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 Use WidgetsAs we’ve explained in this post, one of the many benefits of using the WordPress CMS platform is that WordPress makes it very easy to add content, enhance your website, or reconfigure your site’s layout with no programming skills and knowledge required.

WordPress allows you to quickly and easily insert, remove, and control various types of content in your site’s sidebar (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:

  • list of your web pages
  • post categories
  • post archives
  • custom menus
  • links to resources
  • posts that you want to promote
  • user comments
  • advertising
  • testimonials
  • survey results
  • RSS content excerpts
  • registration box
  • images
  • social media buttons
  • display widgets from external sites (e.g. Facebook)
  • administrative forms (e.g. login, register, etc.)

Widgets make managing and using WordPress easier!

(Widgets make managing and using WordPress easier)

To learn more about what WP widgets are, how widgets work and why they make managing your site easier, see this article:

In this step-by-step tutorial we teach you how to use and configure various frequently-used widgets in WordPress.

How To Use Widgets In WordPress

Widgets – Basic Concepts

Before configuring and using widgets, it helps to first cover some of the basics about using widgets:

Most WordPress Themes Support Widgetized Layouts

Most WordPress themes support widgets and provide sections in your theme’s layout where you can use widgets, such as the sidebar, header area, and the footer area. Depending on the theme installed on your site, widgets can also show up inside the content area …

(Many WP themes offer users multiple widget-enabled areas)

(Many WP themes offer users a number of widget areas)

These widgetized areas correspond to a feature inside your Widget administration screen called “Widget Areas” …

Widget Areas

(Widget Areas)

Widgets Panel

The Widgets screen displays a list of all the widgets that you currently have available.

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

Activate or deactivate widgets using drag-and-drop

(Widgets can be activated or deactivated using drag-and-drop)

Available widgets can be made Active or Inactive using drag & drop.

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

In addition, your Widgets area includes an Inactive Widgets section that lets you remove widgets that you no longer want actively displayed on your site. Inactive widgets retain their pre-configured settings.

Reorganize Widgets With Drag-And-Drop

You can easily add functionality to your site, and activate, deactivate, reorder and delete widgets by dragging and dropping items from the Widgets section …

Rearrange widgets on your WordPress site using drag and drop

(Rearrange widgets on your WordPress site using drag-and-drop)

You can also easily reorder the layout and order of your widgetized sections using drag and drop.

For example, take a look at the image below. In this example site, the widgets have already been configured to display things like:

  1. A newsletter subscription form,
  2. A click for support banner, and
  3. ’Click to call’ buttons from a widgetized plugin (i.e. a plugin that adds an accompanying widget to your site) …

Widgets control the order certain features on your site display

(Widgets control how certain features appear on your WordPress site)

If you take a look inside the example site’s Widget area, you will see that these features appear on the site in exactly the same order as they have been arranged in the active widget section …

Rearrange widgets on your WordPress site using drag-and-drop

If we reorganize the above widgets in the Main Sidebar Widget Area by dragging and dropping some of these items around …

Drag-and-drop to rearrange widgets in your widget area

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

The widgets have now been reorganized in your sidebar …

Rearrange widgets on your WordPress site using drag-and-drop

This instantly reorganizes the order of items in the sidebar.

Rearranging sidebar elements with widgets can improve your site’s user experience.

Note in the screenshot below that the ‘click to call’ feature (3) is now the first item on the sidebar area, and the support section (2) is now placed above the newsletter opt-in form (1) …

Rearrange sidebar layout with widgets to improve visitor experience

(Rearrange sidebar layout with widgets to improve your site’s user experience)

Deleting Widgets From The Sidebar Menu

Deleting widgets from the sidebar section is really easy.

For example, let’s show you how to delete the Search widget from the sidebar navigation section …

WordPress Search widget

(Search widget)

To remove a widget from an active Widget area, you can either open up the widget and click the Delete link …

How to delete your widgets

(How to delete your WordPress widget)

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

How to remove your widgets

(Removing your WP widget)

Repeat this process for any other widgets you want to remove from your sidebar. You can always reinstate a widget by dragging it back into the active widgets area.

Widget Settings

Many widgets can be further customized. This includes making certain types of information hidden to visitors but visible to registered users, displaying additional forms, fields, or information, specifying dimensions of sidebar images, videos, etc.

Clicking on the little triangle in the corner of a widget toggles between expanding and collapsing the item and displays the settings for that widget …

Toggle to expand/collapse widget settings

(Toggles expand/collapse widget settings)

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

Widget settings

(Widget settings)


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

Some widgets offer little to no configuration options

(Some widgets provide users with little to no configurable options)

Widget Previews

Depending on the theme you have installed on your site, you can also customize your widgets without actually making changes to your site. This way, you can be sure that you like the customized edits before committing anything live to your website or blog.

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

Edit widgets live in the Customize feature

(preview widget changes in the Customize feature)

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

Customize link in the toolbar

(Customize your site quickly)

This brings you to the Customizer screen in the back-end.

You can do several edits, modifications and adjustments to widgets in preview mode (like inserting, deleting and moving widgets around), and it’s all done in real time. If you like what you’ve done, click the “Save and Publish” button and the changes will instantly become available on your site.

Widget management - work in preview mode

(Widget management – work in preview mode)

After saving changes, WordPress will automatically update the widget settings and display your new configuration to your site visitors.

Practical Tip

Because the WordPress theme you choose determines how elements display on your site, we recommend installing the theme first before configuring widgets on your sidebar navigation area.

Also, remember to use the Customizer feature to preview your changes. This saves you from having to keep two browsers open while you complete this tutorial (one to work in and one to see the site the way your visitors will see it).

Now that you know the basics of using widgets, the next step is to start configuring various frequently-used sidebar widgets in WordPress.

How To Add WordPress Widgets To Your Blog


This is the end of part 1 of this tutorial.

To view Part 2, click here:


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