Justin Tadlock

Replacing "sidebar" in WordPress

I originally hopped on the kill the sidebar bandwagon around nine months ago. The movement I had hoped would spawn from this hasn’t really taken hold in the WordPress community. Many people are content with the way things are now.

This movement is about getting rid of “sidebar” and replacing it with a more-semantic name. I’m primarily writing about widget-ready areas that are not located on the side of a Web page.

Most developers understand that the term sidebar doesn’t have to mean a bar on the side of a theme. It can be a section positioned anywhere. However, to move forward, to make everyone really understand how widgets can be powerful tools and used anywhere, we need to shed this outdated terminology. We need to set a standard.

If a sidebar is supposed to be a sidebar and will never change, then by all means, call it a sidebar. But, what should I call a widget section in the header? I suppose I could call it Header Section, but WordPress will display this message on the Widgets screen:

You are using 1 widget in the “Header Section” sidebar.

Current suggestions for replacing sidebar

Right now, I want to focus on a standard naming convention for widget-ready areas. A few suggestions are:

  • Aside
  • Block
  • Module
  • Section
  • Supplement
  • Utility
  • Widget Section
  • Widget Area

The last two are two-word names, which seem to be a bit of a mouthful. They probably won’t go over well — they’re just not catchy enough.

My favorite term

Aside is something used in Ian Stewart’s Thematic to point out a widget-ready area. I don’t know where he got the idea from, but I suspect it was from HTML 5.

According to W3Schools,

The <aside> tag defines some content aside from the article it is placed in. The aside content should be related to the article’s content.

I realize not everyone’s sidebars and other widget areas compliment a particular article’s content, but this is the most fitting idea I’ve seen.

Update: Realizing that some people have taken this the wrong way, I’d like to clear this part up. Aside as defined in HTML 5 is not the only definition. The term itself means to “to the side” (not necessarily in terms of location) or “apart from.”

If I had to pick a second favorite term, it would be Utility.

What are your suggestions for new terminology?

Whether you are pro- or anti-sidebar, I’d still like some suggestions on a standard naming convention. Even if WordPress forever uses the term sidebar, I’ll be making the change in my themes.

I figured it’d be better to see if the community would settle on a standard before making any changes.

So, the question is: What should we call widget-ready areas that are not sidebars?