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 Widgets On The Sidebar Navigation SectionAs we have discussed in this article, there are lots of great things about choosing WordPress for building and growing a business online. One of these is that WordPress makes it very easy to add content, expand your website’s functionality, or rearrange your site’s layout without coding skills required.

WordPress gives you the ability to quickly and easily add, remove, and reorganize various types of content on your website’s sidebar (or 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’s sidebar area (plus headers and footers and other areas, depending on the theme) like:

  • page lists
  • blog categories
  • archive
  • custom page menus
  • links to external sites
  • most read posts
  • recent comments
  • clickable ad banners
  • customer testimonials
  • polls
  • RSS feed items
  • subscriber form
  • image galleries
  • twitter feeds
  • display widgets from external sites (e.g. affiliate programs)
  • administrative forms (e.g. login, register, etc.)

WordPress widgets make managing and using WordPress easy!

(WordPress widgets help 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 your site’s functionality, see this article:

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

How To Use Widgets In WordPress

What You Need To Know First

Before configuring and using widgets, let’s make sure that you understand some of the basic concepts of how to use widgets:

Most WordPress Themes Support Widgetized Areas

Most WordPress themes support widgets and provide built-in widget-ready sections in the theme’s layout where widgets can be used, such as the sidebar, header area, and footer sections. Depending on what theme you are using, widgets can also be used inside the content area …

(Many WP themes provide multiple widget areas)

(Many themes provide multiple widgetized areas)

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

Widget Areas

(Widget Areas)

The Widgets Screen

The Widgets area displays all the widgets that you currently have available.

The right-hand section of the window displays all “active” widgets …

Activate or deactivate widgets using drag-and-drop

(Widgets can be activated or deactivated with drag & drop ease)

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

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

The Widgets screen also includes an Inactive Widgets section that lets you remove any widgets that you no longer want on your site. Inactive widgets do not lose their settings.

Rearrange Widgets With Drag-And-Drop

You can easily insert, activate, deactivate, rearrange and delete things using widgets by dragging and dropping items in your Widgets area …

Rearrange widgets using drag and drop

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

You can also easily reconfigure the layout and order of your website’s widgetized areas with drag & drop ease.

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

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

Widgets control the order certain features display on your WordPress site

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

If you could peek inside the Widget area, you would see that the front-end features appear on the site in the same order as they have been arranged in the active widget area …

Rearrange widgets using drag-and-drop

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

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

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

The widgets have now been reorganized in your sidebar navigation section …

Rearrange widgets on your WordPress site using drag & drop

This immediately changes the order of items in your sidebar.

Rearranging sidebar layout with widgets can help improve visitor experience.

Note in the screenshot below that the ‘click to call’ feature (3) is now at the top of the sidebar navigation menu, and the ‘contact us’ banner (2) now sits above the newsletter sign-up form (1) …

Reorganize sidebar elements using widgets to improve your site's user experience

(Reorganize sidebar layout using widgets to improve your site’s visitor experience)

Removing Widgets From Your WordPress Sidebar

Deleting widgets from the sidebar is really easy.

For example, let’s delete the Search widget from your sidebar navigation area …

WordPress Search widget

(Search widget)

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

Deleting a WP widget

(Delete your widgets)

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

Removing widgets

(Remove WordPress widgets)

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

Widget Settings

Many widgets offer a number of settings that allow you to further customize things. This includes making certain types of information hidden to visitors but visible to registered users, displaying additional forms, fields, or information, specifying sizes 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 widget’s settings …

Toggles expand/collapse widget settings

(Toggling expands/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 settings …

Widget settings

(Widget settings)


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

Some widgets offer little to no customizing options

(Some widgets offer little to no customization)

Previewing Widgets

Depending on the theme you have installed on your site, you’re also able to manage and customize your widgets without making actual changes to your site. This way, you can be sure that you like your customizations before making any permanent changes to your website.

The ability to manage widgets inside the WordPress 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 prior to publishing any changes (and avoid making mistakes), or manage widgets on the fly using the Widget editor area.

Edit widgets in the Customize feature

(Edit widgets live in the Customize section)

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

Customize link in the toolbar

(Customize your site quickly)

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

You can do many edits, modifications and adjustments in preview mode (like adding, deleting and reorganizing your widgets), and see all changes in real time. If you like the results, click the “Save and Publish” button and the changes will instantly become available on the site’s frontend.

Widget management - work in preview mode

(Widget management – work in preview mode)

Once you have saved the changes, all changes made to widgets will be automatically updated.


Because the theme you use can affect how elements display on your site, we recommend that you install your theme first before configuring widgets.

Also, remember to use the WordPress Customizer to preview your changes. This saves you from having to keep two browsers open while you complete this tutorial.

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

How To Add And Configure Widgets In Your WordPress Blog Sidebar Menu


This is the end of part one of this series of tutorials.

To view the rest of this tutorial, click here:


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