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Figure 3.44. A sidebar styled to represent an envelope

Figure 3.43. A bookmark-style sidebar

Figure 3.44. A sidebar styled to represent an envelope

Figure 3.45. A clean, minimal sidebar design

Figure 3.46. Some cleverly designed custom widgets in a sidebar

Figure 3.45. A clean, minimal sidebar design

Figure 3.46. Some cleverly designed custom widgets in a sidebar

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Figure 3.48. Sidebar widgets appear to float above the site's background

Figure 3.47. Making good use of typography

Figure 3.48. Sidebar widgets appear to float above the site's background

Now that we've seen a few creative examples, let's take some time to dissect the sidebar. First of all, a sidebar should be no less than 160 pixels wide to account for the array of widgets out there. Any narrower than that and you risk cramming in too much content for it to be readable, or even breaking the layout of some widgets. Some sidebars can be as large as 300 pixels or more, which is useful if you need to fit standard ad units, such as the popular 300x250px advertisement. Keep in mind that the more space you give to the sidebar, the less you'll have for the content.

Remember, a sidebar is just a space that can hold a widget. With a little code wrangling, you can easily have these widget-ready areas in the footer, the header, or even in the middle of The Loop. Just remember the rules: make it a minimum of 160 pixels, style the widget titles, and prepare default styles for the widget content.

WordPress provides about 20 default widgets, but there is a nearly limitless number of plugin widgets out there—from page lists and calendars to social media links and contact forms. You can even include your own custom widgets in your theme (Allan will be showing you how to do this in Chapter 6).

It's impossible to provide a custom design for each widget out there, but the core sidebar elements will always remain the same. If you address the basic elements of font size, padding, margins, widget titles, and widget dividers, chances are you'll end up with a successful sidebar that can hold all manner of widgets that a publisher might want to use. That said, it's still worth testing your theme with as many widgets as you can to see how they look.

Sidebars that Aren't Left on the Side

The Footer

As the name suggests, the footer of a WordPress theme shows up at the bottom of each page, after the content. For some sites, a conventional colored bar with copyright information and a few links may be appropriate, but this is just a fraction of what can be achieved with a footer; it can provide visitors with some unique content or offer other ways of navigating the site. The footer is like a surprise treat for users who've made it all the way to the bottom of the page, rewarding their interest in the site. If they've made it this far, why not provide them with some fun and useful links?

Let's start by checking out footers that lean towards the simple and conventional style. Figure 3.49, Figure 3.51, and Figure 3.50 are all drawn from the popular theme site WooThemes.com.5

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