Pro Plugin Review – Content Aware Sidebars Pro
Version Tested: V 3.4.1
Content Aware Sidebars Pro is a WordPress plugin that allows you to create page specific sidebars that replace or merge with the default theme sidebars. The plugin comes with built in support for BuddyPress pages. Content Aware Sidebars Pro has been created for those sites that want to create a unique look on some or all pages by allowing for page specific sidebar content. For example, you may want to have an image appear in the sidebar for your “About Us” page. Content Aware Sidebars Pro allows you to do that.
In recent times BuddyPress users will notice that there are a number of widgets available that only make sense if displayed in the members profile or group specific pages. Content Aware Sidebars can help with this by allowing you to create a sidebar that will only be seen on those pages.
There are two versions of the Plugin, the standard version and the Pro version which adds extra features at a cost. This review is of the Pro paid-for version. It completes the basic plugin by adding support for BuddyPress groups plus some other Pro options.
Installation of the pro typically happens after a period of evaluation with the standard version. This is a case of signing up, getting your license activated and using Dashboard>>Sidebars>>Account>>Sync Menus. Downloading then uploading the plugin to your WordPress Install via the Dashboard>>Plugins>>Add New>>Upload action, having first deactivated the standard version. The plugin can then be activated.
There is no further configuration required and on activation the plugin will take you to the Dashboard>>Sidebars page where you can begin configuring your sidebars.
Selecting Add New in the Sidebars page will take you to the configure new sidebar page. This process is quite complicated so be warned!
After giving your new Sidebar a name you can select the condition type that is going to cause the sidebar to be displayed on the page. There are a wide range of conditions. You can set a condition for Static Pages, Pages, Posts, Media, Forums, Topics, Replies, BuddyPress User Groups etc.
For most BuddyPress sites, the conditions that are of interest are Pages, Forums, Topics, Replies, BuddyPress Members and BuddyPress User Groups.
If you select as a condition Pages, by default the sidebar will display on all pages, however if you click on the All Pages selector then the plugin will search and display all pages for you to select one or more to individually match that condition – so you could create a sidebar that will display on three pages for example.
It is important to note that once you have selected your conditions for the sidebar, you must save it using the Save Changes button within the conditional settings area of the page, simply saving the sidebar will not save the conditions you have set.
Once you have set the conditions for triggering the sidebar you need to choose which sidebar this new sidebar will replace or merge with. To do that you go to the Options area of the new sidebar page, here you can select the Action (Replace sidebar, merge with the sidebar etc.), the sidebar the action is to be performed on (the options available will depend on your theme) and the Merge Position (top or bottom).
Having chosen your sidebar conditions and Actions, you can save the sidebar. This new sidebar will now appear in the Dashboard>>Appearance>>Widgets page for you to load up new widgets into it in order to affect what is displayed on the page.
Selecting a condition for Forum will allow you to select all or individual forums to have a sidebar, notice also that you will need to set up additional conditions for the forum Topics and Replies in order to fully incorporate all forum pages within this sidebar. This ability for a sidebar to trigger on multiple conditions, including And or Or criteria adds to the power for Content Aware Sidebars, allowing you to choose the exact circumstances that the sidebar is triggered.
Creating a Sidebar for the BuddyPress Profiles is quite simple in that picking this selection immediately means the sidebar will trigger on all profile pages. Alternatively you can drill down into specific profile pages giving this an amazing amount of flexibility and power.
I found using the BuddyPress User Groups conditions to be possibly one of the most powerful tools from Content Aware Sidebars Pro, it allowed me to create one sidebar for all groups, plus sidebars for individual groups that would merge with and enhance the data provided by the general groups sidebar. That’s pretty powerful stuff!
There are also some other options available to you in terms of timing your sidebar, you can schedule when the sidebar starts displaying and when to remove it from view. This is selected using the Schedule tab. Here you can also schedule sidebars to become active at certain times of the day.
I think for all it’s power, one aspect that is a concern is that this a plugin creates a danger of creating over-complicated sites in that setting up sidebars for each and every possibility is going to mean an awful lot of sidebars in the Widgets page.
I give this plugin 10 out of 10, I think it works great It sacrifices simplicity for power and and that this complexity is reflected in the price. Nonetheless this Pro version of the plugin comes with many great features.
My Star Rating