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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Adding Widgets To Your Blog SidebarAs we’ve explained in this post, there are lots of great benefits in choosing the WordPress CMS platform for building and growing a digital presence. One of these is that WordPress makes it very easy to add content, expand your website’s functionality, and rearrange the layout of your site with no coding skills required.

WordPress gives you the ability to easily insert, remove, and manage content from your website’s sidebar navigation section (or header and footer sections too, depending on what theme is installed on the site) using widgets.

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

  • list of your web pages
  • site categories
  • post archives
  • custom page menus
  • links to external sites
  • links to recent posts
  • comments
  • advertisements
  • quotations
  • polls & surveys
  • RSS content excerpts
  • opt-in form
  • video
  • twitter feeds
  • display widgets from external sites (e.g. Facebook)
  • administrative forms (e.g. login, register, etc.)

WordPress widgets make managing and using WordPress easier!

(Widgets help make managing and using WordPress easier)

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

In this step-by-step tutorial series we show you how to use and configure various frequently-used widgets in WordPress.

How To Use Widgets

What You Need To Know First

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

Most WordPress Themes Support Widget-Ready Layouts

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

(Many themes offer users multiple widgetized sections)

(Many WP themes provide a number of widget-ready areas)

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

Widget Areas

(Widget Areas)

Widgets Screen

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

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

Activate or deactivate widgets using drag-and-drop

(Widgets can be activated or deactivated by dragging and 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. instantly become active on your site.

The Widgets screen also includes an Inactive Widgets section that lets you remove any widgets that you no longer want to use on your site. Inactive widgets do not lose their settings.

Rearrange WordPress Widgets With Drag & Drop

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

Rearrange widgets using drag and drop

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

You can also easily reorder your theme’s layout using drag and drop.

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 click for support button, and
  3. ’Click to call’ buttons from a widgetized plugin (i.e. a plugin with an accompanying widget) …

Widgets control how certain features display on your site

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

If you 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 area …

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

If we change the order the above widgets in the Sidebar Widget Area by dragging and dropping some of these items around …

Drag & drop to rearrange widgets in your widget area

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

The widgets have now been reorganized in your sidebar …

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

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

Rearranging sidebar layout using widgets can help to improve visitor experience.

Note in the screenshot below that the ‘click to call’ function (3) is now at the top of the sidebar navigation menu, and the support graphic button (2) can now be found above the newsletter opt-in form (1) …

Reorganize sidebar layout using widgets to improve your site's user experience

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

Deleting Widgets From Your WordPress Sidebar

Removing widgets from your sidebar is very easy.

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

WordPress Search widget

(Search widget)

To remove an active widget, you can either expand the widget settings and click the Delete link …

Delete WordPress widgets

(How to delete widgets)

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

How to remove WordPress widgets

(Remove widgets)

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

Widget Settings

Many widgets can be customized further. This includes making certain types of information hidden to your site visitors but visible to registered users, displaying additional forms, fields, or data, specifying dimensions of sidebar images, videos, etc.

Click on the little triangle in the corner of a widget to expand the item …

Toggle to expand/collapse widget settings

(Toggle to expand/collapse widget settings)

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

Widget settings

(Widget settings)

Important Info

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 configurable options

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

Widget Previews

Depending upon the WordPress theme you choose, 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 to your website.

The ability to manage widgets from within 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 the widget content will appear prior to publishing any changes you’ve made (and avoid making errors), or manage widgets on the fly using the Widget editor area.

preview widget changes in the Customize feature

(preview widget changes live in the Customize feature)

If you need to make changes to your site while viewing the front-end, just click on the Customize link …

Customize your site quickly

(Toolbar Customize Link)

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

You can do many modifications and adjustments to the widgets in preview mode (like adding, removing and moving widgets around), and see all changes in real time. If you are happy with the results, click the “Save and Publish” button and your changes will be instantly applied and reflected on your site.

Widget management - configure widgets on the fly!

(Widget management – work in preview mode)

Once you have saved the changes, all changes made to widgets will be automatically updated.

Useful Tip

Because the theme you use tend to affect how elements display 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 learn how to configure a number of commonly-used widgets in WordPress.

Configuring Widgets On Your WordPress Sidebar


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

To continue reading, click this link:

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For a white label version of this tutorial visit
Originally published as How To Use And Configure WordPress Widgets.