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.

Adding Widgets To Your Sidebar AreaAs we explain in this post, one of the many great benefits of using WordPress to manage and grow your website or blog is that you can easily add content, improve your site’s functionality, or redesign the layout of your website with no web coding skills required.

WordPress allows you to quickly and easily insert, delete, and manage various blocks of content on your site’s sidebar (or header and footer sections too, depending on what theme is installed on the site) using widgets.

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

  • list of pages
  • categories
  • archive
  • menus
  • links to resources
  • most popular posts
  • user comments
  • clickable ad banners
  • client testimonials
  • survey results
  • RSS content excerpts
  • registration box
  • images
  • social media buttons
  • display widgets from external sites (e.g. Facebook)
  • administrative forms (e.g. login, register, etc.)

Widgets make managing and using WordPress easy!

(Widgets help make managing and using WordPress easier)

To learn more about what widgets are, how widgets work and how using widgets can help you expand the functionality of your website, go here:

In this tutorial series you will learn how to use and configure a number of commonly-used WordPress widgets.

Using Widgets

The Basics

Before configuring and using widgets, it helps to first explain some of the basic concepts about using widgets:

Most WordPress Themes Support Widgetized Layouts

Many WordPress themes support widgets and provide built-in areas in your theme’s layout where widgets can be added to, such as the sidebar, header area, and footer. Depending on the theme installed on your site, widgets can sometimes also be used inside the content area …

(Many themes offer users multiple widget areas)

(Many themes offer users multiple widget areas)

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

Widget Areas

(Widget Areas)

The Widgets Panel

The Widgets screen displays all the widgets that are available.

On the right-hand side of the screen, you can see all “active” widgets …

Activate or deactivate widgets using drag & drop

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

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

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

In addition, the Widgets panel includes an Inactive Widgets section that lets you remove any widgets that you no longer want to actively display on your website. Inactive widgets retain their settings.

Reorganize Widgets With Drag-And-Drop

You can easily add, activate, deactivate, reorder and delete things using widgets just by dragging and dropping items inside your Widgets section …

Rearrange widgets using drag & drop

(Rearrange widgets using drag & drop)

You can also easily reorder your theme’s layout using drag & drop.

For example, take a look at the image below. In this site, the widgets have already been configured to display the following to visitors:

  1. A newsletter subscription form,
  2. A contact support banner, and
  3. ’Click to call’ feature from a widgetized WP plugin (i.e. a WordPress plugin with an accompanying widget) …

Widgets control how certain features on your site display

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

Inside the Widget area, you would see that the front-end features appear on the site’s sidebar menu in the same order as their corresponding widgets have been arranged in the active widget section …

Rearrange your site's widgets using drag-and-drop

If we change these widgets in the Widget Area using drag-and-drop …

Drag and drop to rearrange widgets in your widget area

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

The widget features have now been reordered in your sidebar …

Rearrange your site's widgets using drag & drop

This immediately reorganizes the order of items in your sidebar.

Rearranging sidebar layout using widgets can improve your site’s 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 ‘contact us’ banner (2) has been moved to the spot above the newsletter sign-up form (1) …

Reorganizing sidebar elements with widgets can help improve visitor experience

(Reorganize sidebar layout with widgets to improve your site’s user experience)

Removing Widgets From Your WordPress Sidebar Section

Removing widgets from your sidebar menu is very easy.

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

Search widget

(Search widget)

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

Deleting your widgets

(How to delete your WordPress widget)

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

Remove a WordPress widget

(Remove WordPress widgets)

Repeat this process for all widgets you want removed from the sidebar. You can always restore widgets by moving them back into the active widgets area.

Widget Settings

Most widgets offer additional options that allow you to further configure these. This can include things like hiding information from users (but allowing access to registered users), displaying additional forms, fields, or data, specifying dimensions of sidebar images, videos, etc.

Click on the little triangle in the corner of a widget to display the settings for the widget …

Toggle to expand/collapse widget settings

(Toggling expands/collapse widget settings)

When the widget expands, you can change and save your settings, delete your 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 may require or offer no customization, or they may only allow you to add something like an optional title …

Some widgets offer little to no configurable options

(Some widgets give you little to no customizing options)

Preview Your Widgets

Depending on the theme you have installed on your site, you can also preview any changes live without making actual changes to your site. This way, you can be sure that you are happy with your customizations before making any permanent changes to your website or blog.

Widget management is a great feature of WordPress. You can work in preview mode inside the WordPress Theme Customizer screen (Appearance > Customize) and see how your widget content will appear before publishing any changes you’ve made (to avoid making errors), or manage your widgets on the fly using the Widget editor screen.

Edit widgets in the Customize feature

(preview widget changes in the Customize section)

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

Customize your site quickly

(Customize your site quickly)

This will bring you to the Customizer screen in the backend.

You can do several edits and adjustments to the widgets in preview mode (like inserting, removing and reorganizing your widgets), and see all changes in real time. If you like the results, click the “Save and Publish” button and your changes will instantly become available to your site visitors.

Widget management - work in preview mode

(Widget management – configure widgets on the fly!)

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


Since WordPress Themes can display elements differently on your site, we recommend installing your 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 go through this tutorial.

Now that you know the basics of using widgets, the next step is to learn how to begin configuring various frequently-used WordPress widgets.

How To Add Widgets To Your WordPress Sidebar Area


This is the end of section 1 of this series of tutorials on how to use Widgets.

To keep reading, click this link:


"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