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 Widgets To WordPressAs we’ve discussed in this article, one of the many benefits of choosing WordPress is that you can easily add content, expand your website’s functionality, or rearrange your site’s layout with no code editing skills required.

WordPress gives you the ability to quickly and easily add, remove, and rearrange content in your blog’s sidebar menu (and header and footer sections, depending on what theme you have installed) 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 you have installed) like:

  • list of pages
  • site categories
  • archive
  • menus displaying only selected pages
  • links to external sites
  • links to your recent posts
  • comments
  • advertisements
  • user testimonials
  • polls
  • RSS content excerpts
  • shopping cart forms
  • video galleries
  • twitter feeds
  • add widgets from external sites (e.g. Facebook friends)
  • administrative forms (e.g. login, register, etc.)

WP widgets make managing and using WordPress easier!

(WP widgets make managing and using WordPress easier)

To learn more about what WP widgets are, how they work and why they make managing your site easier, see this article:

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

Using WordPress Widgets

What You Need To Know First

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

Most WordPress Themes Support Widget-Ready Areas

Many WordPress themes support widgets and provide areas in your theme’s layout where you can add widgets, such as the sidebar area, header area, and the footer area. Depending on what theme you are using, widgets can sometimes also show up in the content area …

(Many themes offer users a number of widgetized sections)

(Many WP themes provide multiple widget-ready areas)

These widget-ready sections correspond to a feature inside your Widget administration area called “Widget Areas” …

Widget Areas

(Widget Areas)

The Widgets Screen

The Widgets section displays a list of all the widgets you can use on your site.

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

Activate or deactivate widgets using drag-and-drop

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

Available widgets can be activated or deactivated using drag-and-drop.

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

In addition, your Widgets panel includes an Inactive Widgets section that lets you remove any widgets that you no longer want to use on your website. Inactive widgets do not lose their settings.

Rearrange WordPress Widgets Using Drag And Drop

You can easily add, activate, deactivate, rearrange and delete widgets just by dragging and dropping items inside the Widgets area …

Rearrange widgets using drag-and-drop

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

You can also easily rearrange the order and layout of your site’s widget-ready areas using drag and drop.

For example, in the image below, the widgets have already been configured to show the following:

  1. An opt-in form,
  2. A click for support banner, and
  3. A ‘click to call’ section from a widgetized WP plugin (i.e. a WordPress plugin with an accompanying widget) …

Widgets control how certain features appear on your WordPress site

(Widgets control how certain features appear on your site)

If we look inside the example site’s Widget area, you will see that these features appear on the site in the same order as their corresponding widgets are arranged in the active widget section …

Rearrange widgets on your WordPress site using drag and drop

If we reorganize these widgets in the Sidebar Widget Area by dragging & dropping items …

Drag and drop to rearrange widgets in the widget area

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

The widgets have now been reorganized in the sidebar …

Rearrange widgets using drag & drop

This immediately reorganizes the order of items in the site’s sidebar.

Rearranging sidebar layout using widgets can improve user experience.

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

Rearranging sidebar elements using widgets can help improve your site's visitor experience

(Reorganizing sidebar layout using widgets can help improve user experience)

Removing Widgets From Your WordPress Sidebar

Deleting widgets from your WordPress sidebar is very easy.

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

WordPress Search widget

(WordPress Search widget)

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

Delete widgets

(How to delete your WordPress widget)

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

How to remove widgets

(Remove WordPress widgets)

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

Widget Settings

Most widgets can be further customized. This includes hiding information from users, displaying additional forms, fields, or information, specifying sizes of sidebar images, videos, etc.

Click on the little triangle in the corner of a widget to expand the item …

Toggle to expand/collapse widget settings

(Toggling expands/collapse widget settings)

When the widget expands, you can change and save your settings, click Delete to 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 Info

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

Some widgets give you little to no configurable options

(Some widgets offer little to no customizable options)

Widget Previews

Depending on which theme you use, you can also manage your widgets without actually making changes to your site. This way, you can be sure that you like the customized edits before committing anything to your site.

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 it (to avoid making errors), or change your widgets on the fly using the Widget editor area.

preview widget changes in the Customize feature

(preview widget changes live in the Customize section)

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

Customize link in the toolbar

(Customize your site quickly)

This will bring you to the Customizer area in the back-end.

You can do several things to widgets in preview mode (like inserting, removing and moving widgets around), and it’s all done in real time. If you are happy with what you’ve done, click the “Save and Publish” button and your changes will then be instantly updated and made visible on the site’s frontend.

Widget management - configure widgets on the fly!

(Widget management – configure widgets on the fly!)

Once you have saved the changes, the new settings will automatically be displayed on your site.


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

Also, remember to use the WordPress Customizer to preview your changes. This will save you from having to keep two browsers open while you work through this tutorial.

Now that you know the basics of using widgets, the next step is to learn how to configure various commonly-used sidebar widgets in WordPress.

Adding WordPress Widgets To Your WordPress Blog Sidebar Section


This is the end of part one of this tutorial series on how to use WordPress widgets.

Click here to continue:

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