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.

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Adding And Configuring Widgets On Your WordPress Sidebar SectionAs we explain in this post, one of the many benefits of using WordPress is that WordPress makes it very easy to add content, expand your site’s functionality, or reconfigure your site’s layout without the need to have code editing skills and knowledge.

WordPress allows you to easily add, delete, and reorganize content from your blog’s sidebar navigation menu (and header and footer sections too, 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 WordPress theme you have installed) like:

  • page lists
  • content categories
  • archives
  • custom menus
  • links to external sites
  • your most read posts
  • recent comments from users
  • advertisements
  • quotations
  • polls & surveys
  • RSS content excerpts
  • shopping cart information
  • product images
  • Facebook feeds
  • display widgets from other sites (e.g. affiliate programs)
  • administrative forms (e.g. login, register, etc.)

WP widgets make managing and using WordPress easier!

(WP widgets help make managing and using WordPress easy)

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

In this tutorial series we teach you how to use and configure a number of commonly-used widgets in WordPress.

How To Use Widgets In WordPress

Basic Concepts

Before we show you how to configure widgets, it helps to first make sure that you understand some of the basics of using widgets:

Most WordPress Themes Support Widgetized Layouts

Most WordPress themes support widgets and provide widget-ready sections in the theme’s layout where widgets can appear, such as the sidebar, header area, and the footer area. Depending on the theme, widgets can sometimes also be used below or above the content area …

(Many themes offer users multiple widget-ready sections)

(Many WP themes provide multiple widget-ready areas)

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

Widget Areas

(Widget Areas)

Widgets Panel

The Widgets screen displays a list of all the widgets you have available.

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

Activate or deactivate widgets using drag & drop

(Activate or deactivate widgets by dragging & dropping)

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

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

The Widgets screen also includes an Inactive Widgets section that lets you remove widgets that you no longer want actively displayed on your site. Inactive widgets retain their pre-configured settings.

Reorganize Widgets Using Drag And Drop

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

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

(Rearrange widgets using drag-and-drop)

You can also easily rearrange the order and layout of your website’s widget-enabled layout using drag-and-drop.

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

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

Widgets control how certain features on your site display

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

Looking inside the Widget area, you would see that the front end features display on the site’s sidebar area in exactly the same order as they were arranged in the back-end widget section …

Rearrange widgets using drag-and-drop

If we change the above widgets in the Active Widget Area using drag and drop …

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

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

The widget features have now been reorganized in the sidebar …

Rearrange widgets on your WordPress site using drag and drop

This instantly changes the order of items in the site’s sidebar.

Rearranging sidebar elements using widgets can help to 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, and the support banner (2) is located above the newsletter sign-up form (1) …

Reorganizing sidebar layout using widgets can help improve visitor experience

(Rearranging sidebar layout using widgets can improve user experience)

Removing Widgets From The Sidebar

Deleting widgets from the sidebar navigation section is really easy.

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

Search widget

(Search widget)

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

How to delete your WP widgets

(Deleting WordPress widgets)

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

How to remove your WordPress widgets

(Removing your WordPress widget)

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

Widget Settings

Many widgets can be further customized. This can include things like making certain types of information hidden to your site visitors but visible to registered users, displaying additional forms, fields, or information, specifying dimensions of sidebar images, videos, etc.

Click on the little triangle in the corner of a widget to toggle between expanding and collapsing the item …

Toggle to expand/collapse widget settings

(Toggle to expand/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 …

Widget settings

(Widget settings)

Useful Information

Some widgets give you 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 customization

(Some widgets provide users with little to no configuration options)

Preview Your Widgets

Depending upon which theme you are using, you can also customize and manage 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 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 the widget content will appear prior to publishing it (and avoid making mistakes), or manage your widgets on the fly using the Widget editor screen.

preview widget changes in the Customize feature

(preview widget changes live in the Customize section)

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

Toolbar Customize Link

(Customize link in the toolbar)

This brings you to the Customizer section in the backend.

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

Widget management - configure widgets on the fly!

(Widget management – configure widgets on the fly!)

After saving changes, all changes made to widgets will be automatically updated.

Practical Tip

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 work through this tutorial.

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

Adding And Configuring Widgets On Your WordPress Blog Sidebar Navigation Menu


This is the end of section 1 of this tutorial.

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Originally published as How To Use And Configure WordPress Widgets.