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.

How To Use WordPress WidgetsAs we have explained in this article, there are many benefits in choosing WordPress to manage and grow a website or blog. One of these is that WordPress makes it very easy to add content, enhance your website, and reconfigure the layout of your website without coding skills or knowledge required.

WordPress allows you to easily insert, remove, and manage various types of content on your website’s sidebar (and header and footer sections, 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) like:

  • list of your web pages
  • blog post categories
  • blog post archive
  • customized menus
  • links to external sites
  • posts that you want to promote
  • post comments
  • text ads
  • testimonials
  • surveys
  • content from RSS feeds
  • subscriber form
  • 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 easier!

(WordPress widgets make managing and using WordPress easy)

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

In this step-by-step tutorial we explain how to use and configure various commonly-used WordPress widgets.

Using WordPress Widgets

Basic Concepts

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

Most WordPress Themes Support Widget-Ready Layouts

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

(Many themes offer users a number of widget-ready areas)

(Many WP themes provide multiple widget-ready sections)

These widgetized sections correspond to a feature inside the Widget administration screen called “Widget Areas” …

Widget Areas

(Widget Areas)

Widgets Screen

The Widgets area displays all the widgets that can be used on your site.

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

Activate or deactivate widgets using drag and drop

(Activate or deactivate widgets using drag-and-drop)

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

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

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

Reorganize Widgets With Drag-And-Drop

You can easily add, activate, deactivate, rearrange and remove things using widgets just by dragging and dropping items in your Widgets section …

Rearrange widgets on your WordPress site using drag and drop

(Rearrange widgets using drag-and-drop)

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

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

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

Widgets control how certain features display on your site

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

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

Rearrange your site's widgets using drag and drop

Let’s now reorganize these widgets in the Widget Area using drag-and-drop …

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

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

The widget features have now been reorganized in the sidebar …

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

This immediately reorganizes the layout of the site’s sidebar.

Reorganizing sidebar elements with widgets can help improve visitor experience.

Note in the screenshot below that the ‘click to call’ feature (3) is now at the top of the sidebar, and the ‘contact us’ section (2) now sits above the newsletter subscription form (1) …

Rearrange sidebar layout using widgets to improve visitor experience

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

Removing Widgets From Your Sidebar

Deleting widgets from the sidebar navigation area is very easy.

For example, let’s remove the Search widget from the sidebar navigation section …

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 your WordPress widgets

(How to delete your widget)

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

Remove WordPress widgets

(How to remove WordPress widgets)

Repeat this process for any widgets you want to remove from your sidebar. You can always reactivate a widget by dragging it 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 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 expand the item …

Toggling expands/collapse widget settings

(Toggles expand/collapse widget settings)

When the widget expands, you can change and save your settings, click Delete to delete your widget from the “Active Widgets” section, close the widget, or click on the triangle to collapse the widget …

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 provide users with little to no customizing options

(Some widgets offer little to no customization)

Previewing Widgets

Depending upon which WordPress theme you choose, you can also preview any changes live without making actual changes to your site. This way, you can be sure that you like your customizations before committing anything live to your website.

The ability to manage widgets inside the dashboard is a valuable 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 before publishing any changes (and avoid making errors), or manage your widgets on the fly using the Widget editor area.

preview widget changes in the Customize feature

(Edit widgets live in the Customize feature)

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

Customize your site quickly

(Customize link in the toolbar)

This brings you to the Customizer feature in the backend.

You can do many edits and adjustments to the widgets in preview mode (like inserting, removing 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 your changes will instantly become available on your site.

Widget management - work in preview mode

(Widget management – work in preview mode)

After saving changes, your site will automatically update the widget settings and display the new changes to your site visitors.

Practical Tip

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

Also, remember to use the WordPress Customizer to preview your 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 site is coming along).

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

How To Add And Configure Widgets In Your WordPress Sidebar

***

This is the end of part 1 of this tutorial series on using Widgets.

To view Part Two, click here:

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"I was absolutely amazed at the scope and breadth of these tutorials! The most in-depth training I have ever received on any subject!" - Myke O'Neill, DailyGreenPost.com

***

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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.