WordPress sidebars are full of useful widgets to help visitors navigate through pages and make online checkout a breeze.
But, occasionally… they just vanish.
Or, they don’t appear at all in certain WordPress themes or templates.
It pays to act fast with this kind of error. Without a sidebar, your customers might get stuck.
Whether you’re a blogger or the owner of an eCommerce business, your customers aren’t going to get much farther than your homepage without an easy way to navigate your website.
Thankfully, fixing the “sidebar not appearing” WordPress error is usually pretty easy.
Below, we show you how to bring back your sidebar and what to do if you need a developer’s help.
What Is the “WordPress Sidebar Missing” Error?
A missing sidebar error removes your WordPress sidebar from one or more web pages, making it difficult for visitors to navigate your website.
Ideally, your sidebar should align to the left side or right side of the web page:
Regardless of if you have a left sidebar or right sidebar, errors can cause the sidebar to disappear or move around without warning.
Your sidebar could be:
- Missing from all your website
- Not showing on one or a handful of pages (like your front page or blog page)
- Moving below your content or website footer
- Refusing to appear when you add it via your theme
But… Why is it acting so strangely?
The Main Causes of the WordPress Sidebar Missing Error
WordPress plugins and themes are typically to blame for sidebar issues, but there are a few different causes to consider.
- Your chosen theme might not allow sidebars, period
- There might be an error in your WooCommerce settings
- Your sidebar widget area is disabled in your theme settings (or it’s not activated in specific posts and pages)
- Your plugins need reconfiguring
- There might be an error in your code – say, in your CSS, where you define how content aligns
11 Ways To Fix the “Sidebar Not Appearing” WordPress Issue
Whether your sidebar has vanished or it’s never appeared before, the following fix ideas should help it materialize.
Ideally, you should already have automated website backups set up before you go ahead and make any changes. Otherwise, you could end up losing data through honest mistakes.
That said, we understand that not everyone is comfortable editing their websites.
If you’d rather someone else handles the sidebar error, head straight to step 11.
If you’re still with us, you can find fixes below grouped into three sections:
- Standard fixes (the most common solutions)
- More technical fixes (that sometimes require know-how)
- Reach out for help (when you need to call a developer)
With that clear, let’s get started.
WordPress sidebar error fixes
|Check your widgets and settings
|Revert any theme changes and roll back your site
|Deactivate and reactivate your plugins one by one
|Check your post layout settings
|Clear your site cache
|More technical fixes
|Find somewhere safe to test custom code
|Search for the error in your HTML
|Check your server’s PHP version
|Check your MySQL
|Reach out for help
|Contact a WordPress developer
The following steps are relatively quick to follow and commonly fix most sidebar issues.
1. Check your widgets and settings
Firstly, check that your sidebar contains the widgets you need.
WordPress widgets are sidebar functions website visitors use to navigate your content. They might include social media links, archived posts, and product search functions.
To edit a sidebar in WordPress, log into your dashboard and select “Appearance” from the side menu, then “Widgets.”
Here, you can drag and drop available widgets into your sidebar from the left and reorganize it.
If no widgets are showing in your “Primary Sidebar,” drag across those you wish to include and refresh your website.
Then, consider reinstating default settings for WooCommerce (if applicable). Look for “WooCommerce” in your dashboard and select “Status.”
Find “Tools” and then select “Reset Options,” and refresh your website.
2. Revert any theme changes and roll back your site
Your current WordPress theme might not support sidebars, period – so it’s worth rolling back to one that does.
One way to do this is to simply change your theme to an alternative look. Start by selecting “Appearance” and “Themes” in WordPress:
Look through available themes, and when you find one to switch to, click the “three dots” symbol underneath its preview image and click “Activate.”
In the splash window, click “Activate (Theme Name).”
If the sidebar is still missing after a site refresh, try using a plugin such as WP Rollback to revert your theme to a previous version.
Log into WordPress, look for “Plugins,” and select it to bring up the plugins search engine:
Search for “WP Rollback” and select the plugin in the search results developed by GiveWP.com.
Then, click “Activate.”
Head back to your dashboard and select “Appearance” and “Themes,” and then the theme you’d like to roll back.
Click “Theme Details” and look for the “Rollback” button in the next window.
A warning message should appear. Provided you backed up your site, you can safely click the blue “Rollback” button.
Now, refresh your site.
If the sidebar still hasn’t come back, you might need to restore a previous version of your website.
You can do this either with a backup plugin or by logging into your web host’s dashboard.
