5 Things You Need to Know About No Sidebar

How a book, a creative agency and some idle time turned into a life­changing way of doing things.

No Sidebar is a phrase that is only a few months old. The ideas behind it, however, date back to the end of 2013, when I came a cross a book called “Packing Light” written by a very good friend of mine, Allison Vesterfelt.

This began a personal journey to look inward and I wanted to identify things I had in my own life that I deemed were unnecessary.

As a guy who’s spent the better part of the last decade being infatuated with design, I knew where the first logical place to start was — my own website.

In this 9-­minute episode I discuss:

  • ”What’s up” with this No Sidebar thing
  • The impact that Allison Vesterfelt’s book Packing Light had
  • No Sidebar going well beyond the literal meaning
  • The types of people I’d like to have on the show
  • How Bill Kenney and Focus Lab impacted my current design style
  • The format of the No Sidebar podcast

The Show Notes

5 Things You Need to Know About No Sidebar

Brian Gardner: Hey everyone, welcome to the No Sidebar podcast. I’m your host, Brian Gardner, and I’m here to help you identify the things that stand in the way of building your online business. Together we’ll learn how to eliminate the unnecessary, increase conversion, design a better business, and build a more beautiful web.

That’s the long version of the show description — if you’re looking for the cliff notes, I’ll be talking about design, content and everything in between.

Today is a monumental day for me as it marks the very first episode of the No Sidebar podcast. Before we get started I have a few things to mention.

No Sidebar is brought to you by Authority Rainmaker, a carefully designed live educational experience that presents a complete and effective online marketing strategy to help you immediately accelerate your business.

Don’t miss the opportunity to see Dan Pink, Sally Hogshead, punk legend Henry Rollins, and many other incredible speakers … not to mention the secret sauce of it all: building real-world relationships with other attendees and having the chance to sit down and enjoy a coffee with me at Starbucks.

Get all the details right now at rainmaker.fm/event, and we look forward to seeing you in Denver, Colorado this May. That’s rainmaker.fm/event.

Alright, now let’s get on with the show. As I mentioned earlier, this is the very first episode of the No Sidebar podcast, and I wanted to kick things off by answering 5 questions that I’ve been frequently asked over the past few months.

The Impact That Allison Vesterfelt’s Book Packing Light Had

The first one up is Joe from Indiana. Joe writes:

Hey man, I’m gonna cut right to the chase. I’ve been following you on social media for a while now, and see you’ve been moving in a new direction with your stuff. What’s this No Sidebar thing, and how did it come about?

No Sidebar is something that, as a phrase, is only a few months old — and I’ll get back to that just here in a bit.

Bigger picture, the ideas behind No Sidebar dates back to the end of 2013, when I came across a book called “Packing Light” written by a very good friend of mine, Allison Vesterfelt.

Here’s what she had to say about it:

Just when I had given up all hope of finding the life I’d always dreamed about, I decided to take a trip to all fifty states…because when you go on a trip, you can’t take your baggage. What I found was that “packing light” wasn’t as easy as I thought it was.

As I was reading through the book, I found myself resonating with a number of things that she was sharing — many of which at the very core came back to the idea of living a simple and intentional life.

This began a personal journey to look inward and I wanted to identify things I had in my own life that I deemed were unnecessary.

As a guy who’s spent the better part of the last decade being infatuated with design, I knew where the first logical place to start was — my own website.

I realized that I needed to figure out what the purpose of it was before I could go through and see what was necessary or not. That took a little bit of time, but was definitely worth it.

At that point, I had a clear vision of what I needed on my website, and ultimately what I didn’t need on my website.

Ironically most of the things that I realized I didn’t need were sitting in my sidebar, so instead of picking and choosing what should stay there, I simply removed it.

I was able to find creative ways to display a few things that I knew I wanted to keep — an email opt-in form, links to my social media accounts and whatnot.

In the end, I took an approach to my website called intentional design. This is exactly what it sounds like — being intentional with the design and layout of your website.

For those of you who don’t know me, I founded a company called StudioPress, where we sell premium WordPress themes. There I’ve had the pleasure of designing a number of the themes we currently have available.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to you that some of our themes have a very distinct look to them — one that many would consider minimal design. This is something that I’ve embraced over the last year, and some of those themes — you guessed it — have no sidebar.

There’s a whole lot more to the No Sidebar story, and I’ll go into that in the questions that follow.

No Sidebar Going Well Beyond the Literal Meaning

Kim from Arizona asks:

It seems to me that encouraging folks to remove a sidebar has a limited opportunity to “change the world” — is that truly your angle, or do you have something in mind that goes well beyond that?

