How To Use And Configure WordPress Widgets – Part 4

Learn how to add and configure various useful WordPress widgets on your sidebar and how to create custom sidebar widgets …

Adding Widgets To The Sidebar AreaIn Part One of this tutorial series, we explained how to use WordPress widgets and in Part Two, we explained how to configure a text widget.

In Part Three, we began configuring various WordPress blog widgets.

In this final installment, we explain how to complete the tutorial series by learning how to configure a few more frequently-used WordPress sidebar widgets.

Important Info

In WordPress v. 4.8, WordPress introduced new media widgets covering images, audio, and video, and an updated text widget that supports visual editing

WordPress 4.8 - WordPress Widget Updates

(WordPress 4.8 introduced new widget updates)

These widgets let you add content from your media library and media stored in other servers or storage locations (e.g. Google Drive, Dropbox, Amazon S3, etc.).

Let’s go through how to configure and use each of these widgets:

Rich Text Widget

From version 4.8 onward, WordPress has added native rich-text editing capabilities to text widgets …

Rich Text Widget

(Rich Text Widget)

This lets you format text, create lists, add emphasis, and insert links into your sidebar text quickly and easily …

(Format text easily with the new text widget)

To learn more about using text widgets in WordPress, see the tutorial below:

WordPress Image Widget

The WordPress Image Widget lets you add an image to your sidebar from your Media Library or an external storage location.

To add an image, drag an image widget to your active widgets area …

Image Widget

(Image Widget)

Click on ‘Add Image’ …

Let's add an image!

(Let’s add an image!)

Select an image from the Image Library, check or add image details (e.g. Caption, Alt text, Description, etc.) if desired and click the ‘Add to Widget’ button …

Select an image

(Select an image)

The image will automatically load into the widget area …

Image added to widget

(Image added to widget)

Add a Title to your image if you want, or leave the ‘Title:’ field blank and click ‘Save’ …

Save your image

(Save your image)

Preview your website and you should see the image displayed where you have placed your image widget …

Image added to website using image widget

(Image added to website using WordPress image widget)

If you want to link your image to an URL, go back to your image widget and click on ‘Edit Image’ …

Image Widget - Edit Image

(Image Widget – Edit Image)

Add a URL in the ‘Image Details’ > ‘Display Settings’ > ‘Link To’ screen and click the ‘Update’ button …

Link your image to an URL

(Link your image to an URL)

To add an image stored in an external server or remote location, locate and copy the URL of the image to your clipboard …

Copy image URL to your clipboard

(Copy image URL to your clipboard)

Go back to your image widget and click on ‘Replace Image’ …

Image Widget - Replace image

(Image Widget – Replace image)

The Media Library browser opens. Click on ‘Insert from URL’ and paste in the image URL copied to your clipboard, then click on ‘Add to Widget’  …

Add image URL

(Add image URL)

If you have previously added an image title in your widget, remember to replace it if required, then click ‘Save’ …

Save your new image

(Save your new image)

The new image will now display on your sidebar …

New image added using WordPress image widget

(New image added using WordPress image widget)

To learn more about adding images to WordPress, see this tutorial:

WordPress Video Widget

The WordPress Video Widget lets you add audio files to your sidebar from your Media Library, YouTube, Vimeo, or an external storage location.

To add a video to the sidebar, drag a Video widget to your active widgets area …

Drag a Video widget to your sidebar

(Drag a Video widget to your sidebar)

Click the ‘Add Video’ button …

Video widget - Add Video

(Video widget – Add Video)

Select a video from your media library or add a video URL and click the ‘Add to Widget’ button …

Add a video URL

(Add a video URL)

Add a title to the widget if desired and click ‘Save’ …

WordPress Video Widget - Save Button

(WordPress Video Widget – Save Button)

Your video will display on your site where the video widget has been added …

Video added using WordPress video widget

(Video added using WordPress video widget)

To learn more about adding video to WordPress, see this tutorial:

WordPress Audio Widget

The WordPress Audio Widget lets you add audio files like podcasts, music or a personal greeting to your sidebar from your media library or an external storage location.

