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.

Using Widgets In WordPressAs we’ve discussed in this article, one of the many benefits of using WordPress is that WordPress makes it very easy to add content, enhance your website, or reconfigure the site’s layout with no coding skills or knowledge required.

WordPress gives you the ability to quickly and easily add, delete, and control various types of content in your blog’s sidebar (or 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’s sidebar area (plus headers and footers and other areas, depending on the WordPress theme you have installed) like:

  • list of pages
  • site categories
  • archive
  • custom page menus
  • links to external sites
  • links to recent posts
  • comments
  • advertising banners
  • testimonials
  • survey questions & results
  • content from RSS feeds
  • shopping cart forms
  • video thumbnails
  • Facebook feeds
  • add widgets from other sites (e.g. Amazon)
  • administrative forms (e.g. login, register, etc.)

Widgets make managing and using WordPress easy!

(WP widgets make managing and using WordPress easier)

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

In this step-by-step tutorial you will learn how to use and configure various frequently-used widgets in WordPress.

Using Widgets

What You Need To Know First

Before configuring and using widgets, let’s explain some of the basics of using widgets:

Most WordPress Themes Support Widgetized Areas

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

(Many themes offer users multiple widget sections)

(Many themes offer users multiple widget areas)

These widgetized layouts correspond to a feature inside the Widget administration screen called “Widget Areas” …

Widget Areas

(Widget Areas)

Widgets Panel

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

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

Activate or deactivate widgets using drag & drop

(Widgets can be activated or deactivated by dragging & dropping)

Available widgets can be made Active or Inactive using drag-and-drop.

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

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

Reorganize Widgets With Drag-And-Drop

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

Rearrange widgets using drag and drop

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

You can also easily rearrange the layout and order of your website’s widgetized areas with drag-and-drop ease.

For example, in the image below, 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 plugin (i.e. a plugin with an accompanying widget) …

Widgets control the order certain features display on your WordPress site

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

If you take a look inside this site’s Widget area, you will see that these features display on the site’s sidebar menu in the same order as their corresponding widgets are arranged in the active widget screen …

Rearrange widgets using drag and drop

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

Drag-and-drop to rearrange widgets in your widget area

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

The widgets have now been reordered in the sidebar …

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

This instantly reorganizes the order of items in the sidebar.

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

Note in the screenshot below that the ‘click to call’ function (3) is now at the top of the sidebar section, and the ‘contact us’ banner (2) now sits above the newsletter opt-in form (1) …

Rearranging sidebar elements with widgets can improve user experience

(Rearrange sidebar elements using widgets to improve user experience)

Removing Widgets From The WordPress Blog Sidebar Section

Removing widgets from your WordPress sidebar is very easy.

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

Search widget

(WordPress Search widget)

To remove an active widget, either open up the widget settings and click the Delete link …

Delete widgets

(Delete WordPress widgets)

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

How to remove WordPress widgets

(How to remove WordPress widgets)

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

Widget Settings

Most widgets can be further customized. This can include things like hiding information from users (but allowing access to registered users), displaying additional forms, fields, or information, specifying dimensions of sidebar images, videos, etc.

Click on the little triangle in the corner of a widget to display the widget’s settings …

Toggle to expand/collapse widget settings

(Toggles expand/collapse widget settings)

When the widget expands, you can change and save your settings, delete your widget from the “Active Widgets” section, close the widget, or click on the triangle to collapse the widget …

Widget settings

(Widget settings)

Useful Information

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

Some widgets provide users with little to no customization

(Some widgets provide users with little to no customization)

Widget Customizer Section

Depending upon which 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 like the customized edits before committing anything to your website.

Widget management 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 before publishing any changes (and avoid making errors), or manage your widgets on the fly using the Widget editor area.

Edit widgets in the Customize section

(preview widget changes in the Customize section)

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 many modifications and adjustments to widgets in preview mode (like adding, deleting and moving widgets around), and see all changes in real time. If you like the results, click the “Save and Publish” button and the changes will be instantly updated and made visible to your site visitors.

Widget management - configure widgets on the fly!

(Widget management – work in preview mode)

After saving your changes, all changes made to widgets will be automatically updated.

Useful Tip

Since the WordPress theme you choose tend to affect how elements display on your site, we recommend installing your theme first before configuring widgets.

Also, remember to use the Customizer feature to preview your changes. This will save you from having to keep two browsers open while you complete this tutorial (one to work in and one to check how your site is coming along).

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

How To Add And Configure Widgets In WordPress

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This is the end of part one of this series of tutorials on using WordPress widgets.

Click on this link to continue reading:

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"I am beyond impressed with what you have put together. I can tell that you put a ton of hard work into building what you have. You have the absolute best content on WordPress I have ever seen!" - Robert T. Jillie

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Originally published as How To Use And Configure WordPress Widgets.