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.

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How To Add And Configure WordPress Widgets In Your Sidebar SectionAs discussed in this post, there are many great things about using WordPress for building, managing and growing a web site. One of these is that WordPress makes it very easy to add content, enhance your website, and rearrange the layout of your site with no web programming skills required.

WordPress gives you the ability to easily insert, delete, and reconfigure content on your blog’s sidebar (and header and footer sections too, depending on your theme) using widgets.

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

  • pages on your site
  • site categories
  • blog post archive
  • menus displaying only selected pages
  • links to resources
  • posts that you want to promote
  • comments
  • clickable text ads
  • customer testimonials
  • polls
  • RSS content
  • subscriber form
  • video thumbnails
  • social media buttons
  • add widgets from other sites (e.g. affiliate programs)
  • administrative forms (e.g. login, register, etc.)

WordPress widgets make managing and using WordPress easy!

(Widgets make managing and using WordPress easier)

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

In this step-by-step tutorial we explain how to use and configure various frequently-used WordPress widgets.

Using WordPress Widgets

Widgets – The Basics

Before we begin configuring and using widgets, it helps to first cover some of the basic concepts about how to use widgets:

Most WordPress Themes Support Widget-Ready Layouts

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

(Many themes offer users a number of widget-ready areas)

(Many WP themes provide multiple widget-enabled sections)

These widgetized sections correspond to a feature inside your Widget management screen called “Widget Areas” …

Widget Areas

(Widget Areas)

The Widgets Screen

The Widgets section displays a list of all the widgets you can use on your site.

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

Activate or deactivate widgets using drag-and-drop

(Activate or deactivate widgets with drag and drop ease)

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

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

In addition, the Widgets screen includes an Inactive Widgets section that lets you remove widgets that you no longer want actively displayed on your site. Inactive widgets do not lose their settings.

Rearrange Widgets With Drag-And-Drop

You can easily insert, activate, deactivate, rearrange and remove widgets just by dragging and dropping items in the Widgets section …

Rearrange your site's widgets using drag & drop

(Rearrange your site’s widgets using drag & drop)

You can also easily rearrange the layout and order of your widget-ready areas with drag and drop ease.

For example, in the image below, the widgets have already been configured to display the following to visitors:

  1. An opt-in form,
  2. A contact support button, and
  3. A ‘click to call’ function from a widgetized plugin (i.e. a plugin with an accompanying widget) …

Widgets control the order certain features appear on your WordPress site

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

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

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

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

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

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

The widget features have now been reordered in the sidebar menu …

Rearrange your site's widgets using drag and drop

This immediately changes the order of items in your sidebar.

Rearranging sidebar elements using widgets can help to improve your site’s visitor experience.

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

Reorganizing sidebar elements using widgets can help improve visitor experience

(Reorganize sidebar layout with widgets to improve your site’s user experience)

Removing Widgets From Your WordPress Blog Sidebar Section

Deleting widgets from your sidebar area is very easy.

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

Search widget

(Search widget)

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

Delete your WordPress widgets

(How to delete your widgets)

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

Remove a widget

(Removing WordPress widgets)

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

Widget Settings

Most widgets provide additional options that allow you to further configure these. 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.

Clicking on the little triangle in the corner of a widget expands the item and displays 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, delete the 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 offer little to no customization, 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)

Customize Widgets Section

Depending on which theme you choose, you’re also able to customize and manage your widgets without making actual changes to your site. This way, you can be sure that you are happy with what you have done before making any permanent changes to your site.

The ability to manage widgets from your own WP 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 any changes you’ve made (and avoid making errors), or change widgets on the fly using the Widget editor screen.

Edit widgets live in the Customize feature

(Edit widgets in the Customize section)

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

Toolbar Customize Link

(Customize your site quickly)

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

You can do several modifications and adjustments to your widgets in preview mode (like adding, deleting and moving widgets around), and it’s all done in real time. If you like what you’ve done, click the “Save and Publish” button and the changes will instantly become visible on your site.

Widget management - work in preview mode

(Widget management – configure widgets on the fly!)

After saving changes, your site will automatically update the widget settings and display your latest changes to your site visitors.

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 saves you from having to keep two browsers open while you work through this tutorial (one to work in and one to see your site the way your visitors will see it).

Now that you know the basics of using widgets, the next step is to configure a number of frequently-used WordPress sidebar widgets.

Adding And Configuring WordPress Widgets In Your Site


This is the end of section 1 of this series of tutorials on how to use WordPress widgets.

To continue, click here:


"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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Originally published as How To Use And Configure WordPress Widgets.