For instance, if you’re using Jetpack VaultPress Backup (which comes packaged with some WordPress sites), select the “Jetpack” option in your dashboard and then click “Backup.”
Find a recent backup point before you made changes to your theme, and click the “Actions” option, followed by “Restore to this point.”
If you use different plugins or if you back up via host, contact the appropriate technical support or skip to step 11.
3. Deactivate and reactivate your plugins one by one
Deactivating and reactivating plugins can help you find configuration clashes. It’s a process we recommend for solving problems such as 403 errors, too.
Log into WordPress and select “Plugins,” then filter out “Active” plugins to reveal which are live on your website.
Then, “Deactivate” the first plugin in the list and refresh your website in an alternate browser tab. If the sidebar still isn’t visible, head back to “Inactive” plugins and reactivate the plugin you switched off.
Return to “Active” plugins and repeat, working your way down the list.
Once you identify the plugin that’s causing the issue, leave it deactivated and find an alternative.
4. Check your post layout settings
If you find your sidebar disappears only on specific pages, check the post layout or page layout settings of the affected content. It could be there are options you need to check or agree to for your sidebar to appear.
How you change these settings varies from theme to theme. However, you can typically find where to toggle the sidebar for each post on and off in the editor screen below the content area in a box called “Settings.”
Here’s how this looks for themes built by BoldThemes:
If you’re still stumped, you should look for custom sidebars and see if they are set to appear on the right pages. In themes by the same developer (BoldThemes), you can find this information under “Widget Areas” in the “Appearance” menu.
Check the condition column and make sure you see the type of page you want your sidebar to appear on. If you don’t, click “Edit” and update the checked conditions to include your desired page, post, or product.
If you’re unsure how to manage page and post layout settings for your specific theme, you can:
- Quickly search for help with editing it online
- Reach out to the theme’s developers
- Consult WordPress’s Themes support library
- Contact an experienced WordPress developer to fix the issue
5. Update WordPress
Most sites should have minor and major core updates rolled out automatically.
However, it’s easy to find out if you need to manually update your website – a message at the top of your dashboard advises you that a new version is available to install.
Click “Please update now,” and scroll down to click the button marked “Update to version X.”
Once complete, the update will reflect at the front of your WordPress dashboard. Refresh your website to see if the sidebar has returned.
6. Clear your site cache
Clearing your website’s cache can solve a variety of issues, such as the dreaded WordPress critical error.
Caches are great for speeding up your website by offloading data, but you might find emptying it occasionally fixes common errors.
If you use a plugin to cache data, you need to clear it through your WordPress dashboard.
Let’s assume you use WP Super Cache. This plugin sits in the “Settings” tab of your dashboard.
Once selected and the next menu appears, select “Delete Cache” and refresh your website.
If clearing your cache via plugin doesn’t work, you might need to log into your web host’s dashboard.
Let’s say you use Siteground and its SuperCacher program. With this host, log in via its dashboard, then select “Speed” and “Caching” before choosing “Dynamic Cache” on the next page.
Then, select the edit symbol next to your website’s name and choose “Flush Cache” from the drop-down menu. Refresh your website tab and see if your sidebar reappears.
More technical fixes
The following steps are worth taking if you’re still struggling with getting your sidebar back live – but be warned, they can get complex.
7. Find somewhere safe to test custom code
If you want to design your website using custom code, it’s safer to write and test it off-site. Otherwise, you risk a variety of errors.
We recommend using an online code playground such as CodeSandbox, where you can play around with your code before inserting it into a stylesheet.
We also suggest you try W3 Developer Tools, a series of programs that validate your custom code. Either upload your code or paste a URL into its Nu HTML checker, and it advises you of any errors you need to correct.
You can edit your WordPress theme’s CSS by heading to your dashboard, then “Appearance,” and then “Editor” if you’re using a theme supported by WordPress’s Site Editor. From there, click “Styles” and the pencil icon to start editing your theme’s code.
If you’re using an older theme or one built by a third party, you can use the customizer instead. Head to “Appearance,” then “Customize,” then “Additional CSS.”
8. Search for the error in your HTML
One of the main reasons sidebars move and disappear is that there are open HTML tags you need to close.
Specifically, you need to ensure any tags marked as “<div>” in your HTML are closed up.
Again, W3 Developer Tools comes in useful here, as pasting your HTML or even entering your website URL should inform you where you need to close <div> tags, if any.
It’s also worth considering a code editor such as Komodo IDE if you’re unsure of what to look for. This software helps you debug code by highlighting errors and autocompleting entries.
