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 On The WordPress Blog SidebarAs we have explained in this article, one of the many benefits of choosing the WordPress CMS platform is that you can easily add content, expand your website’s functionality, or reorganize the layout of your site without web coding skills and knowledge required.

WordPress allows you to easily insert, remove, and rearrange content on your website’s sidebar (or header and footer sections, depending on what theme is installed on your site) using widgets.

Once you know how to use widgets, you can easily add things to your site’s sidebar area (plus headers and footers and other areas, depending on your theme) like:

  • nested page lists
  • post categories
  • blog post archive
  • customized menus
  • links to external sites
  • most read posts
  • comments
  • clickable ads
  • quotations
  • surveys
  • RSS content
  • shopping cart information
  • video galleries
  • Facebook feeds
  • add widgets from external sites (e.g. affiliate programs)
  • administrative forms (e.g. login, register, etc.)

WordPress widgets make managing and using WordPress easy!

(WP widgets make managing and using WordPress easier)

To learn more about what WP widgets are, how they work and how using widgets can help you expand your site’s capabilities, go here:

In this tutorial series we are going to show you how to use and configure a number of frequently-used WordPress widgets.

How To Use WordPress Widgets

The Basics

Before we show you how to configure widgets, it helps to first go over some of the basics about using 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, such as the sidebar navigation section, header area, and footer. Depending on your theme, widgets can sometimes also be added below or above the content area …

(Many themes provide multiple widget-ready areas)

(Many WordPress themes provide multiple widget areas)

These widgetized areas correspond to a feature inside the Widget panel called “Widget Areas” …

Widget Areas

(Widget Areas)

Widgets Panel

The Widgets section displays a list of all the widgets that are currently available for use on your site.

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

Activate or deactivate widgets using drag & drop

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

Available widgets can be activated or deactivated by dragging & dropping items to different areas of the screen.

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

The Widgets area also 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.

Rearrange Widgets With Drag & Drop

You can easily add, activate, deactivate, reorder and remove things using widgets by dragging and dropping items inside your Widgets section …

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

(Rearrange widgets using drag-and-drop)

You can also easily reconfigure your theme’s layout using drag and drop.

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

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

Widgets control how certain features on your site appear

(Widgets control the order certain features display on your WordPress site)

If we were to peek inside the Widget area, you would see that the front end features appear on the site’s sidebar area in the same order as they have been arranged in the backend widget section …

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

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

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

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

The widgets have now been reordered in the sidebar section …

Rearrange widgets using drag-and-drop

This instantly changes the layout of the sidebar.

Reorganizing sidebar elements with widgets can help to improve visitor experience.

Note in the screenshot below that the ‘click to call’ function (3) is now first the sidebar, and the support section (2) can now be found above the newsletter sign-up form (1) …

Rearranging sidebar elements using widgets can improve visitor experience

(Reorganizing sidebar elements using widgets can help improve your site’s visitor experience)

Deleting Widgets From Your WordPress Sidebar Section

Removing widgets from your WordPress sidebar is really easy.

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

Search widget

(Search widget)

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

How to delete a widget

(Delete widgets)

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

Remove your widget

(How to remove widgets)

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

Widget Settings

Most widgets can be customized. This includes hiding information from users (but allowing access to registered users), displaying additional forms, fields, or data, 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 the widget …

Toggle to expand/collapse widget settings

(Toggles expand/collapse widget settings)

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

Widget settings

(Widget settings)

Important

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

Some widgets provide users with little to no customizing options

(Some widgets give you little to no customizable options)

Widget Previews

Depending on which WordPress theme you are using, you’re also able to preview any changes live without making actual changes to your site. This way, you can be sure that you like the customized edits before making any permanent changes to your website or blog.

Widget management 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 before publishing any changes you’ve made (and avoid making errors), or manage widgets on the fly using the Widget editor area.

preview widget changes in the Customize section

(Edit widgets live in the Customize section)

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

Customize your site quickly

(Toolbar Customize Link)

This brings you to the Customizer screen in the backend.

You can do several edits, modifications and adjustments in preview mode (like inserting, deleting and reorganizing your widgets), and see all changes in real time. If you like what you’ve done, click the “Save and Publish” button and the changes will be instantly applied and reflected on your site.

Widget management - configure widgets on the fly!

(Widget management – configure widgets on the fly!)

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

Useful Tip

Because WordPress Themes can display elements differently on your site, we recommend installing the theme first before configuring widgets.

Also, remember to use the Customizer feature to preview all changes. This saves you from having to keep two browsers open while you work through this tutorial (one to work in and one to check how your site is coming along).

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

Using Widgets In WordPress

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This is the end of part 1 of this tutorial.

To view the rest of this tutorial, click here:

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