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 …

How To Add And Configure WordPress Widgets In Your WebsiteIn Part 1 of this tutorial, we explained how to use widgets in WordPress and in Part Two, we explained how to configure a text widget.

In Part 3, we began configuring a number of commonly-used widgets in WordPress.

In this final section, we are going to complete this step-by-step tutorial series by configuring a few more commonly-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:

Add An RSS Widget To Your WordPress Sidebar

Let’s now add a widget to your sidebar menu that will display news items from An RSS feed.

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

WordPress RSS Widget

(RSS Widget)

Enter the following information into the widget settings:

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

RSS Widget settings

(RSS Widget settings)

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

The example below shows an RSS widget configured using the above settings …

RSS Widget on sidebar

(RSS Widget added to blog sidebar)

The example below shows the RSS widget configured with additional options selected …

RSS Widget settings

(WordPress RSS Widget settings)

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

Adding A Tag Cloud To Your WordPress Sidebar Section

Let’s now add a widget to the sidebar section that displays a tag cloud.

Useful Info

Tags appearing in the widget are managed in the Tags panel …

WordPress Tags area

(WordPress Tags area)

To add the widget, select a Tag Cloud widget in the Available Widgets section and drag it to the sidebar …

Tag Cloud Widget

(WordPress Tag Cloud Widget)

There is not much to configure in this widget. You can add a title if you want, and choose whether to display items in the tag cloud using Tags or Categories. Click Save when done …

WordPress Tag Cloud Widget settings

(Tag Cloud Widget settings)

Your Tag cloud will now display on the sidebar menu …

Tag cloud displaying WordPress post tags

(Tag cloud set to display tags)

The example below shows the Tag Cloud widget configured for displaying Categories instead of Tags

Tag Cloud widget displaying categories

(Tag cloud set to display post categories)

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

Configure Your WordPress Archives Widget In Your Sidebar

To complete this tutorial series, we’ll configure the default Archives Widget, which is a common widget.

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

The Archives Widget lets your visitors view older published posts …

Archives Widget

(Archives Widget)

There’s very little to configure in this widget. You can add a widget title, and choose whether to display items in your sidebar area in a dropdown menu, and display the number of posts . Click Save when finished …

Archives Widget settings

(WordPress Archives Widget settings)

The screenshot below shows a published Archives widget set up to display posts as a dropdown menu with number of posts checkbox enabled …

Archives widget on blog sidebar

(WordPress Archives Widget added to sidebar navigation area)

Now that you know how to configure most of the commonly-used widgets on your WordPress site, let’s explore some other aspects of using WordPress widgets.

Useful Widget Tips

Here are some additional features of 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:

Override Default Widgets

If you see widgets displaying on your blog sidebar section that aren’t showing up under the active sidebar inside the Appearance > Widgets section, it’s because some themes will display their own default set of widgets unless you add widgets to the sidebar menu.

For example, this site displays some widgets in the blog sidebar …

Overriding Default WordPress Sidebar Widgets

If you look inside the Widgets section, however, no widgets have actually been added to the active widget areas …

Overriding Default WordPress Sidebar Widgets

This theme is obviously using default widgets.

As soon as you add one or more widgets to an available widget area, the placeholder widgets will your selected widgets will be used instead.

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

Just add a blank text widget to a widget area …

Overriding Default WordPress Sidebar Widgets

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

Overriding Default Sidebar Widgets

Widget Accessibility Mode

As we’ve explained in an earlier example, WordPress lets you easily and quickly rearrange how information is displayed in areas of your website or blog, like sidebars, footers and navigation menus with only a few clicks of your mouse, using drag-and-drop technology …

Reorganizing sidebar layout using widgets can help improve your site's user experience

(Rearranging sidebar layout using widgets can help improve your site’s user experience)

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

Rearranging sidebar layout with widgets can improve visitor experience.

If, for some reason, you find that you cannot move widgets around using drag & drop (e.g. using a mobile device that doesn’t support dragging-and-dropping), you can still work with widgets by enabling Accessibility Mode.

How To Enable Accessibility Mode For WordPress Widgets

Enabling Accessibility Mode, via your 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

WordPress Widgets Menu

(Widgets Menu)

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

WordPress Widgets - Screen Options

(WordPress Widgets – Screen Options)

Click link to enable accessibility mode …

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 link respectively …

How To Enable Accessibility Mode For Widgets

If you click on a Widget’s Add link in the Available Widgets section …

Enable Accessibility Mode For WordPress Widgets

A screen opens up the selected widget with options for customizing the widget’s settings, selecting the widget location, and dropdown menus for specifying the position of the widget in your widget location (e.g. position “1”, “3”, “5”, etc.) …

Enable Accessibility Mode For WordPress Widgets

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

Enabling Accessibility Mode For WordPress Widgets

Click on the Edit link of an active widget …

Enabling Widget Accessibility Mode

A screen will display the selected widget with options for modifying the widget’s settings.

Click Save Widget to update your settings and return to the Active Widgets screen, or click the Delete button to remove the widget from the Active Widgets section …

How To Enable Widget Accessibility Mode

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

Turn off accessibility mode

(Switch off accessibility mode)

Creating Your Own Sidebar Widgets – A Simple 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 website.

Here is a simple way to create your own sidebar widgets:

First, create a new Post and enter the content that you want to display in the sidebar area…

Creating Your Own Custom Sidebar Widgets

Ensure that any images you plan to use are resized to fit the maximum width of your sidebar area. Also, keep in mind that there’s no a lot of room to put content on your sidebar section, so try and keep your information concise.

Also, don’t worry about saving your Post – all we are really looking for is the content to paste into the sidebar widget.

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

Creating Your Own Custom Sidebar Widgets

Select and copy everything to your clipboard…

Creating Your Own Sidebar Widgets

Next, go into your Widgets Screen.

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

Creating Your Own Custom Sidebar Widgets

Your new widget will be added to your sidebar navigation section…

How To Create Your Own Custom Sidebar Widgets

(Create your own sidebar widgets)

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

How To Use WordPress Widgets

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"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