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.

Configuring WordPress Widgets On The WordPress Blog Sidebar Navigation MenuAs discussed in this article, there are loads of great benefits in using the WordPress web publishing software for building and growing your digital presence. One of these is that you can easily add content, enhance your website, or rearrange the layout of your site with no programming skills required.

WordPress gives you the ability to quickly and easily insert, delete, and reorganize various types of content in your blog’s sidebar (and header and footer sections, depending on what theme is installed on your site) 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 your theme) like:

  • page lists
  • categories
  • archives
  • menus that display only selected pages
  • links to external sites
  • posts that you want to promote
  • user comments
  • clickable images
  • client testimonials
  • survey questions & results
  • RSS feed items
  • subscription form
  • images
  • social media sharing buttons
  • add widgets from other sites (e.g. Facebook)
  • administrative forms (e.g. login, register, etc.)

Widgets make managing and using WordPress easy!

(Widgets make managing and using WordPress easy)

To learn more about what WordPress widgets are, how they work and how using widgets can help you expand the functionality of your website, see this article:

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

Using Widgets

Widgets – The Basics

Before we start configuring and using widgets, let’s cover some of the basics of using widgets:

Most WordPress Themes Support Widgetized Layouts

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

(Many WordPress themes offer users a number of widget areas)

(Many WP themes provide multiple widget sections)

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

Widget Areas

(Widget Areas)

Your Widgets Screen

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

The right-hand section of the screen displays your “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 sections of the screen.

Widgets dragged from the Available Widgets section to widget areas like your sidebar, footer, etc. instantly become active and can be used for their purpose.

The Widgets panel also 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.

Reorganize Widgets With Drag-And-Drop

You can easily insert, activate, deactivate, rearrange and remove things using widgets by dragging and dropping items in the Widgets area …

Rearrange widgets using drag-and-drop

(Rearrange widgets using drag & drop)

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

For example, in the image below, the widgets have already been configured to display things on your site like:

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

Widgets control the order certain features on your site display

(Widgets control how certain features on your site display)

Inside the Widget area, you would see that the front end features display on the site’s sidebar section in the same order as they have been arranged in the backend widget area …

Rearrange widgets on your WordPress site using drag and drop

If we reorganize these widgets in the Sidebar Widget Area by dragging and dropping some of the widgets around …

Drag and drop to rearrange widgets in your widget area

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

The widget features have now been reordered in your sidebar …

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

As you can see, this immediately changes the order of items in your site’s sidebar.

Rearranging sidebar elements using widgets can improve user experience.

Note in the screenshot below that the ‘click to call’ feature (3) is now the first item on the sidebar, and the support graphic button (2) can now be found above the newsletter opt-in form (1) …

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

(Reorganizing sidebar elements with widgets can improve user experience)

Removing Widgets From The Sidebar Area

Removing widgets from your sidebar is really easy.

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

WordPress Search widget

(WordPress Search widget)

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

Delete WordPress widgets

(How to delete WordPress widgets)

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

How to remove your WP widget

(Remove widgets)

Repeat this process for any widgets you want removed from your sidebar navigation menu. You can always restore a widget by dragging it back into the active widgets area.

Widget Settings

Most widgets can be further customized. This can include things like 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 display the settings for the widget …

Toggling expands/collapse widget settings

(Toggle to 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)

Useful Info

Some widgets provide users with little to no customizing options, or they may only allow you to add an optional title …

Some widgets offer little to no configurable options

(Some widgets offer little to no customization)

Preview Your Widgets

Depending upon the WP theme you have installed, you’re also able to 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 committing anything live 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 your widget content will appear before publishing changes (to avoid making mistakes), or manage your widgets on the fly using the Widget editor screen.

preview widget changes live in the Customize feature

(preview widget changes in the Customize section)

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

Customize link in the toolbar

(Customize link in the toolbar)

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

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

Widget management - work in preview mode

(Widget management – work in preview mode)

Once you have saved the changes, all changes made to widgets will be automatically updated.

Useful 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 WordPress Customizer to preview all changes. This saves you from having to keep two browsers open while you go through this tutorial (one to work in and one to check how your changes are coming along).

Now that you know the basics of using widgets, it’s time to learn how to configure a number of commonly-used widgets in WordPress.

How To Use Widgets

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This is the end of part 1 of this tutorial about how to use WordPress widgets.

Click here to continue reading:

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Author: Martin Aranovitch

Martin Aranovitch is the founder of WPCompendium.org and the author of The Small Business Digital Manager. WPCompendium.org provides hundreds of FREE tutorials that show you how to use WordPress to grow your business online with no coding skills required! Get our FREE "101+ WordPress Tips, Tricks & Hacks For Non-Techies" e-course with loads of useful WordPress tips!

Originally published as How To Use And Configure WordPress Widgets.