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I am working on a website which is learning content based and I am planning to have two sidebars, one for the main navigation and other for the table of contents.

Is that okay to have two or three sidebars on a website?

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Have a look at the stackexchange layout:

  • the main part of the screen is taken by the most interesting (at the moment) content - the questions or a particular question;
  • to the right (as we are in the LTR layout) you find some related stuff - related questions, hot network questions and so on
  • on the top (fixed location) there are the "permanent" controls like tags, users, badges etc.

So it is ok to have more than one "sidebar" (or menu bar, to be more specific) on a website.

I have seen some layouts where there are two sidebars next to each other (more than two I haven't seen). Those that felt pleasing were the ones where the context was changing gradually, e.g. from the most specific (current subject) through something more general to the page's top-level navigation (permanent stuff).

Make sure that the user has some visual clue where they are on the page and also that the size of the panes reflects the areas of focus (e.g. 50% of the width for the current topic, 30% for the context navigation, 20% for the general navigation).

  • Usually when people say "sidebar" they are not referring to a top menu -- The "side" part of the name is significant. – Daniel Beck Nov 15 '17 at 0:12
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I believe there are better solutions than just increasing the number of sidebars. Users prefer one place to look for all navigation, so it will be better to improve a single sidebar which can accommodate your requirements as well as provide the easy UX which users need.

Why do we use side-bars?

The use of sidebar is to provide navigation to the user, The links in side-bar are just one or two words which keeps it compact and simple. If you have sentences in the sidebar, it will make navigation complex. So be clear about the concept of the sidebar, if anything doesn't fit into this concept, don't create a sidebar for it.

How to tackle the need for multiple sidebars with just one sidebar?

You can do something like this.

I don't know if you will call this a side-BAR but it's more of side-Page. Here you can provide all navigations and links without any headache of limited space.

enter image description here

So According to me, your solution is not multiple sidebars but a Side-page.

For the part of your question that is it okay to have multiple sidebars?

Yes, it is okay, if you want okay kind of user experience. For a satisfying user experience, you need to think more in this example's direction.

Hope it helps :) Cheers.

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