Do also check your theme’s stylesheet for floating errors and to adjust its width. Here’s an example of how the code for your sidebar might look in the stylesheet:
Try toggling your sidebar to float left rather than right to see if it reappears. Alternatively, try increasing or decreasing the “max-width.” With any luck, you might find your sidebar snapping back into place.
If not, it’s time to move ahead.
9. Check your server’s PHP version
Your PHP is your WordPress site’s script language, and using an outdated version can cause issues such as sidebars behaving strangely.
To view your PHP version, head to the “Tools” section of your dashboard and select “Site Health” and then “Info.” Here under the “Server” drop-down, you can find your PHP version.
Click to expand the “Server” menu on this page, and note the “PHP Version.” Ideally, you should be running at least PHP 7.4.
It’s wise to use your host’s dashboard and contact its technical support team for assistance with upgrading PHP versions, or to reach out to a developer.
10. Check your MySQL
WordPress uses a MySQL database to help store and retrieve crucial information about your website.
It’s possible to resolve many errors by checking and editing your MySQL database, and you can access it through your web host’s dashboard.
However, editing your MySQL can be complex, time-consuming, and potentially critical for your website.
This means your best options are to reach out to your web host or ask a WordPress developer to check the MySQL for you.
Speaking of asking for help…
Reach out for help
If you don’t feel confident editing your website, don’t have the time, or would rather have professional support, here’s what you need to know.
11. Contact a WordPress developer
Your website host likely supports several problems causing your sidebar error. For instance, a host can help you delete caches, restore backups, upgrade your PHP, and edit your MySQL.
Assuming you use DreamHost, for example, the provider offers a knowledge base, a system status checker, and tech support contacts:
To contact tech support, log into your DreamHost account and in your portal, click “Support” and “Contact Support,” before filling out details on your sidebar error. Here’s an example from the host:
You can track open support tickets through your user portal. If you can’t log into your portal, you can use the host’s contact form:
Alternatively, look beyond your host for help and raise a request with an expert WordPress developer – for example, through Proto, StateWP’s all-in-one WordPress app.
Proto allows site owners to manage their WordPress analytics and raise support requests through a single interface.
To raise a sidebar problem with a StateWP developer, head to “Service Requests” in the app’s side menu and select “Submit a Request”
Simply fill out details of the issue and track the fix status while a developer behind the scenes gets to work.
StateWP aims to fix WordPress errors within a day of them being raised through requests in the Proto app, meaning you should see your sidebar again swiftly.
How To Add a Sidebar in WordPress: 2 Methods
You can add a sidebar to WordPress page elements from scratch using either the customizer or widgets on your dashboard.
Let’s explore both options:
1. Using the customizer
1. Log into your WordPress dashboard, head to “Appearance,” and choose “Customize.
2. In the next window, select “Sidebar.” In some cases, this appears under another menu marked “Widgets.”
3. In the sidebar customization screen, you can choose whether or not you want your sidebar to align left or right (with separate options for pages, posts, and archives) and how wide you’d like it to be.
4. Then, click “Publish.” You should now see your sidebar live on your website, and you can edit it through the “Widgets” section of the “Appearance” menu.
2. Using widgets
1. Look for “Appearance,” then “Widgets,” in your dashboard side panel.
2. Then, look for “Sidebar” in the next window.
3. Select and drag a widget from the left onto the Sidebar option, or click the drop-down arrow on a widget you’d like to add and choose “Sidebar.” Then, select “Add Widget.”
4. Adjust your widgets in the same window, and click “Save” or “Done” when finished.
What if your theme doesn’t have sidebars?
Not all WordPress themes support sidebars – meaning you have three options from here:
- Change the theme to a sidebar-friendly alternative
- Use a page-building plugin such as Elementor to create custom sidebars
- Contact an expert developer to edit a custom theme
Welcome Back Your WordPress Sidebar
Whether you have no sidebar at all or it’s just gone missing, there are a few quick and easy fixes for the “sidebar not appearing” WordPress error.
Most of the time, adjusting plugins and themes and using backups help sidebars rematerialize. However, there are a few more technical routes you can follow if needed.
Rather than handle the technical know-how yourself, it’s best to reach out to an experienced developer – say, by raising requests to experts at StateWP through the Proto app.
In the meantime, prevent that sidebar from ever disappearing again by:
- Using a theme that supports sidebars
- Keeping your WordPress and PHP versions up to date
- Testing custom code carefully
- Clearing your site cache regularly and restoring backups if you need to
Last but not least, be sure to regularly check your site’s health with our website maintenance checklist.