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 Add Widgets To Your WordPress Blog SidebarAs we explain in this article, there are so many great things about using the WordPress web publishing software to build and grow your business online. One of these is that WordPress makes it very easy to add content, enhance your website, or rearrange the layout of your website with no web programming skills and knowledge required.

WordPress gives you the ability to quickly and easily add, remove, and manage content in your site’s sidebar navigation area (or header and footer sections too, depending on what theme you have installed) 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:

  • site pages
  • blog categories
  • post archives
  • menus displaying only selected pages
  • links to external sites
  • posts that you want to promote
  • comments
  • advertising banners
  • user testimonials
  • poll results
  • content from RSS feeds
  • newsletter registration form
  • video thumbnails
  • social media share buttons
  • add widgets from external sites (e.g. Twitter)
  • administrative forms (e.g. login, register, etc.)

Widgets make managing and using WordPress easy!

(WordPress widgets help make managing and using WordPress easy)

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

In this tutorial we are going to show you how to use and configure various frequently-used WordPress widgets.

How To Use WordPress Widgets

The Basics

Before we show you how to configure widgets, let’s first make sure that you understand some of the basics about using widgets:

Most WordPress Themes Support Widgetized Layouts

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

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

(Many themes offer users a number of widgetized areas)

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

Widget Areas

(Widget Areas)

The Widgets Screen

The Widgets screen displays a list of all the widgets you have available.

The right-hand section of the window displays all “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 & drop.

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

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

Rearrange Widgets Using Drag-And-Drop

You can easily insert, activate, deactivate, rearrange and delete widgets with drag & drop in your Widgets area …

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

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

You can also easily reorder the order and layout of your theme’s widget-ready layout by dragging and dropping widgets.

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 banner, and
  3. ’Click to call’ buttons from a widgetized 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 the order certain features on your site display)

If you could peek inside the Widget area, you would see that the front end features display on the site’s sidebar section in exactly the same order as they have been 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 to rearrange widgets in the widget area

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

The widget features have now been reorganized in the sidebar navigation area …

Rearrange widgets using drag-and-drop

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

Rearranging sidebar elements with widgets can help to improve your site’s user experience.

Note in the screenshot below that the ‘click to call’ feature (3) is now at the top of the sidebar navigation menu, and the ‘contact us’ banner (2) has been moved to the spot above the newsletter subscription form (1) …

Rearrange sidebar layout using widgets to improve visitor experience

(Reorganizing sidebar layout with widgets can help improve your site’s user experience)

Removing Widgets From Your Sidebar Navigation Section

Deleting widgets from your WordPress sidebar is really easy.

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

WordPress Search widget

(Search widget)

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

How to delete your widgets

(Deleting your widgets)

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

How to remove a WordPress widget

(Remove your WordPress widgets)

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

Widget Settings

Many widgets can be customized further. This can include things like 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.

Clicking on the little triangle in the corner of a widget toggles between expanding and collapsing the item and displays the settings for that widget …

Toggles expand/collapse widget settings

(Toggling expands/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 settings …

Widget settings

(Widget settings)

Useful Info

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

Some widgets give you little to no customizing options

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

Widget Previews

Depending on which WordPress theme you use, you can also preview any changes live without making actual changes to your site. This way, you can be sure that you like your customizations before making any permanent changes 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 you’ve made (to avoid making errors), or change widgets on the fly using the Widget editor screen.

Edit widgets in the Customize section

(Edit widgets in the Customize section)

If you need to make changes to the site while viewing the frontend, just click on the Customize link …

Customize link in the toolbar

(Toolbar Customize Link)

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

You can do several edits to widgets in preview mode (like inserting, deleting and moving widgets around), and it will all be done in real time. If you are happy with what you’ve done, click the “Save and Publish” button and the changes will instantly become available on the blog’s frontend.

Widget management - work in preview mode

(Widget management – work in preview mode)

After saving your changes, the new configuration will automatically be displayed on your site.

Tip

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

Also, remember to use the Customizer feature to preview your 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, it’s time to learn how to configure various frequently-used WordPress widgets.

Adding And Configuring WordPress Widgets On The Sidebar

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This is the end of section one of this series of tutorials on how to use Widgets.

To view Part Two, click this link:

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"Wow! I never knew there's so much to learn about WordPress! I bought one of the WordPress for Dummies three years ago, such authors need to be on this course!" - Rich Law, Create A Blog Now

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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 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.