One of the main ways for your visitor to navigate through your website is the Sidebar.
In the sidebar of your WordPress layout, you can place a lot of widgets.
However, what you really need in there are the things that will help your visitor to get a clear image about the topic your website is about.
Besides that it should show them how they can find what they are looking for.
Basic Sidebar Widgets for WordPress
For me, there are some basic widgets that you should always use.
Registration option for Updates
In order to allow your visitor to keep informed about new postings is your first widget.
Whether you have a mailing list via MailChimp, Aweber or Feedburner that you want to build, you do have to get this option to give your visitor an easy working signup form.
A signup widget in your sidebar is the fastest and ever-present possibility.
Site Topics Selection
A custom menu widget containing the main categories of your website is also a must.
Such a menu gives your visitors the ability to see what your site is about and gives them instant access to your most important articles on a particular topic.
Latest Articles or Recent Posts
I almost always use this to show that there are regular updates. If you build a static website, then replace this recent article widget with a custom menu widget linking to your main pages.
Another option that could replace the Recent Posts widget is a Widget with your most Popular Posts. There is a special plugin that gives you that ability http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/wordpress-popular-posts/
Above widgets are the basics for about 95% of every WordPress site I do, perhaps you can take advantage of it.
Make sure in any case that you don't show the following widgets in your sidebar, they just use space you need for better things.
- Meta widget – You know yourself how you can log in.
- Date based archives with month selection: This list can get very long if you have been blogging for a longer period of time. People are not looking at the article date but for a certain topic.
Social Media Widget
Not everyone has an extensive online social life, so it depends on your own situation if you want it. It will get increasingly important to get high rankings in search engines.
A good social media widget can provide you with many new followers on Twitter, get Facebook likes, Google+ connections and more.
Site Dependent Sidebar Widgets
Other sidebar widgets you can think of, depending on the purpose of your site, are special text widgets like an About the Writer (Biography) widget.
In such a text widget, you can use HTML code to show an image or link to a special about or action page.
You can place an Ad widget to earn some money with your website. You can use a plugin to help out like http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/ad-squares-widget/ or http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/ad-codez-widget/. Both will give you an opportunity to rotate banner codes.
A special call to action widget that is specifically crafted towards the main goal of your site. Like the direct link widget on my Dutch website www.wphandleiding.nl with an image to guide visitors directly to the download page.
Tag Cloud Widget usage depends on the fact how well you have created tags on your site; you do have the main navigation categories. Tags can provide good extra navigation options.
Last but not least you should consider a search widget. It depends on your theme lay-out if you need one in your Sidebar. Most of your visitors will be used to look for a search option in the upper-right corner of your site.
This is a selection of sidebar widgets and reasons why I use them. And what about you, what widgets do you always show in your sidebar and why?