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 …

Using Widgets In WordPressIn Part One of this step-by-step tutorial series, we explained how to use WordPress widgets and in Part 2, you learned how to configure a text widget.

In Part Three, we began configuring various default widgets.

In this final installment, we are going to complete the step-by-step tutorial by configuring a few more frequently-used sidebar 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 now add a widget to display news items on the sidebar.

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

RSS Widget

(WordPress RSS Widget)

Enter the following information into the widget settings:

  1. RSS feed URL: Enter the RSS feed URL into this section.
  2. Feed Title: If you would like to add an optional title to the widget, type it into this field.
  3. Items to display: Choose how many items to display on the sidebar from this drop-down menu.
  4. Display item content: Tick this box to show the item content.
  5. Display item author: Tick this box to display the feed item item author.
  6. Display item date: Tick this box if you want to display the RSS feed item date.

RSS Widget settings

(WordPress RSS Widget settings)

Experiment with different widget settings to find the ideal combination for your site.

The screenshot below shows an RSS Feed widget configured as per the above settings …

WordPress RSS Widget on sidebar

(RSS Widget on sidebar)

The example below shows an RSS widget configured using additional options selected …

WordPress RSS Widget settings

(RSS Widget settings)

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

Add A Tag Cloud Widget To Your WordPress Blog Sidebar

Now, let’s add A Tag Cloud widget to display a tag list on the sidebar navigation area.

Info

Tags displayed in your widget can be found in the Tags screen …

WordPress Tags area

(WordPress Tags area)

To insert 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 is very little to configure. You can add a widget title, and choose whether to display items in the tag cloud using Tags or Categories. Click Save when finished …

Tag Cloud Widget settings

(Tag Cloud Widget settings)

Your Tag cloud will now display on the sidebar …

Tag cloud displaying WordPress tags

(Tag Cloud widget set to display tags)

The example below shows a published Tag Cloud widget set up for displaying Categories instead of Tags

Tag Cloud widget displaying post categories

(Tag Cloud widget displaying WordPress post categories)

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

Configuring Your WordPress Archives Widget

To complete this tutorial, we’ll configure the Archives Widget, which is a frequently-used WordPress widget.

As you continue adding new posts to WordPress, your older posts begin to get pushed further down the chronological list and become less visible to site visitors. Your posts are still there, it’s just not as visible.

The Archives Widget allows your readers to view previously published WordPress posts …

WordPress Archives Widget

(WordPress Archives Widget)

There’s really very little to set up here. You can add a title if you want, and choose whether to display items in your Archives widget as 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 a published Archives widget set to show posts as a dropdown menu with post counts checkbox enabled …

Archives widget on blog sidebar

(WordPress Archives Widget on blog sidebar)

Now that you know how to configure most of the frequently-used default sidebar widgets, let’s explore some other areas of WordPress widgets.

WordPress Widgets – Useful Tips

Here are some additional ways to use 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:

How To Override Default Widgets

If you see widgets displaying on your site’s sidebar menu that aren’t listed in the active sidebar in your Appearance > Widgets section, it’s because with some themes, unless you add widgets to your sidebar, the theme will display its own default set of widgets.

For example, this site displays a couple of widgets in the sidebar …

Override Default Sidebar Widgets

If you look in the Widgets section, however, no widgets have been added to any of the available widget areas …

Overriding Default Sidebar Widgets

This theme may be using default widgets.

Once you add one or more widgets to an available widget area, the other widgets will disappear and be replaced with the selected widgets instead.

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

Add a blank text widget …

Overriding Default Widgets

And the default widgets will not appear in the sidebar/footer section …

How To Override Default Sidebar Widgets

Widget Accessibility Mode

As we’ve explained in an earlier example, with WordPress you can easily and quickly reorganize how content displays in areas of your website sidebars, footers and navigation menus with just a few clicks of your mouse, using drag-&-drop technology …

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

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

In the screenshot above, for example, you can see that we have quickly and easily redesigned the layout in the site’s sidebar by switching around the search and testimonial sections. This is easily done by dragging and dropping the widget elements into different positions inside the sidebar widget area.

Rearranging sidebar elements using widgets can help to improve your site’s visitor experience.

If, for some reason, you find that you are unable to drag and drop widgets around (e.g. using a mobile device that doesn’t support dragging-and-dropping), then you can still use widgets by enabling Accessibility Mode.

How To Enable Widget Accessibility Mode

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

To enable Accessibility Mode, log into your administration area and navigate to Appearance > Widgets

Widgets Menu

(WordPress Widgets Menu)

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

WordPress Widgets - Screen Options

(WordPress Widgets – Screen Options)

Click on the Enable accessibility mode link …

Enable accessibility mode

(Turn on accessibility mode)

Once the feature has been enabled, the widgets in the Available Widgets and the Active Widgets sections, widgets will display an Add and Edit links respectively …

Enable Widget Accessibility Mode

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

Enabling Accessibility Mode For WordPress Widgets

A screen will display the selected widget with options for customizing its settings, selecting a widget location, and dropdown menus for specifying the position of the widget in the selected location (e.g. position “1”, “2”, “4”, etc.) …

Enable Widget Accessibility Mode

Click Save Widget to add the widget to your Active Widgets section, or the Cancel button to return to your previous screen …

Enable Widget Accessibility Mode

Click on an active widget’s Edit link …

Enable Widget Accessibility Mode

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

Click Save Widget to return to the Active Widgets screen, or click the Delete button to remove the widget from the Active Widgets area …

Enable Widget Accessibility Mode

Click on Disable accessibility mode in the Screen Options section to go back to using drag and drop …

Disable accessibility mode

(Disable accessibility mode)

Create Your Own 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 new plugins on your site.

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 display on the sidebar…

Create Your Own Sidebar Widgets

Make sure that any images you use are resized to 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 sidebar navigation menu, so keep your information concise.

Also, don’t worry about publishing your Post – all we need is the code of the content to paste into a sidebar widget.

To get the content code, click on the Text tab …

How To Create Your Own Custom Sidebar Widgets

Select and copy everything to your clipboard…

Create Your Own Sidebar Widgets

Now, go into your Widgets Area.

Add a new Text widget to your sidebar, paste the content from your clipboard into the content field and click Save

How To Create Your Own Sidebar Widgets

Your new widget will be added to the sidebar…

Creating Your Own Custom Sidebar Widgets

(Create your own custom sidebar widgets)

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

How To Use Widgets

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