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 …

How To Use WordPress WidgetsIn Part 1 of this step-by-step tutorial series, we explained how to use widgets in WordPress and in Part Two, we explained how to configure text widgets.

In Part Three, we began configuring a number of sidebar widgets in WordPress.

In this final installment, we explain how to complete the step-by-step tutorial by configuring a few more useful 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:

Adding An RSS Widget

Let’s add An RSS widget to display news items on the sidebar.

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

WordPress RSS Widget

(RSS Widget)

Enter the following information into the widget settings:

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

RSS Widget settings

(WordPress RSS Widget settings)

Experiment with different settings to find the combination that works best for you.

The screenshot below shows the RSS widget configured with the above settings …

WordPress RSS Widget on blog sidebar

(WordPress RSS Widget on sidebar navigation section)

The example below shows an RSS widget configured with other options selected …

RSS Widget settings

(RSS Widget settings)

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

Add A Tag Cloud Section To The WordPress Sidebar

Let’s now add A Tag Cloud widget to your sidebar.

Info

Tags displayed in the widget are listed in the Tags section …

WordPress Tags area

(WordPress Tags area)

To use the widget, find a Tag Cloud widget in the Available Widgets section and drag it to your sidebar …

Tag Cloud Widget

(Tag Cloud Widget)

There’s very little to set up. You can add a title if you want, and choose whether to display items in the tag cloud using Tags or Categories. Click Save when finished …

WordPress Tag Cloud Widget settings

(WordPress Tag Cloud Widget settings)

Your Tag cloud will now display on the sidebar …

Tag Cloud widget set to display tags

(Tag cloud displaying WordPress post tags)

The screenshot below shows a published Tag Cloud widget set up to display Categories instead of Tags

Tag cloud set to display WordPress post categories

(Tag Cloud widget set to display categories)

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

How To Configure Your WordPress Archives Widget

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

As you continue adding new posts 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 site readers to view earlier posts …

WordPress Archives Widget

(WordPress Archives Widget)

There is very little to set up here. You can add a title, and choose whether to display items in the Archives widget in a dropdown menu, and show the number of posts . Click Save when finished …

WordPress Archives Widget settings

(WordPress Archives Widget settings)

The screenshot below shows the Archives widget set up to display posts as a dropdown menu with post counts checkbox enabled …

WordPress Archives widget added to sidebar

(WordPress Archives Widget on sidebar area)

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

Useful Widget Tips

Here are some useful things to know about using 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:

Override Default Sidebar Widgets

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

For example, this site displays some widgets in the blog sidebar …

How To Override Default WordPress Sidebar Widgets

If you look inside the Widgets area, however, no widgets have actually been added to the active widget areas …

Overriding Default WordPress Sidebar Widgets

This is because the above theme is probably using default widgets.

As soon as you add one or more widgets to an available widget area, the placeholder widgets will disappear and be replaced with the newly-added widgets instead.

Note: If you don’t want anything to show up in the sidebar navigation section, either use a theme page template without a widgets section or just add a blank Text widget to the sidebar.

Just add a blank text widget to a widget area …

Overriding Default Sidebar Widgets

And default widgets won’t display in your sidebar/footer section …

How To Override Default WordPress Sidebar Widgets

Accessibility Mode

As we’ve explained in an earlier example, WordPress lets you completely rearrange how information displays in widgetized areas like your site’s sidebars, footers and navigation menus with just a few clicks of your mouse, using drag-&-drop technology …

Reorganizing sidebar elements with widgets can improve your site's user experience

(Rearrange sidebar elements using widgets to improve your site’s visitor experience)

In the above screenshot, for example, you can see that we have redesigned the site’s sidebar by switching around 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 with widgets can improve visitor experience.

If, however, you find that you cannot move widgets around using drag & drop (e.g. using a mobile device that doesn’t support dragging-and-dropping), you can still use widgets if you enable Accessibility Mode.

Enabling Widget Accessibility Mode

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

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

WordPress Widgets Menu

(WordPress Widgets Menu)

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

Widgets - Screen Options

(Widgets – Screen Options)

Click link to enable accessibility mode …

Turn on accessibility mode

(Turn on accessibility mode)

Once accessibility mode has been enabled, the widgets in the Available Widgets section will display an Add link, and the widgets in the Active Widgets section will display an Edit link …

Enabling Widget Accessibility Mode

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

How To Enable Accessibility Mode For WordPress Widgets

A screen will display the selected widget with options for customizing its settings, selecting the location to add the widget, and dropdown menus that let you specify the position of the widget in the widget area (e.g. position “1”, “3”, “5”, etc.) …

How To Enable Accessibility Mode For WordPress Widgets

Click Save Widget to add the widget to the Active Widgets section, or Cancel to go back to the previous screen …

How To Enable Accessibility Mode For WordPress Widgets

Click on the Edit link of an active widget …

Enabling Widget Accessibility Mode

A screen will display your selected widget with options for changing its settings.

Click Save Widget to update your settings and go back 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 restore the drag & drop functionality to your Widgets …

Disable accessibility mode

(Turn off accessibility mode)

How To Create Your Own Custom Sidebar Widgets – An Easy 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 area when you install a new plugin on your website.

Here is an easy way to create your own sidebar widget:

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

Creating Your Own Custom Sidebar Widgets

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

Also, don’t worry about saving your Post – all we are looking for is the content HTML to paste into the widget.

Once you have composed your content in the WordPress post editor, switch to the Text tab …

Create Your Own Custom Sidebar Widgets

Select everything inside the text editor window and copy it to your clipboard…

Creating Your Own Custom Sidebar Widgets

Next, 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

Creating Your Own Sidebar Widgets

Your custom widget is now added to your sidebar section…

Create Your Own Sidebar Widgets

(Create your own sidebar widgets)

Congratulations! Now you know how to use and configure your sidebar widgets.

How To Add Widgets To WordPress

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