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.

How To Add And Configure Widgets In WordPressAs we’ve explained in this article, there are so many great benefits in using the WordPress web publishing application to manage and grow a business online. One of these is that you can easily add content, expand your website’s functionality, and reconfigure the layout of your website without requiring coding skills or knowledge.

WordPress lets you easily add, remove, and manage various blocks of content from your blog’s sidebar area (and header and footer sections too, depending on what theme you use) using widgets.

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

  • site pages
  • blog post categories
  • archive
  • customized menus
  • links to resources
  • your most popular posts
  • user comments
  • clickable images
  • user testimonials
  • poll questions & results
  • RSS content
  • shopping cart forms
  • video thumbnails
  • Facebook feeds
  • add widgets from other sites (e.g. affiliate programs)
  • administrative forms (e.g. login, register, etc.)

Widgets make managing and using WordPress easy!

(WP widgets make managing and using WordPress easy)

To learn more about what WP widgets are, how they work and how using widgets can help you expand your site’s functionality, go here:

In this tutorial series we show you how to use and configure a number of commonly-used widgets in WordPress.

Using Widgets

What You Need To Know First

Before configuring and using widgets, let’s first explain some of the basic concepts of using widgets:

Most WordPress Themes Support Widgetized Layouts

Most WordPress themes support widgets and provide built-in areas in your theme’s layout where widgets can be added to, such as the sidebar menu, header area, and the footer area. Depending on your theme, widgets can sometimes also appear below or above the content area …

(Many themes offer users multiple widget areas)

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

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

Widget Areas

(Widget Areas)

Your Widgets Screen

The Widgets panel displays all the widgets that are currently available for use on your site.

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

Activate or deactivate widgets using drag and drop

(Widgets can be activated or deactivated with drag & drop ease)

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. automatically become available for use.

In addition, the Widgets panel includes an Inactive Widgets section that lets you remove widgets that you no longer want actively displayed on your website. Inactive widgets do not lose their pre-configured settings.

Reorganize Widgets Using Drag & Drop

You can easily add functionality to your site, and activate, deactivate, reorder and remove widgets just by dragging and dropping items inside your Widgets section …

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

(Rearrange widgets using drag & drop)

You can also easily rearrange the layout and order of your website’s widget-ready sections using drag-and-drop.

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

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

Widgets control how certain features on your site display

(Widgets control how certain features appear on your site)

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

Rearrange widgets using drag-and-drop

If we reorganize these widgets in the Main Sidebar Widget Area using drag and drop …

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

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

The widget features have now been reorganized in your sidebar navigation menu …

Rearrange widgets using drag and drop

This instantly changes the layout of your sidebar.

Reorganizing sidebar layout 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, and the ‘contact us’ section (2) now sits above the newsletter opt-in form (1) …

Reorganize sidebar elements with widgets to improve your site's user experience

(Reorganize sidebar layout using widgets to improve user experience)

Deleting Widgets From Your WordPress Sidebar Navigation Section

Deleting widgets from your sidebar is really easy.

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

Search widget

(WordPress Search widget)

To remove a widget from an active Widget area, either expand the widget and click the Delete link …

Deleting a WordPress widget

(How to delete your WP widget)

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

Removing your widget

(Remove WordPress widgets)

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

Widget Settings

Most widgets can be 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 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 widget’s settings …

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 your widget from the “Active Widgets” section, close the widget, or click on the triangle to collapse the widget …

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 customization

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

Previewing Your Widgets

Depending upon which WP 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 or blog.

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

Edit widgets in the Customize feature

(Edit widgets live in the Customize feature)

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 screen in the backend.

You can do several modifications and adjustments to your widgets in preview mode (like adding, removing and reorganizing your widgets), and see all changes in real time. If you like what you’ve done, click the “Save and Publish” button and your changes will be instantly applied and reflected on the site’s frontend.

Widget management - work in preview mode

(Widget management – work in preview mode)

Once you have saved the changes, your site will automatically update the widget settings and display the latest configuration to your site visitors.

Tip

Since WordPress Themes can display elements differently on your site, we recommend that you install 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.

Now that you know the basics of using widgets, it’s time to learn how to configure various commonly-used WordPress widgets.

How To Use Widgets

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

To view the rest of this tutorial series, click here:

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Author: Martin Aranovitch

Martin Aranovitch is the owner of WPCompendium.org and the author of The WordPress User Manual. WPCompendium.org provides hundreds of FREE tutorials that show you how to use WordPress to grow your business online with no coding skills required! Get our FREE "101+ WordPress Tips, Tricks & Hacks For Non-Techies" e-course with loads of useful WordPress tips!

Originally published as How To Use And Configure WordPress Widgets.