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.

Get Thrive Leads for WordPress

How To Use Widgets In WordPressAs we’ve explained in this article, one of the many 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 skills required.

WordPress lets you quickly and easily insert, remove, and manage various types of content in your blog’s sidebar (and 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’s sidebar area (plus headers and footers and other areas, depending on your theme) like:

  • list of your web pages
  • blog post categories
  • blog post archive
  • menus displaying only selected pages
  • links to resources
  • your most read posts
  • comments
  • clickable text ads
  • customer testimonials
  • polls & surveys
  • content from RSS feeds
  • newsletter subscription form
  • images
  • social media buttons
  • display widgets from other sites (e.g. Facebook)
  • administrative forms (e.g. login, register, etc.)

Widgets make managing and using WordPress easier!

(Widgets help make managing and using WordPress easy)

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

In this tutorial series you are going to learn how to use and configure various commonly-used WordPress widgets.

How To Use Widgets In WordPress

Widgets – Basic Concepts

Before we start learning how to configure widgets, let’s cover some of the basics about using widgets:

Most WordPress Themes Support Widget-Ready Layouts

Most WordPress themes support widgets and provide widgetized areas in your theme’s layout where widgets can appear, such as the sidebar, header area, and the footer area. Depending on your theme, widgets can sometimes also appear in the content area …

(Many themes offer users a number of widgetized areas)

(Many themes offer users multiple widget-enabled sections)

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

Widget Areas

(Widget Areas)

The Widgets Panel

The Widgets panel displays all the widgets that can be used 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

(Activate or deactivate widgets by dragging & dropping)

Available widgets can be activated or deactivated using drag & drop.

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

Your Widgets panel also includes an Inactive Widgets section that lets you remove widgets that you no longer want to actively display on your site. Inactive widgets do not lose their settings.

Reorganize Widgets Using Drag-And-Drop

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

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

(Rearrange your site’s widgets using drag-and-drop)

You can also easily reconfigure the order and layout of your website’s widget-enabled sections using drag and drop.

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

  1. A newsletter subscription form,
  2. A contact support button, and
  3. A ‘click to call’ feature from a widgetized WP plugin (i.e. a WordPress plugin with an accompanying widget) …

Widgets control the order certain features appear on your WordPress site

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

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

Rearrange widgets on your WordPress site using drag and drop

Let’s now reorganize the above 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 the widget area to rearrange their order)

The widgets have now been reordered in the sidebar navigation menu …

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

This instantly changes the layout of the sidebar.

Reorganizing sidebar elements with widgets can improve your site’s user experience.

Note in the screenshot below that the ‘click to call’ function (3) is now the first item on the sidebar navigation menu, and the ‘contact us’ section (2) can now be found above the newsletter subscription form (1) …

Reorganize sidebar layout using widgets to improve visitor experience

(Reorganize sidebar elements using widgets to improve user experience)

Deleting Widgets From The WordPress Blog Sidebar Navigation Area

Removing widgets from the sidebar is really easy.

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

Search widget

(WordPress Search widget)

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

How to delete a WP widget

(Delete a WP widget)

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

How to remove your WP widgets

(Removing your widgets)

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

Widget Settings

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

Clicking on the little triangle in the corner of a widget expands the item and displays the widget’s settings …

Toggles expand/collapse widget settings

(Toggles expand/collapse widget settings)

When the widget expands, you can change and save your settings, remove 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 give you little to no configurable options

(Some widgets provide users with little to no configuration options)

Previewing Widgets

Depending on 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 are happy with your customizations before committing anything to your website.

The ability to manage widgets from your own dashboard 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 prior to publishing it (to avoid making errors), or change widgets on the fly using the Widget editor area.

Edit widgets in the Customize section

(preview widget changes in the Customize feature)

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

Customize your site quickly

(Customize link in the toolbar)

This will bring you to the Customizer screen in the backend.

You can do several edits and adjustments to widgets in preview mode (like adding, deleting 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 then be instantly applied and made visible on your site to visitors.

Widget management - work in preview mode

(Widget management – work in preview mode)

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

Tip

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

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, let’s start configuring various commonly-used WordPress widgets.

How To Use Widgets In WordPress

***

This is the end of section one of this tutorial.

To view Part Two, click here:

***

"This is AMAZING! I had learnt about how to use WordPress previously, but this covers absolutely everything and more!! Incredible value! Thank you!" - Monique, Warrior Forum

Disclaimer: This site is not directly associated with WordPress or any of the WordPress-related products discussed on this site. We may receive affiliate commissions or financial benefits from the purchase of any third-party products advertised, reviewed or linked from this website. All images remain the copyright of their respective owners and are being used solely for illustrative or training purposes.

***

Did you find this post useful? If so, please consider sharing this information with other WordPress users using the links below.

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 detailed step-by-step tutorials that will teach you how to use WordPress to grow your business online at minimal cost with no coding skills required!

Originally published as How To Use And Configure WordPress Widgets.