A contextual sidebar is a type of navigation that displays specific content based on the current page you’re visiting.
The cool thing about contextual sidebars is you can customize the content that appears in the sidebar. This allows you to tailor the user experience based on what you know about the visitor at that moment and make it easy for the user to find and click relevant content.
The goal of a contextual sidebar is to provide a more personalized user experience by displaying relevant links, unique menus, and other content that aligns with the visitor’s interests. Compared to a default sidebar that displays general recommendations, such as recent posts, a contextual sidebar can provide specific recommendations that make it easy for visitors to explore and discover more of what they’re interested in at that exact moment.
This is helpful when working on large websites.
For example, I work on a mental health website that covers a wide range of mental health topics and sub-topics. Instead of displaying the default sidebar on a page about depression, I’ve created a contextual sidebar that displays links to additional pages about depression, popular blog posts from the depression category, and a call-to-action banner specific to depression treatment. By displaying these specific sections, the sidebar aligns with the visitor’s interest, avoids overwhelming the visitor with too many unrelated recommendations, and makes it easy to discover relevant content.