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 Widgets To Your WordPress SidebarAs discussed in this article, there are lots of great things about choosing the WordPress web publishing application to manage and grow a website. One of these is that WordPress makes it very easy to add content, enhance your website, or reconfigure the layout of your site without requiring any programming skills or knowledge.

WordPress allows you to quickly and easily add, delete, and reorganize content on your blog’s sidebar (and header and footer sections too, depending on what theme you are using) using widgets.

Once you know how to use widgets, you can easily add things to your site like:

  • website page list
  • categories
  • archives
  • customized menus
  • links to external sites
  • your most popular posts
  • excerpts of recent comments added to your posts
  • clickable ad banners
  • testimonials
  • survey questions & results
  • RSS feed items
  • newsletter subscription form
  • product catalog images
  • 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!

(WordPress widgets help 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, see this article:

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

Using Widgets In WordPress

The Basics

Before we explain how to configure widgets, let’s first cover some of the basics about how to use widgets:

Most WordPress Themes Support Widgetized Areas

Many WordPress themes support widgets and provide built-in sections in your theme’s layout where widgets can be used, such as the sidebar navigation section, header area, and the footer area. Depending on the theme installed on your site, widgets can sometimes also show up in the content area …

(Many WP themes provide a number of widget areas)

(Many themes offer users multiple widget-enabled areas)

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

Widget Areas

(Widget Areas)

Your Widgets Screen

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

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

Activate or deactivate widgets using drag & drop

(Widgets can be activated or deactivated using drag & drop)

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

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

In addition, your Widgets area 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 pre-configured settings.

Rearrange Widgets Using Drag-And-Drop

You can easily add new functionality to your site, and activate, deactivate, reorder and delete things using widgets just by dragging and dropping items in your Widgets section …

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

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

You can also easily reconfigure your theme’s layout with drag-and-drop ease.

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

  1. A subscription form,
  2. A click for support banner, and
  3. ’Click to call’ feature from a widgetized WP plugin (i.e. a plugin with an accompanying widget) …

Widgets control the order certain features on your site appear

(Widgets control how certain features appear on your WordPress 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 back-end widget section …

Rearrange widgets using drag-and-drop

If we change the order the above widgets in the Main Sidebar Widget Area using drag-and-drop …

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

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

The widget features have now been reordered in the sidebar …

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

As you can see, this immediately reorganizes the order of items in the sidebar.

Reorganizing sidebar layout using widgets can improve your site’s user experience.

Note in the screenshot below that the ‘click to call’ function (3) is now at the top of the sidebar navigation area, and the support section (2) has been moved to the location above the newsletter subscription form (1) …

Reorganize sidebar layout with widgets to improve your site's user experience

(Rearrange sidebar layout with widgets to improve user experience)

Removing Widgets From The WordPress Blog Sidebar

Deleting widgets from the sidebar navigation menu is really easy.

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

Search widget

(Search widget)

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

Delete a WordPress widget

(How to delete your WordPress widget)

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

Removing WordPress widgets

(Remove your widgets)

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

Widget Settings

Many widgets can be customized further. This can include things like hiding information from users, displaying additional forms, fields, or information, specifying dimensions 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 widget’s settings …

Toggling expands/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)

Useful Information

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

Some widgets offer little to no customizing options

(Some widgets give you little to no customizable options)

Widget Customizer Section

Depending upon which theme you choose, you’re also able to manage your widgets without making actual changes to your site. This way, you can be sure that you like 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 the widget content will appear prior to publishing any changes (to avoid making errors), or change widgets on the fly using the Widget editor screen.

Edit widgets 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

(Toolbar Customize Link)

This brings you to the Customizer area in the backend.

You can do several edits, modifications and adjustments in preview mode (like adding, deleting and moving widgets around), and it will all be done in real time. If you like the results, click the “Save and Publish” button and your changes will instantly become available on the blog’s frontend.

Widget management - work in preview mode

(Widget management – configure widgets on the fly!)

After saving your changes, the new configuration will automatically be added to your site.

Tip

Since WordPress Themes can display elements differently on your site, we recommend that you install your theme first before configuring widgets on the sidebar navigation area.

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

Now that you know the basics of using widgets, the next step is to learn how to begin configuring a number of frequently-used WordPress widgets.

Adding WordPress Widgets To The Website

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This is the end of part 1 of this tutorial series.

To continue, click this link:

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"If you're new to WordPress, this can stand on its own as a training course and will stay with you as you progress from beginner to advanced and even guru status." - Bruce (Columbus, Ohio)

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Author: Martin Aranovitch

Martin Aranovitch is the owner of WPCompendium.org and the author of The WordPress User Manual. 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.