How We Can Save the Footer.php


Highlighting the Footer

Today’s topic of discussion is the WordPress footer or, more abstractly, blog footers in general. A recent trend has seen more and more information collecting down there, and it’s worth asking a simple question: “Why?”

The last thing I want to appear to be is the WordPress version of Cranky Kong (especially since I’m closer to the age of Diddy) but it does seem to me to be an abuse of the footer. I can’t say I’ve made my mind up on every aspect of the topic, but it’s worth bringing up here and discussing.

How the Footer is Used

Footer.php Example - Darren Rowse’s
As you can see, Darren stuffs quite a bit into his footer.

Sites make use of the footer in different ways, of course, but a fairly consistent theme is to provide more information to the reader. If I remember right (can’t remember the where I heard this–I hate that) it is common for readers to scroll to the bottom of the page. In other words, readers like to scroll. That might go against Nielsen’s gospel (in short: users don’t want to do anything) but so be it.

A theme I coded for a client just this past weekend called for a series of widgets in the footer:

  1. blogroll,
  2. archives, and
  3. a MyBlogLog listing.

Not that my work means anything, but it isn’t only mine that makes me think that. Check to the right for a couple of examples of content–centric uses of the footer.

The Potential Dangers of Using the Footer This Way

Footer.php Example - David Airey

David Airey, graphic designer
David duplicates his header navigation in the footer of his site. This, I find, pretty tolerable.

Again, not to be Cranky, but I can’t help but have a few concerns.

Google penalizes for large–scale link duplications.

This isn’t really even a question anymore. They aren’t afraid of doing it. And in the cases of certain blogs, especially those link to lots of other sites (their own or otherwise) they face the threat. In general, too much duplicated content of any kind is bad practice when it comes to a site’s architecture and, subsequently, it’s treatment by search engines. It isn’t ideal, to say the least.

Is duplication truly useful?

In the examples in the images above, ProBlogger dumps a bunch of content into its footer and David Airey only replicates the main navigation. The question to consider is how much is truly useful? Both sites have a large amount of content (ProBlogger more, by far of course) and surely face the temptation to flood their pages with links. Darren Rowse, of ProBlogger, seems to have let a bit more flood into his footer. I’m inclined to appreciate Airey’s bottom navigation.

What’s the purpose of the footer?

I’ll hit this harder in the next section, but it’s worth introducing here. I’m big into things like purposes and definitions, and in this case it seems the footer has a different purpose than it is being used. In short: if content gets as extensive as some sites, shouldn’t the content just break off into its own section? Leave the footer alone.

What can be done about this? First, we need a strong idea of what the footer is to be used for. Then we can, in our own little ways, implement this on our own blogs. Hopefully.

What a Footer is For

A Footer is for Site Information

Using a footer to display information such as copyrights (©), links like About this site, privacy information, designer credits, and sometimes even links to valid markup statements. Is that boring? Only if you make it boring.

A Footer is (Maybe) for Navigation

Like I said, it’s tough to say that footer navigation isn’t helpful. I can see the use, especially on longer pages. If the page isn’t long, though, I’d like to see more purpose injected into the links than navigation.

A Footer is (Most Importantly) to Show that Information has Ended

As drab as it sounds, the footer isn’t the place to put information because, in a sense, the footer tells the user (without glancing at his or her scrollbar’s location) that s/he is at the end of the page. Putting more content in will only confuse that.

In Conclusion

Hopefully that didnn’t come across too soap–boxy. Now, for the fun part. What have you done with your footer that breaks every footer rule listed above? Come on, out with it, so that we as a Playground community can publicly chastise you.


9 thoughts on “How We Can Save the Footer.php

  1. Hi Ryan,

    Thanks for mentioning my site, and for giving your thoughts on the footer.

    My previous WordPress theme showed much more info there, but I thought it better to un-clutter things. I like white space, so the less clutter, the better.

    As for a simple top nav bar replication, with blogs, there’s normally a lot of scrolling involved, so I want to save my readers the hassle of returning to the top in order to contact me, view my portfolio, or read featured articles.

    In short, I set my footer up in order to make it easier to navigate through the main pages of my site.

  2. I think creative use of the footer is a great idea. It’s a good place for flickr, MBL, and maybe even Tags, as well as another place to put subscription info. Not that I have done any of that, but, I’d rather see content broken up into a structured format, than jammed into a sidebar.

  3. I like the idea of a footer having a bit of extra punch to it.

    When somebody scrolls down to the bottom of the page, it’s often your last chance to get them to convert: sign up for your feed or whatever.

    I have to confess that my footer isn’t terribly imaginative. Just has some links to more featured posts, and that’s it.

  4. I guess what I’m advocating is that if you _do_ use the bottom of your site as a major place for content, there better be a real footer underneath it. Would you (Michael, Armen) concede to that?

  5. If you are referring to site credits, etc, then yeah, it shouldn’t be left out. I always make sure to have a link to WordPress in my footer.

  6. Nice article. I’m looking for a theme to use with footer navigation, and this article was very helpful. I really like ProBlogger’s footer and it’s cool that you mentioned him here.

    I think a footer can be very useful. Usually when I get to the bottom of a page, I don’t want to scroll all the way up to navigate to another page.

  7. Is there any location best to find code for various types of wordpress footer.php files? I don’t have a footer right now, but would like one, but don’t want to change the rest of my theme.

  8. Larry,

    You should be able to take from your existing functions and create footer specific widgets. Then you simply have to outline the code to properly call these new widgets and setup the overall layout most commonly in the footer.php file.

    You definitely do not have to change themes in order to add a customized footer and with some basic know how you can emulate the overall concept from other blogs that you like.

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