To add an audio file to your sidebar, drag an audio widget to your active widgets area …

Add an audio widget to your sidebar

(Add an audio widget to your sidebar)

Click the ‘Add Audio’ button…

WordPress Audio Widget - Add Audio button

(WordPress Audio Widget – Add Audio button)

Select an audio file from your media library or insert the URL of an audio file stored in an external location …

Select your audio file

(Select your audio file)

Add a title to your widget if desired and click the ‘Save’ button …

Save the audio file on your audio widget

(Save the audio file on your audio widget)

Your site will now display an audio file to visitors where you have placed the audio widget …

Audio file added to your site using the WordPress Audio Widget

(Audio file added to your site using the WordPress Audio Widget)

To learn more about adding audios to WordPress, see this tutorial:

Add A Newsfeed Section

Let’s add An RSS widget to the sidebar section.

To add the widget, select an RSS widget in the Available Widgets section and drag it to your active area …

WordPress RSS Widget

(RSS Widget)

Enter the following information into the widget settings:

  1. RSS feed URL: Enter the RSS feed URL into this section.
  2. Feed Title: If you would like to add an optional title to your feed, enter it into this field.
  3. Items to display: Choose how many RSS feed items you want to display on your sidebar navigation section from the drop-down menu.
  4. Display item content: Tick this box if you want to show the feed item content.
  5. Display item author: Check this box if you want to show the feed item item author.
  6. Display item date: Tick this box if you would like to show the item item date.

WordPress RSS Widget settings

(RSS Widget settings)

Experiment with different settings to find the ideal combination for your site.

The example below shows an RSS Feed widget configured using the settings shown above …

WordPress RSS Widget on blog sidebar

(WordPress RSS Widget on sidebar navigation section)

The example below shows a published RSS widget configured using some of the other options selected …

RSS Widget settings

(WordPress RSS Widget settings)

To learn more about using RSS feeds in WordPress, see this tutorial:

Adding A Tag Cloud Section

Let’s now add A Tag Cloud widget to display a list of tags on your sidebar.

Useful Information

Tags displayed in the widget can be found in the Tags area …

WordPress Tags screen

(Tags screen)

To add the widget, find a Tag Cloud widget in the Available Widgets section and drag it to the active area …

WordPress Tag Cloud Widget

(WordPress Tag Cloud Widget)

There is really very little to configure in this widget. You can add a title, and choose whether to display items in the tag cloud using Tags or Categories. Click Save when done …

WordPress Tag Cloud Widget settings

(WordPress Tag Cloud Widget settings)

Your Tag cloud will now display on the sidebar menu …

Tag Cloud widget displaying WordPress tags

(Tag cloud displaying tags)

The example below shows a published Tag Cloud widget set to show Categories instead of Tags

Tag Cloud widget displaying post categories

(Tag Cloud widget set to display categories)

To learn more about using post tags in WordPress, see this tutorial:

Configuring The Archives Widget In Your Sidebar

To complete this tutorial, we’ll configure the default Archives Widget, which is a common widget.

As you continue adding new content to WordPress, your older posts begin to move further away from public view. Your posts are still there, it’s just not as visible.

The Archives Widget allows visitors to access WordPress posts that you may have published a while ago …

WordPress Archives Widget

(Archives Widget)

There’s really very little to set up here. You can add a title if you want, and choose whether to display items in the sidebar area in a dropdown menu, and show the number of posts published each month . Click Save when finished …

WordPress Archives Widget settings

(WordPress Archives Widget settings)

The example below shows a published Archives widget set up for displaying posts as a dropdown menu with post counts enabled …

Archives widget added to sidebar

(Archives Widget on sidebar)

Now that you know how to configure your widgets, let’s explore some other areas of WordPress widgets.

Useful Widget Tips

Here are some useful things to know about using WordPress widgets:

Add ‘Visibility’ Function To Widgets

Installing the Jetpack plugin not only adds many new widgets to your widgets area …

Jetpack Widgets

(Jetpack Widgets)

It also adds a useful ‘Visibility’ function to all WordPress widgets …

Jetpack adds 'Visibility' to all widgets

(Jetpack adds ‘Visibility’ to all widgets)

This function lets you specify whether to display or hide widgets from your sidebar based on conditions you set for a particular category, author, user. role, tag, date, or page …

Set conditions to show or hide widgets

(Set conditions to show or hide widgets)

This is a really useful function to have.

For example, you can:

  • Display a widget only on your home page or only on posts published under certain categories, tags, authors, dates, etc.
  • Configure widgets to display specific or time-sensitive announcements based on a post’s category, date, etc.
  • Configure widgets to display targeted ad banners based on a post’s category or tag.
  • Hide widgets from appearing on certain posts or pages to prevent users from being distracted (e.g. remove widgets with ads from your sales pages).
  • And more!

