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 WordPress Widgets In The SiteAs we have discussed in this article, one of the many benefits of using WordPress is that you can easily add content, expand your site’s functionality, or reconfigure the layout of your website without web coding skills required.

WordPress allows you to quickly and easily add, delete, and manage various types of content in your website’s sidebar navigation area (and header and footer sections, depending on what theme you are using) 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:

  • list of your web pages
  • blog categories
  • archived blog posts
  • menus that display only selected pages
  • links to external sites
  • posts that you want to promote
  • comments
  • clickable ad banners
  • testimonials
  • survey results
  • RSS feed items
  • opt-in form
  • video galleries
  • twitter feeds
  • display widgets from external sites (e.g. Facebook friends)
  • administrative forms (e.g. login, register, etc.)

Widgets make managing and using WordPress easy!

(Widgets make managing and using WordPress easier)

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

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

Using Widgets In WordPress

The Basics

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

Most WordPress Themes Support Widget-Ready Areas

Most WordPress themes support widgets and provide built-in widget-ready areas in the theme’s layout where widgets can be used, such as the sidebar, header area, and the footer area. Depending on the theme, widgets can also display in the content area …

(Many themes offer users a number of widget areas)

(Many WordPress themes offer users multiple widget-enabled sections)

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

Widget Areas

(Widget Areas)

Widgets Panel

The Widgets panel displays a list of all the widgets that are available.

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

Activate or deactivate widgets using drag & drop

(Widgets can be activated or deactivated using drag and drop)

Available widgets can be activated or deactivated by dragging-and-dropping items to different sections of the widgets screen.

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

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

Rearrange WordPress Widgets With Drag-And-Drop

You can easily add new functionality to your site, or activate, deactivate, rearrange and remove things using widgets with drag and drop inside your Widgets section …

Rearrange widgets 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 site’s widgetized layout using drag & drop.

For example, in the image below, the widgets have already been configured to display things on your site like:

  1. A subscription form,
  2. A contact support banner, and
  3. A ‘click to call’ function from a widgetized plugin (i.e. a WordPress plugin with an accompanying widget) …

Widgets control how certain features display on your site

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

If we could peek inside the Widget area, you would see that the front end features display on the site’s sidebar menu in exactly the same order as their corresponding widgets were arranged in the backend widget area …

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

Let’s now rearrange the order of these widgets in the Widget Area using drag-and-drop …

Drag & drop to rearrange widgets in the widget area

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

The widgets have now been reorganized in the sidebar menu …

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

This instantly reorganizes the order of items in your sidebar.

Rearranging sidebar elements using widgets can improve visitor experience.

Note in the screenshot below that the ‘click to call’ function (3) is now the first item on the sidebar, and the support image button (2) has been moved to the spot above the newsletter sign-up form (1) …

Rearranging sidebar layout with widgets can help improve user experience

(Reorganize sidebar elements with widgets to improve visitor experience)

Deleting Widgets From The WordPress Blog Sidebar Navigation Area

Deleting widgets from your sidebar is really easy.

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

WordPress Search widget

(WordPress Search widget)

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

Delete a WP widget

(How to delete a widget)

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

How to remove your WordPress widgets

(Removing your widgets)

Repeat this process for all widgets you want removed from the sidebar. You can always restore widgets by dragging them back into the active widgets area.

Widget Settings

Most widgets can be further customized. This can include things like making certain types of information hidden to site 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 toggles between expanding and collapsing the item and displays the settings for that widget …

Toggling expands/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 may require or offer no customization, or they may only allow you to add something like an optional title …

Some widgets give you little to no customizing options

(Some widgets offer little to no customizable options)

Customize Widgets Section

Depending on which theme you choose, you’re also able to manage and customize widgets 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 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 it (and avoid making mistakes), or configure widgets on the fly using the Widget editor area.

preview widget changes live in the Customize feature

(Edit widgets live in the Customize section)

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

Customize your site quickly

(Toolbar Customize Link)

This brings you to the Customizer section in the backend.

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

Widget management - work in preview mode

(Widget management – work in preview mode)

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

Practical Tip

Since the WordPress theme you use can affect how elements display on your site, we recommend installing the theme first before configuring widgets on the sidebar menu.

Also, remember to use the Customizer feature to preview your changes. This saves you from having to keep two browsers open while you complete this tutorial.

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

Using Widgets

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This is the end of section 1 of this tutorial.

To continue reading, click here:

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"This is an awesome training series. I have a pretty good understanding of WordPress already, but this is helping me to move somewhere from intermediate to advanced user!" - Kim Lednum

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Originally published as How To Use And Configure WordPress Widgets.