are hidden or displayed within it?

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