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 And Configuring Widgets On Your Sidebar Navigation SectionAs we explain 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 redesign the layout of your website without web coding knowledge required.

WordPress lets you quickly and easily insert, remove, and control various blocks of content from your site’s sidebar navigation section (or header and footer sections, depending on your theme) 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 WordPress theme you have installed) like:

  • website page list
  • categories
  • archive
  • menus
  • links to external sites
  • links to your recent posts
  • post comments
  • image banners
  • testimonials
  • survey questions & results
  • RSS feed items
  • member login section
  • videos
  • social media buttons
  • add widgets from external sites (e.g. affiliate programs)
  • administrative forms (e.g. login, register, etc.)

WP widgets make managing and using WordPress easy!

(Widgets make managing and using WordPress easier)

To learn more about what WP widgets are, how they work and how using widgets can help you expand your site’s functionality, see this article:

In this tutorial you will learn how to use and configure a number of commonly-used WordPress widgets.

Using Widgets

Widgets – Basic Concepts

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

Most WordPress Themes Support Widget-Ready Layouts

Most WordPress themes support widgets and provide built-in widgetized areas in your theme’s layout where widgets can be added, such as the sidebar, header area, and footer. Depending on what theme you are using, widgets can also be found in the content area …

(Many WP themes provide multiple widget sections)

(Many WP themes provide a number of widget sections)

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

Widget Areas

(Widget Areas)

Your Widgets Screen

The Widgets screen displays all the widgets that are available.

On the right-hand side of the screen, you can see the “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 using drag-and-drop.

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

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

Reorganize Widgets Using Drag-And-Drop

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

Rearrange widgets using drag & drop

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

You can also easily reorder the order and layout of your website’s widget-enabled areas by dragging & dropping widgets.

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

  1. A subscription form,
  2. A click for support button, and
  3. A ‘click to call’ function from a widgetized WP plugin (i.e. a plugin that adds an accompanying widget to your site) …

Widgets control the order certain features on your site appear

(Widgets control how certain features on your site display)

Looking inside the Widget area, you would see that the front-end features display on the site in exactly the same order as they were arranged in the active widget area …

Rearrange widgets using drag and drop

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

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

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

The widgets have now been reorganized in your sidebar navigation section …

Rearrange widgets on your WordPress site using drag and drop

As you can see, this instantly reorganizes the layout of the sidebar.

Reorganizing sidebar layout with widgets can help improve your site’s visitor experience.

Note in the screenshot below that the ‘click to call’ function (3) is now first the sidebar navigation menu, and the ‘contact us’ banner (2) has been moved to the spot above the newsletter opt-in form (1) …

Reorganizing sidebar layout with widgets can improve your site's visitor experience

(Reorganize sidebar elements using widgets to improve visitor experience)

Deleting Widgets From Your WordPress Sidebar

Removing widgets from the sidebar section is very easy.

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

WordPress Search widget

(Search widget)

To delete an active widget, you can either open up the widget and click the Delete link …

Deleting a WP widget

(How to delete WordPress widgets)

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

Removing a widget

(How to remove your widgets)

Repeat this process for all widgets you want removed 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 can include things like making certain types of information hidden to visitors but visible to registered users, displaying additional forms, fields, or information, specifying sizes of sidebar images, videos, etc.

Click on the little triangle in the corner of a widget to display the settings for that widget …

Toggles expand/collapse widget settings

(Toggle to 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 settings …

Widget settings

(Widget settings)

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 provide users with little to no customizing options

(Some widgets offer little to no configuration options)

Customize Widgets Section

Depending upon the WP theme you are using, you’re also able to 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 live to your website.

The ability to manage widgets from your dashboard is a great 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 changes (to avoid making mistakes), or manage your widgets on the fly using the Widget editor area.

Edit widgets live in the Customize section

(preview widget changes in the Customize feature)

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

Customize link in the toolbar

(Customize link in the toolbar)

This will bring you to the Customizer area in the back-end.

You can do several edits, modifications and adjustments 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 have done, click the “Save and Publish” button and your changes will instantly become visible on the site’s frontend.

Widget management - configure widgets on the fly!

(Widget management – work in preview mode)

Once your changes are saved, all changes made to widgets will be automatically updated.

Useful Tip

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

Also, remember to use the WordPress Customizer to preview all changes. This saves you from having to keep two browsers open while you go through this tutorial.

Now that you know the basics of using widgets, let’s configure a number of commonly-used widgets in WordPress.

How To Use WordPress Widgets

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This is the end of section one of this series of tutorials about how to use WordPress 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.