That’s a great question Kim, and no — removing sidebars on a website isn’t truly my angle. It’s part of the angle, but definitely not all of it.

One of the fears I had in calling this whole thing No Sidebar was that it would be taken literally — and not metaphorically as I intended it to be.

From a personal standpoint I have adopted the No Sidebar in areas that go well beyond my website, and that’s really where I want to take this podcast. Yes, I’ll definitely spend some time talking about minimal design, the removal of sidebars and what not, but at the core I think there’s a much bigger conversation to be had.

The Types of People I’d Like to Have on the Show

Ok, let’s head south for a minute. Heather from Alabama asks this question:

Ok, since you’re truly not talking about just minimalism here, who are the types of people you hope to have on the show, and what does that look like for the audience you want to grow?

A lot of the inspiration for the No Sidebar movement does come from what I’ll call the usual suspect of “simple living.” This would include a few of my good friends such as Joshua Becker of Becoming Minimalist, Courtney Carver of Be More With Less and Tsh Oxenreider of The Art of Simple.

I’ll be weaving some of the episodes in and out of the topics they typically cover on their blogs, and this will focus primarily on the lifestyle element of No Sidebar but there’s a whole other side to all of this, and that’s the business and entrepreneurial side.

Over there, I hope to interview and provide sound bites from folks like Brian Clark, Chris Brogan, Danielle Smith and Jeff Goins. There are countless others as well, but these will be among the first I’ll reach out to.

How Bill Kenney and Focus Lab Impacted My Current Design Style

Here’s a question that I expected to talk more about in a future episode, but I’ll answer it in short here. Stacy from the state of California asks:

I’ve noticed that a lot of your design lately appears to be a reflection of this “no sidebar” mentality. Tell me about what goes on inside your mind with that — where did it come from, who has influenced you, and what specifically are you trying to get across to those who follow you?

You are correct, Stacy — and yes, you’re observations are completely on point. Over the last year or two I have adopted a minimalistic approach when it comes to web design.

This covers many things — from typography, to whitespace, mixed in with monochromatic color scheme as well as the obvious omission of sidebars. In short, I believe that in most cases, websites should be a reflection of the cliche “more is less.”

There will be plenty of opportunities for me to explain what I really mean with all of this as the podcast moves forward. After all, design is something that I’m really passionate about and want to share that with the audience.

As far as those who I’ve been influenced by, without a doubt the first person that comes to mind is Bill Kenney, from an agency called Focus Lab. I came across his work on Dribbble about two years ago, and I believe is some of the best stuff on the planet.

Whenever I’m having creative block, their portfolio page is one of the first places I go to — and it usually doesn’t take long for me to get up and going.

The Format of the No Sidebar Podcast

Last question — my buddy Ken from mountains of eastern Idaho asks me:

I’ve been listening to Brian and Robert on the New Rainmaker podcast, and was really excited to hear them mention the podcast network a few weeks back on an episode. I’m curious to know what kind of format you’ll have at No Sidebar.

This is a great question, and to be honest — one that I’m not sure I have a good answer to. I will say that there’s a good story to tell about the format of the show, and the gist of it is that it has changed a number of times over the past couple of weeks.

I had originally wanted to go with the straight interview format, but the idea of doing that — and doing that well — week in and week out was truthfully a bit hard for me to tackle.

I’ve never been a fan of public speaking, and that dates back to my days in junior high school. I disliked doing speeches, was never in the drama club and simply didn’t like the spotlight directly on me in any fashion.

Fast forward 30 years and things have pretty much remained unchanged. Even last year I spoke at our Authority Rainmaker conference, and that had my stomach doing hula hoops for days leading up to it.

With that said, I decided to keep the format of this show flexible — and by that I mean not commit to a specific format, but leave it open to a variety of things that I think you all might enjoy.

But for now expect a mix of monologues, short interviews and sound bites, along with some back and forth riffing with some of my favorite people. Obviously more on that to come, as you’ll see what I mean with the upcoming podcasts.

Speaking of which, our time here is just about up — and I wanted to thank you from the bottom of my heart for listening and giving the No Sidebar podcast a listen.

If you like what you’re hearing on No Sidebar, the best way to support the show is to take just a few seconds to leave a rating and/or comment over on iTunes.

And for more, head on over to NoSidebar.com and sign up for our newsletter. Each week my friend Allison Vesterfelt and I curate the very best and most interesting articles when it comes to designing a simple life — at work, at home and in the soul.

Until next time, this has been Brian Gardner.