To learn more about using the Jetpack plugin, go here:

Overriding Default Widgets

If you see widgets appearing on your blog sidebar navigation section that aren’t showing up under your active sidebar inside the Appearance > Widgets section, it’s because some themes will display their own default set of widgets unless you add widgets to your sidebar navigation menu.

For example, this site displays widgets in the sidebar area …

How To Override Default WordPress Sidebar Widgets

If you look inside the Widgets area, however, you could find that no widgets have been added to any of the available widget areas …

Overriding Default WordPress Sidebar Widgets

The theme above could be using default widgets.

As soon as you add one or more widgets to an active widget area, the other widgets will your newly-added widgets will be used instead.

Note: If you want nothing to show up in your sidebar, either use a theme page template without a widgets section or just add a blank Text widget to the sidebar navigation area.

Add a blank text widget …

Overriding Default Widgets

And default widgets will not appear in your sidebar/footer section …

Overriding Default Sidebar Widgets

Widget Accessibility Mode

As we’ve explained previously, WordPress lets you easily reorder how content is displayed in areas like your site’s sidebars, footers and navigation menus with only a few clicks of your mouse, using drag-&-drop technology …

Rearrange sidebar layout using widgets to improve visitor experience

(Rearranging sidebar elements using widgets can help improve your site’s user experience)

In the above screenshot, for example, you can see that we have quickly and easily change the layout in the site’s sidebar by switching the search and testimonial sections. This is easily done by simply dragging and dropping the widget elements into different positions inside the sidebar widget area.

Reorganizing sidebar layout using widgets can improve user experience.

If, for some reason, you find that you are unable to use drag-and-drop to move widgets around (e.g. using a mobile device that doesn’t support dragging-and-dropping), you can still use widgets by enabling Accessibility Mode.

Enable Accessibility Mode For WordPress Widgets

Enabling Accessibility Mode, via Screen Options, lets you use Add and Edit buttons instead of dragging and dropping.

To enable Accessibility Mode, log into your dashboard and navigate to Appearance > Widgets

Widgets Menu

(Widgets Menu)

Select Screen Options on the top right hand corner of the screen …

WordPress Widgets - Screen Options

(Widgets – Screen Options)

Click link to enable accessibility mode …

Turn on accessibility mode

(Enable accessibility mode)

Once the feature has been enabled, the widgets in the Available Widgets and the Active Widgets sections, widgets will display an Add and Edit link respectively …

Enable Accessibility Mode For WordPress Widgets

Click on a Widget’s Add link in the Available Widgets section …

Enabling Accessibility Mode For Widgets

A screen will display the selected widget with options for customizing the widget’s settings, selecting the location to add the widget, plus dropdown menus that let you specify the position of the widget in the selected location (e.g. position “1”, “2”, “6”, etc.) …

Enabling Accessibility Mode For Widgets

Click Save Widget to add the widget to the Active Widgets section, or click Cancel to return to your previous screen …

Enabling Widget Accessibility Mode

Click on the Edit link of an active widget …

Enable Widget Accessibility Mode

A screen displays your selected widget with options for editing its settings.

Click Save Widget to return to the Active Widgets screen, or click the Delete button to remove the widget from the Active Widgets area …

How To Enable Accessibility Mode For Widgets

Click on Disable accessibility mode in the Screen Options section to go back to using drag and drop …

Turn off accessibility mode

(Disable accessibility mode)

How To Create Your Own Sidebar Widgets – A Simple Cheat

Most of the widgets that you will use will either be installed by default when you create a new WordPress site, or be automatically added to your Available Widgets section when you install a new plugin on your site.

If you want to create your own custom sidebar widget, then here is an easy way:

First, create a new Post and enter the content that you would like to add to the sidebar section…

Creating Your Own Custom Sidebar Widgets

Make sure that any images you use fit the maximum width of your sidebar. Also, keep in mind that you don’t have a lot of room to add content on the sidebar, so keep your information concise.

Also, don’t worry about publishing your Post – all we are after is to copy the content to paste into your widget.

After composing your content, click on the Text tab …

How To Create Your Own Sidebar Widgets

Select and copy everything to your clipboard…

Create Your Own Sidebar Widgets

Now, go into your Widgets Area.

Insert a new Text widget into your sidebar, paste the content from your clipboard into the content field and click Save

Create Your Own Custom Sidebar Widgets

Your new custom widget will be added to your sidebar…

How To Create Your Own Custom Sidebar Widgets

(Create your own custom sidebar widgets)

Congratulations! Now you know how to use and configure a number of sidebar widgets.

How To Use Widgets

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