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.

Using Widgets In WordPressAs discussed in this post, there are so many great benefits in using WordPress to manage and grow a website or blog. One of these is that you can easily add content, enhance your website, or reconfigure the layout of your website without web coding skills or knowledge required.

WordPress gives you the ability to quickly and easily insert, delete, and rearrange content from your website’s sidebar navigation area (and header and footer sections, depending on your theme) using widgets.

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

  • pages on your website
  • content categories
  • archives
  • custom menus
  • links to resources
  • your most read posts
  • comments
  • advertising
  • testimonials
  • surveys
  • RSS content
  • newsletter subscription form
  • product catalog images
  • social media share buttons
  • add widgets from other sites (e.g. affiliate programs)
  • administrative forms (e.g. login, register, etc.)

WP widgets make managing and using WordPress easy!

(WP widgets make managing and using WordPress easier)

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

In this step-by-step tutorial we teach you how to use and configure a number of commonly-used WordPress widgets.

How To Use WordPress Widgets

The Basics

Before we explain how to configure widgets, let’s go over some of the basic concepts of how to use widgets:

Most WordPress Themes Support Widget-Ready Areas

Many WordPress themes support widgets and provide built-in areas in your theme’s layout where widgets can be added, such as the sidebar menu, header area, and footer. Depending on the theme installed on your site, widgets can sometimes also get added in the content area …

(Many WordPress themes offer users multiple widget sections)

(Many themes provide a number of widget-enabled areas)

These widgetized sections correspond to a feature inside your Widget administration area called “Widget Areas” …

Widget Areas

(Widget Areas)

The Widgets Screen

The Widgets section displays a list of all the widgets you can use 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

(Widgets can be activated or deactivated by dragging and dropping)

Available widgets can be activated or deactivated by dragging-and-dropping items to different sections of the screen.

Widgets dragged from the Available Widgets section to widget areas like the sidebar, footer, etc. immediately become active.

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

Reorganize WordPress Widgets Using Drag-And-Drop

You can easily add new functionality to your site, or activate, deactivate, reorder and remove widgets just by dragging and dropping items inside your Widgets section …

Rearrange widgets using drag-and-drop

(Rearrange widgets using drag-and-drop)

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

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

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

Widgets control how certain features on your site display

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

Inside the Widget area, you would see that the front-end features display on the site’s sidebar section in exactly the same order as their corresponding widgets have been arranged in the backend widget area …

Rearrange your site's widgets using drag-and-drop

Let’s now reorganize these widgets in the Main Sidebar Widget Area using drag & drop …

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

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

The widgets have now been reordered in the sidebar …

Rearrange widgets using drag and drop

As you can see, this instantly changes the order of items in your site’s 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 at the top of the sidebar area, and the ‘contact us’ section (2) now sits above the newsletter sign-up form (1) …

Reorganizing sidebar elements with widgets can improve visitor experience

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

Deleting Widgets From The Sidebar

Removing widgets from the sidebar menu is very easy.

For example, let’s remove the Search widget from the sidebar section …

WordPress Search widget

(WordPress Search widget)

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

Deleting your widgets

(How to delete your WP widget)

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

Removing your WP widgets

(Remove a widget)

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

Widget Settings

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

Click on the little triangle in the corner of a widget to expand the item …

Toggling expands/collapse widget settings

(Toggle to expand/collapse widget settings)

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

Widget settings

(Widget settings)

Important Info

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

Some widgets provide users with little to no customization

(Some widgets give you little to no configuration options)

Customize Widgets Section

Depending on which WordPress theme you have installed on your site, you’re also able to manage and customize widgets without actually making changes to your site. This way, you can be sure that you like what you see before committing anything to your website or blog.

The ability to manage widgets from the dashboard is a great 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 before publishing any changes (and avoid making errors), or change widgets on the fly using the Widget editor area.

preview widget changes 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 …

Toolbar Customize Link

(Toolbar Customize Link)

This will bring you to the Customizer feature in the backend.

You can do several edits, modifications and adjustments to widgets in preview mode (like adding, deleting and reorganizing your widgets), and it’s all done in real time. If you are happy with what you have done, click the “Save and Publish” button and your changes will instantly become visible to your site visitors.

Widget management - configure widgets on the fly!

(Widget management – work in preview mode)

After saving changes, your new updates will automatically show on your site.


Because WordPress Themes can display elements differently on your site, we recommend that you install your theme first before configuring widgets.

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

Now that you know the basics of using widgets, the next step is to learn how to configure a number of frequently-used WordPress sidebar widgets.

How To Use Widgets


This is the end of part one of this tutorial about how to use WordPress widgets.

To continue, click this link:


"Wow! I never knew there's so much to learn about WordPress! I bought one of the WordPress for Dummies three years ago, such authors need to be on this course!" - Rich Law, Create A Blog Now