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 WordPress Widgets To The WebsiteAs we have discussed in this post, one of the many benefits of using the WordPress web publishing tool for building, managing and growing your digital presence is that you can easily add content, expand your site’s functionality, or reorganize your site’s layout without web coding skills and knowledge required.

WordPress gives you the ability to easily insert, remove, and control various blocks of content in your website’s sidebar (and header and footer sections too, depending on what theme you use) 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
  • content categories
  • archive
  • custom page menus
  • links to external sites
  • your most popular posts
  • recent comments
  • text ads
  • testimonials
  • polls
  • RSS feed items
  • newsletter registration form
  • video galleries
  • social media share buttons
  • add widgets from external sites (e.g. Facebook friends)
  • administrative forms (e.g. login, register, etc.)

WordPress widgets make managing and using WordPress easier!

(WordPress widgets help make managing and using WordPress easier)

To learn more about what widgets are, how they work and how using widgets can help you expand your site’s capabilities, see this article:

In this step-by-step tutorial series you will learn how to use and configure various frequently-used widgets in WordPress.

How To Use Widgets

The Basics

Before we show you how to configure widgets, it helps to first review some of the basics about how to use widgets:

Most WordPress Themes Support Widget-Ready Layouts

Many WordPress themes support widgets and provide built-in sections in the theme’s layout where widgets can appear, such as the sidebar navigation menu, header area, and footer. Depending on the theme, widgets can also display inside the content area …

(Many WordPress themes offer users multiple widget sections)

(Many themes offer users multiple widget-enabled sections)

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

Widget Areas

(Widget Areas)

Widgets Panel

The Widgets area displays all the widgets that are currently available for use on your site.

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

Activate or deactivate widgets using drag-and-drop

(Widgets can be activated or deactivated by dragging and dropping)

Available widgets can be made Active or Inactive by dragging & dropping items to different sections of the screen.

Widgets dragged from the Available Widgets section to widget areas like the sidebar, footer, etc. become immediately activated for use.

The Widgets area also includes an Inactive Widgets section that lets you remove any widgets that you no longer want to use on your site. Inactive widgets do not lose their settings.

Reorganize WordPress Widgets Using Drag-And-Drop

You can easily add new functionality to your site, and activate, deactivate, rearrange and remove widgets just by dragging and dropping items inside your Widgets section …

Rearrange your site's widgets using drag and drop

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

You can also easily rearrange your theme’s layout using drag and drop.

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

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

Widgets control the order certain features on your site appear

(Widgets control how certain features display on your site)

If we look inside the example site’s Widget area, you will see that these features correspond to the order of widgets inside the active widget section …

Rearrange your site's widgets using drag and drop

If we rearrange the above widgets in the Active Widget Area by dragging and dropping some things around …

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

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

The widgets have now been reorganized in your sidebar …

Rearrange your site's widgets using drag and drop

As you can see, this immediately changes the layout of the site’s sidebar.

Reorganizing sidebar elements with widgets can help improve user experience.

Note in the screenshot below that the ‘click to call’ feature (3) is now at the top of the sidebar navigation area, and the support section (2) now sits above the newsletter opt-in form (1) …

Rearrange sidebar elements using widgets to improve user experience

(Rearrange sidebar layout using widgets to improve user experience)

Deleting Widgets From Your Sidebar Section

Deleting widgets from your WordPress sidebar is really easy.

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

WordPress Search widget

(WordPress Search widget)

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

Delete your WP widgets

(Deleting WordPress widgets)

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

How to remove your widgets

(Removing widgets)

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

Widget Settings

Most widgets can be further customized. This includes making certain types of information hidden to your site visitors but visible to registered 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 display the settings for that widget …

Toggles expand/collapse widget settings

(Toggles expand/collapse widget settings)

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

Some widgets provide users with little to no customizing options

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

Customize Widgets Section

Depending upon the WordPress theme you use, you can also preview any changes live without actually making changes to your site. This way, you can be sure that you are happy with your customizations before making any permanent changes to your site.

The ability to manage widgets from within your own WP dashboard 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 prior to publishing any changes you’ve made (and avoid making errors), or configure widgets on the fly using the Widget editor area.

Edit widgets live in the Customize section

(preview widget changes live in the Customize section)

When viewing your site 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 modifications and adjustments in preview mode (like inserting, removing and moving widgets around), and it will all be done in real time. If you are happy with the results, click the “Save and Publish” button and your changes will instantly become visible on your site.

Widget management - work in preview mode

(Widget management – work in preview mode)

Once you have saved the changes, the new updates will automatically show on your site.

Tip

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

Also, remember to use the Customizer feature to preview your changes. This saves you from having to keep two browsers open while you complete this tutorial (one to work in and one to check how your site is coming along).

Now that you know the basics of using widgets, the next step is to configure a number of frequently-used WordPress sidebar widgets.

How To Add WordPress Widgets To The Sidebar Navigation Section

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

To continue, click this link:

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"These tutorials have so much information and are easy to understand. If you use WordPress or plan to in the future these will help you with everything you need to know." - Valisa (Mesa, Arizona)

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Originally published as How To Use And Configure WordPress Widgets.