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 Add Widgets To The WordPress SidebarAs we’ve discussed in this article, one of the many great benefits of using WordPress is that you can easily add content, expand your site’s functionality, and reconfigure the layout of your website without web coding knowledge required.

WordPress lets you easily insert, remove, and rearrange content from your website’s sidebar navigation menu (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 like:

  • list of pages
  • site categories
  • blog post archive
  • menus
  • links to resources
  • your most popular posts
  • post comments
  • clickable images
  • user testimonials
  • polls & surveys
  • RSS content excerpts
  • subscriber form
  • videos
  • social media buttons
  • display widgets from external sites (e.g. affiliate programs)
  • administrative forms (e.g. login, register, etc.)

WordPress widgets make managing and using WordPress easy!

(WP widgets make managing and using WordPress easier)

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: Using WordPress: An Overview Of Widgets

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

How To Use WordPress Widgets

Basic Concepts

Before we start learning how to configure widgets, it helps to first make sure that you understand some of the basics about how to use widgets:

Most WordPress Themes Support Widgetized Areas

Most WordPress themes support widgets and provide widget-ready sections in your theme’s layout where widgets can appear, such as the sidebar, header area, and footer sections. Depending on what theme you are using, widgets can sometimes also get added inside the content area …

(Many WordPress themes offer users multiple widget-enabled areas)

(Many themes offer users multiple widget areas)

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

Widget Areas

(Widget Areas)

Widgets Screen

The Widgets panel displays all the widgets you can use on your site.

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

Activate or deactivate widgets using drag-and-drop

(Widgets can be activated or deactivated with drag & drop ease)

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

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

Your Widgets area also includes an Inactive Widgets section that lets you remove widgets that you no longer want on your site. Inactive widgets retain their settings.

Rearrange Widgets With Drag And Drop

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

Rearrange widgets using drag and drop

(Rearrange widgets using drag and drop)

You can also easily rearrange the layout and order of your site’s widgetized sections with drag and drop ease.

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

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

Widgets control how certain features on your site appear

(Widgets control how certain features appear on your site)

If you take a look inside the example site’s Widget area, you will see that these features appear on the site in exactly the same order as their corresponding widgets have been arranged in the active widget section …

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

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

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

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

The widgets have now been reordered in your sidebar navigation area …

Rearrange widgets on your WordPress site using drag and drop

This instantly changes the layout of the sidebar.

Reorganizing sidebar elements using widgets can help to improve visitor experience.

Note in the screenshot below that the ‘click to call’ function (3) is now the first item on the sidebar, and the support banner (2) has been moved to the place above the newsletter subscription form (1) …

Rearranging sidebar elements using widgets can improve your site's user experience

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

Removing Widgets From Your WordPress Blog Sidebar

Deleting widgets from the sidebar is very easy.

For example, let’s delete the Search widget from your sidebar …

WordPress Search widget

(WordPress Search widget)

To remove an active widget, you can either expand the widget and click the Delete link …

Deleting your widgets

(How to delete WordPress widgets)

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

How to remove your WP widget

(How to remove WordPress widgets)

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

Widget Settings

Many widgets can be customized. This includes hiding information from users (but allowing access 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 display the settings for the widget …

Toggles expand/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 …

Widget settings

(Widget settings)

Useful Info

Some widgets give you little to no customizing options, or they may only allow you to add something like an optional title …

Some widgets offer little to no customization

(Some widgets give you little to no configuration options)

Widget Previews

Depending upon which theme you have installed, you’re also able to manage and customize your widgets without actually making changes to your site. This way, you can be sure that you are happy with your customizations before committing anything to your website.

The ability to manage widgets inside your 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 changes (and avoid making mistakes), or manage widgets on the fly using the Widget editor area.

Edit widgets in the Customize feature

(preview widget changes 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 area in the back-end.

You can do lots of 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 are happy with what you have done, click the “Save and Publish” button and the changes will be instantly updated and reflected on your site.

Widget management - configure widgets on the fly!

(Widget management – configure widgets on the fly!)

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

Useful 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 Customizer feature to preview all 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, it’s time to learn how to configure a number of frequently-used sidebar widgets in WordPress.

How To Add WordPress Widgets To Your Website


This is the end of part 1 of this tutorial on using WordPress widgets.

Click on this link to keep reading: Adding And Configuring WordPress Widgets In Your Sidebar – Part Two


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Author: Martin Aranovitch provides hundreds of FREE WordPress tutorials for beginners. Our detailed step-by-step tutorials will save you money and teach you how to start, manage, and grow a website or blog using WordPress that puts you in complete control and delivers results with no coding skills required!