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 Blog Sidebar Navigation MenuAs we explain in this post, there are many great things about choosing the WordPress web publishing software to build, manage and grow your business online. One of these is that WordPress makes it very easy to add content, expand your site’s functionality, and reconfigure your site’s layout with no web coding skills required.

WordPress allows you to easily insert, delete, and reconfigure various types of content from your site’s sidebar navigation section (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:

  • website page list
  • content categories
  • post archives
  • menus that display only the pages you select
  • links to resources
  • your most read posts
  • post comments
  • clickable ad banners
  • testimonials
  • survey questions & results
  • RSS content excerpts
  • customers login section
  • video
  • Facebook feeds
  • 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 widgets are, how widgets work and how using widgets can help you expand the functionality of your website, see this article: An Overview Of WordPress Widgets

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

Using Widgets In WordPress

The Basics

Before configuring and using widgets, it helps to first explain some of the basic concepts of how to use widgets:

Most WordPress Themes Support Widget-Ready Areas

Many WordPress themes support widgets and provide widgetized sections in your theme’s layout where widgets can be added, such as the sidebar section, header area, and footer sections. Depending on the theme installed on your site, widgets can also show up below or above the content area …

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

(Many WP themes provide multiple widget-ready sections)

These widgetized areas correspond to a feature inside the Widget administration area called “Widget Areas” …

Widget Areas

(Widget Areas)

Your Widgets Screen

The Widgets panel displays a list of all the widgets that are currently available for use on your site.

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

Activate or deactivate widgets using drag-and-drop

(Widgets can be activated or deactivated using drag-and-drop)

Available widgets can be activated or deactivated by dragging & dropping items to different sections of the screen.

Widgets dragged from the Available Widgets section to widget areas like the sidebar, footer, etc. automatically become active and can be used to perform their function on your site.

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

Reorganize Widgets With Drag-And-Drop

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

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

(Rearrange widgets using drag-and-drop)

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

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

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

Widgets control the order certain features on your site display

(Widgets control how certain features display on your site)

Looking inside the Widget area, you would see that the front end features display on the site in the same order as their corresponding widgets were arranged in the backend widget section …

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

Let’s now reorganize the above widgets in the Sidebar Widget Area by dragging & dropping items …

Drag and drop to rearrange widgets in the widget area

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

The widgets have now been reordered in the sidebar area …

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

As you can see, this instantly reorganizes the layout of your site’s sidebar.

Rearranging sidebar elements using widgets can help improve visitor experience.

Note in the screenshot below that the ‘click to call’ function (3) is now at the top of the sidebar menu, and the support banner (2) is found above the newsletter subscription form (1) …

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

(Rearranging sidebar elements with widgets can help to improve visitor experience)

Removing Widgets From The WordPress Blog Sidebar Area

Deleting widgets from the sidebar section is really easy.

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

Search widget

(WordPress Search widget)

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

Delete your WordPress widgets

(How to delete widgets)

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

Removing your widgets

(How to remove a widget)

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

Widget Settings

Most widgets can be further customized. This can include things like making certain types of information hidden to site visitors but visible to registered 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

(Toggling expands/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 settings …

Widget settings

(Widget settings)


Some widgets may require or offer no customization, or they may only allow you to add an optional title …

Some widgets provide users with little to no configuration options

(Some widgets give you little to no customizing options)

Widget Customizer Section

Depending on which WordPress theme you are using, you can also manage widgets without actually making changes to your site. This way, you can be sure that you are happy with what you see before making any permanent changes to your website.

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 before publishing any changes you’ve made (and avoid making errors), or change widgets on the fly using the Widget editor area.

Edit widgets in the Customize feature

(Edit widgets in the Customize feature)

When viewing your site on the front-end just calick the Customize link in the toolbar …

Toolbar Customize Link

(Toolbar Customize Link)

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

You can do several edits to widgets in preview mode (like adding, removing and reorganizing your widgets), and see all changes in real time. If you are happy with what you’ve done, click the “Save and Publish” button and the changes will then be instantly updated and made visible on your site to visitors.

Widget management - configure widgets on the fly!

(Widget management – configure widgets on the fly!)

Once you have saved the changes, your site will automatically update the widget settings and display your latest configuration to your site visitors.

Useful Tip

Since the WordPress theme you use tend to affect how elements display on your site, we recommend installing your 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, the next step is to learn how to start configuring a number of commonly-used WordPress widgets.

How To Add And Configure Widgets On The WordPress Blog Sidebar Menu


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

To view the rest of this tutorial, click this link: Adding WordPress Widgets To Your Site – 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!