How To Use And Configure WordPress Widgets

Learn how to use and configure WordPress widgets on your sidebar. This tutorial explains the basic concepts of using Widgets to extend the functionality of your website and provides an overview of the Widgets area.

How To Add And Configure WordPress Widgets In Your SidebarAs discussed in this post, one of the many benefits of using the WordPress web publishing software for building and growing your website is that WordPress makes it very easy to add content, enhance your website, and reorganize the site’s layout without requiring any coding skills and knowledge.

WordPress gives you the ability to quickly and easily insert, remove, and reorganize content on your website’s sidebar menu (and header and footer sections too, depending on what theme you have installed) using widgets.

Once you know how to use widgets, you can easily add things to your site like:

  • page lists
  • blog categories
  • archive
  • custom menus
  • links to resources
  • posts that you want to promote
  • comments
  • clickable ads
  • testimonials
  • surveys & polls
  • content from RSS feeds
  • opt-in form
  • video galleries
  • Facebook feeds
  • display widgets from external sites (e.g. StumbleUpon)
  • administrative forms (e.g. login, register, etc.)

Widgets make managing and using WordPress easier!

(WP widgets make managing and using WordPress easy)

To learn more about what WordPress widgets are, how they work and how using widgets can help you expand the functionality of your website, see this article:

In this step-by-step tutorial series we will show you how to use and configure various commonly-used WordPress widgets.

Using Widgets In WordPress

Basic Concepts

Before we start learning how to configure widgets, let’s make sure that you understand some of the basic concepts of how to use widgets:

Most WordPress Themes Support Widget-Ready Layouts

Most WordPress themes support widgets and provide areas in your theme’s layout where widgets can be added to, such as the sidebar, header area, and footer. Depending on what theme you are using, widgets can also be used below or above the content area …

(Many themes provide multiple widget-enabled sections)

(Many WP themes provide multiple widget areas)

These widgetized layouts correspond to a feature inside the Widget management screen called “Widget Areas” …

Widget Areas

(Widget Areas)

Widgets Panel

The Widgets panel displays a list of all the widgets that can be used on your site.

On the right-hand side of the screen, you can see the “active” widgets …

Activate or deactivate widgets using drag-and-drop

(Activate or deactivate widgets using drag and drop)

Available widgets can be made Active or Inactive by dragging & dropping items to different areas of the widgets screen.

Widgets dragged from the Available Widgets section to widget areas like your sidebar, footer, etc. automatically become available for use on your site.

The Widgets screen also includes an Inactive Widgets section that lets you remove any widgets that you no longer want to use on your website. Inactive widgets do not lose their pre-configured settings.

Rearrange Widgets With Drag And Drop

You can easily add new functionality to your site, and activate, deactivate, reorder and remove things using widgets by dragging and dropping items in the Widgets section …

Rearrange your site's widgets using drag & drop

(Rearrange widgets on your WordPress site using drag & drop)

You can also easily reorder your theme’s layout by with drag & drop ease.

For example, in the image below, the widgets have already been configured to display things on your site like:

  1. A newsletter subscription form,
  2. A click for support banner, and
  3. ’Click to call’ feature from a widgetized plugin (i.e. a WordPress plugin with an accompanying widget) …

Widgets control the order certain features on your site appear

(Widgets control how certain features display on your site)

If you look inside this site’s Widget area, you will see that these features appear on the site’s sidebar section in exactly the same order as their corresponding widgets are arranged in the active widget area …

Rearrange your site's widgets using drag & drop

If we rearrange these widgets in the Widget Area by dragging & dropping some of these elements around …

Drag & drop widgets in the widget area to rearrange their order

(Drag-and-drop widgets in the widget area to rearrange their order)

The widget features have now been reorganized in the sidebar …

Rearrange your site's widgets using drag & drop

As you can see, this instantly reorganizes the layout of the sidebar.

Rearranging sidebar elements using widgets can help to improve user experience.

Note in the screenshot below that the ‘click to call’ feature (3) is now at the top of the sidebar, and the support section (2) can now be found above the newsletter opt-in form (1) …

Rearrange sidebar layout with widgets to improve your site's user experience

(Rearranging sidebar layout with widgets can improve your site’s visitor experience)

Removing Widgets From Your WordPress Sidebar

Deleting widgets from your WordPress sidebar is very easy.

For example, let’s show you how to remove the Search widget from your sidebar …

WordPress Search widget

(WordPress Search widget)

To remove an active widget, you can either open up the widget settings and click the Delete link …

Delete your widgets

(How to delete your WP widget)

Or just drag the widget out of the Active Widgets section and into the Inactive Widgets section …

Removing a widget

(Remove your WordPress widgets)

Repeat this process for all widgets you want to remove from your sidebar navigation menu. You can always restore widgets by moving them back into the active widgets area.

Widget Settings

Most widgets can be customized further. This includes hiding information from users (but allowing access to registered users), displaying additional forms, fields, or information, specifying sizes of sidebar images, videos, etc.

Click on the little triangle in the corner of a widget to display the settings for the widget …

Toggling expands/collapse widget settings

(Toggling expands/collapse widget settings)

When the widget expands, you can change and save your settings, click Delete to remove your widget from the “Active Widgets” section, close the widget, or click on the triangle to collapse the widget …

Widget settings

(Widget settings)

Info

Some widgets may require or offer no customization, or they may only allow you to add something like an optional title …

Some widgets give you little to no customizable options

(Some widgets give you little to no configuration options)

WP Theme Customizer

Depending upon which theme you have installed, you’re also able to customize widgets without actually making changes to your site. This way, you can be sure that you like your customizations before committing anything to your website.

The ability to manage widgets inside your dashboard is a valuable feature of WordPress. You can work in preview mode inside the WordPress Theme Customizer screen (Appearance > Customize) and see how the widget content will appear prior to publishing it (and avoid making errors), or manage your widgets on the fly using the Widget editor area.

preview widget changes live in the Customize feature

(preview widget changes in the Customize feature)

If you need to make changes to your site while viewing the front-end, just click on the Customize link …

Customize link in the toolbar

(Toolbar Customize Link)

This will bring you to the Customizer feature in the back-end.

You can do lots of edits in preview mode (like inserting, removing and moving widgets around), and it will all be done in real time. If you like the results, click the “Save and Publish” button and the changes will instantly become visible on your site to visitors.

Widget management - configure widgets on the fly!

(Widget management – configure widgets on the fly!)

After saving your changes, all changes made to widgets will be automatically updated.

Tip

Since the WordPress theme you choose tend to affect how elements display on your site, we recommend that you install the theme first before configuring widgets.

Also, remember to use the Customizer feature to preview all changes. This will save you from having to keep two browsers open while you complete this tutorial.

Now that you know the basics of using widgets, let’s begin configuring various frequently-used WordPress widgets.

Adding And Configuring WordPress Widgets In The Blog

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This is the end of section one of this tutorial on using WordPress widgets.

To view Part 2, click this link:

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