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 Your SidebarAs discussed in this post, there are many great benefits in choosing the WordPress web publishing application to build, manage and grow your business online. One of these is that you can easily add content, enhance your site, and rearrange the layout of your website with no web programming skills and knowledge required.

WordPress gives you the ability to quickly and easily insert, delete, and control content in your blog’s sidebar (or 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 like:

  • site pages
  • categories
  • archived blog posts
  • custom page menus
  • links to external sites
  • your most popular posts
  • excerpts of recent comments added to your posts
  • advertisements
  • testimonials
  • survey results
  • RSS feed content
  • subscriber form
  • videos
  • social media buttons
  • display widgets from other sites (e.g. Facebook friends)
  • administrative forms (e.g. login, register, etc.)

WP widgets make managing and using WordPress easy!

(WordPress widgets make managing and using WordPress easier)

To learn more about what widgets are, how they work and why widgets can make managing your site easier, go here:

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

How To Use Widgets

Basic Concepts

Before we get into configuring and using widgets, let’s explain some of the basic concepts of how to use widgets:

Most WordPress Themes Support Widgetized Layouts

Most WordPress themes support widgets and provide widgetized areas in the theme’s layout where you can add widgets, such as the sidebar menu, header area, and footer sections. Depending on the theme installed on your site, widgets can sometimes also be added below or above the content area …

(Many WordPress themes provide a number of widget-enabled sections)

(Many WordPress themes provide a number of widget areas)

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

Widget Areas

(Widget Areas)

The Widgets Screen

The Widgets panel displays a list of all the widgets that you currently have available.

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

Activate or deactivate widgets using drag and drop

(Activate or deactivate widgets by dragging & dropping)

Available widgets can be made Active or Inactive using drag & drop.

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

In addition, the Widgets area includes an Inactive Widgets section that lets you remove widgets that you no longer want on your site. Inactive widgets do not lose their pre-configured settings.

Reorganize Widgets Using Drag-And-Drop

You can easily insert, activate, deactivate, reorder and remove widgets by dragging and dropping items from the Widgets section …

Rearrange widgets on your WordPress site using drag and drop

(Rearrange widgets using drag & drop)

You can also easily reorder the order and layout of your website’s widget-ready sections by dragging & dropping widgets.

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

  1. An opt-in form,
  2. A contact support button, and
  3. A ‘click to call’ feature from a widgetized WP plugin (i.e. a plugin that adds an accompanying widget to your site) …

Widgets control the order certain features appear on your WordPress site

(Widgets control how certain features on your site appear)

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

Rearrange widgets using drag and drop

Let’s now change the above widgets in the Main Sidebar Widget Area using drag and drop …

Drag & drop to rearrange widgets in your widget area

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

The widgets have now been reordered in your sidebar …

Rearrange widgets on your WordPress site using drag and drop

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

Reorganizing sidebar layout with 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 section, and the ‘contact us’ banner (2) can now be found above the newsletter subscription form (1) …

Rearrange sidebar layout with widgets to improve visitor experience

(Reorganizing sidebar layout with widgets can help to improve your site’s user experience)

Deleting Widgets From The WordPress Blog Sidebar

Deleting widgets from the sidebar navigation area is very easy.

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

WordPress Search widget

(WordPress Search widget)

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

Deleting widgets

(Deleting a widget)

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

How to remove your widget

(Removing your WP widget)

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

Widget Settings

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

Clicking on the little triangle in the corner of a widget toggles between expanding and collapsing the item and displays the settings for the widget …

Toggle to expand/collapse widget settings

(Toggles expand/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 an optional title …

Some widgets offer little to no configuration options

(Some widgets offer little to no configurable options)

Widget Customizer Section

Depending on the theme you choose, you can also customize and manage widgets without actually making changes to your site. This way, you can be sure that you like the customized edits before making any permanent changes to your website.

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 it (and avoid making errors), or configure widgets on the fly using the Widget editor screen.

preview widget changes live in the Customize section

(Edit widgets live in the Customize feature)

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

Toolbar Customize Link

(Toolbar Customize Link)

This brings you to the Customizer section in the backend.

You can do a number of edits to your widgets in preview mode (like inserting, deleting and moving widgets around), and see all changes in real time. If you like 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 – configure widgets on the fly!)

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

Practical Tip

Since the theme you choose affect how elements display on your site, we recommend installing the theme first before configuring widgets.

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

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

How To Add And Configure WordPress Widgets In The Blog


This is the end of part one of this tutorial series.

Click on this link to continue:

Get Thrive Leads for WordPress


"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)


Originally published as How To Use And Configure WordPress Widgets.