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 WordPress WidgetsAs we’ve discussed in this post, there are lots of benefits in choosing the WordPress CMS platform for managing and growing your website or blog. One of these is that you can easily add content, expand your site’s functionality, or rearrange the site’s layout with no coding skills required.

WordPress gives you the ability to quickly and easily insert, remove, and reconfigure various blocks of content from your site’s sidebar section (and header and footer sections too, depending on what theme you are using) using widgets.

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

  • site pages
  • site categories
  • archived blog post entries
  • menus
  • links to resources
  • posts that you want to promote
  • excerpts of recent comments added to your posts
  • clickable ad banners
  • user testimonials
  • surveys & polls
  • RSS content excerpts
  • shopping cart information
  • videos
  • twitter feeds
  • display widgets from external sites (e.g. Facebook)
  • administrative forms (e.g. login, register, etc.)

Widgets make managing and using WordPress easier!

(WP widgets help make managing and using WordPress easy)

To learn more about what widgets are, how they work and why they make managing your site easier, go here:

In this tutorial series we explain how to use and configure a number of frequently-used WordPress widgets.

How To Use WordPress Widgets

Basic Concepts

Before we show you how to configure widgets, let’s go over some of the basics of using widgets:

Most WordPress Themes Support Widget-Ready Layouts

Most WordPress themes support widgets and provide built-in areas in your theme’s layout where widgets can appear, such as the sidebar, header area, and the footer area. Depending on your theme, widgets can sometimes also show up in the content area …

(Many themes offer users a number of widget-ready areas)

(Many themes offer users a number of widget-ready sections)

These widget-ready areas correspond to a feature inside the Widget panel called “Widget Areas” …

Widget Areas

(Widget Areas)

Your Widgets Screen

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

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

Activate or deactivate widgets using drag and drop

(Activate or deactivate widgets with drag and drop ease)

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

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

In addition, your Widgets area includes an Inactive Widgets section that lets you remove any widgets that you no longer want actively displayed on your website. Inactive widgets retain their pre-configured settings.

Rearrange WordPress Widgets With Drag-And-Drop

You can easily add functionality to your site, or activate, deactivate, reorder and delete widgets using simple drag and drop inside your Widgets section …

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

(Rearrange your site’s widgets using drag-and-drop)

You can also easily reorder the order and layout of your theme’s widget-ready areas with drag-and-drop ease.

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

  1. An opt-in form,
  2. A contact support button, and
  3. ’Click to call’ feature from a widgetized plugin (i.e. a WordPress plugin with an accompanying widget) …

Widgets control how certain features display on your site

(Widgets control the order certain features on your site appear)

If you look inside this site’s Widget area, you will see that these features appear on the site’s sidebar area in the same order as their corresponding widgets have been arranged in the active widget screen …

Rearrange widgets on your WordPress site using drag & drop

Let’s now rearrange the order of these widgets in the Main Sidebar Widget Area by dragging and dropping some of the items around …

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

(Drag & drop to rearrange widgets in the widget area)

The widget features have now been reordered in your sidebar …

Rearrange widgets using drag and drop

This immediately changes the layout of the sidebar.

Rearranging sidebar elements using widgets can help to improve user 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 support banner (2) has been moved to the spot above the newsletter subscription form (1) …

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

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

Deleting Widgets From Your Sidebar Navigation Area

Deleting widgets from your WordPress sidebar navigation section is really easy.

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

WordPress Search widget

(WordPress Search widget)

To delete an active widget, you can either expand the widget settings and click the Delete link …

Delete your widget

(How to delete your WordPress widgets)

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

Removing widgets

(How to remove WordPress widgets)

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

Widget Settings

Most widgets can be further customized. This includes making certain types of information hidden to site 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 expands the item and displays the settings for that 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)

Info

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

Some widgets give you little to no customizing options

(Some widgets offer little to no configuration options)

Preview Widgets

Depending on the WordPress theme you have installed, 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 committing anything to your site.

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 the widget content will appear before publishing changes (and avoid making errors), or manage widgets on the fly using the Widget editor screen.

Edit widgets live in the Customize section

(preview widget changes in the Customize section)

Wherever you are on the front-end just calick the Customize link in the toolbar …

Toolbar Customize Link

(Customize your site quickly)

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

You can do many edits to widgets in preview mode (like inserting, removing and moving widgets around), and it will all be done in real time. If you like the results, click the “Save and Publish” button and the changes will be instantly applied and reflected on your site to visitors.

Widget management - work in preview mode

(Widget management – work in preview mode)

Once you have saved the changes, your site will automatically update the widget settings and display your new changes to your site visitors.

Practical Tip

Because the WordPress theme you use tend to 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 all changes. This saves you from having to keep two browsers open while you complete this tutorial (one to work in and one to see your site the way your visitors will see it).

Now that you know the basics of using widgets, let’s configure a number of commonly-used WordPress sidebar widgets.

How To Use Widgets In WordPress

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This is the end of part 1 of this series of tutorials about using Widgets.

To view the rest of this tutorial series, click this link:

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"I was absolutely amazed at the scope and breadth of these tutorials! The most in-depth training I have ever received on any subject!" - Myke O'Neill, DailyGreenPost.com

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