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.

For a white label version of this tutorial visit WPTrainingManual.com.

Adding And Configuring Widgets On Your WordPress SidebarAs we discuss in this post, there are so many great things about choosing WordPress to build, manage and grow your website. One of these is that you can easily add content, expand your website’s functionality, and reconfigure the layout of your site without coding skills or knowledge required.

WordPress allows you to quickly and easily insert, remove, and rearrange various blocks of content from your site’s sidebar menu (or 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 like:

  • list of pages
  • blog post categories
  • blog post archive
  • menus
  • links to resources
  • your most popular posts
  • recent comments from users
  • advertisements
  • quotations
  • poll questions & results
  • RSS feed content
  • member login section
  • video
  • social media share buttons
  • display widgets from external sites (e.g. affiliate programs)
  • administrative forms (e.g. login, register, etc.)

WordPress widgets make managing and using WordPress easy!

(Widgets 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 you will learn how to use and configure various frequently-used WordPress widgets.

Using Widgets

Widgets – Basic Concepts

Before we start configuring and using widgets, let’s review some of the basics of using widgets:

Most WordPress Themes Support Widgetized Layouts

Many WordPress themes support widgets and provide widgetized areas in your theme’s layout where widgets can be added, such as the sidebar, header area, and footer sections. Depending on what theme you are using, widgets can also be found inside the content area …

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

(Many WordPress themes offer users a number of widget-enabled sections)

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

Widget Areas

(Widget Areas)

The Widgets Screen

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

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

Activate or deactivate widgets using drag and drop

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

Available widgets can be made Active or Inactive by dragging-and-dropping items to different sections of the panel.

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

The Widgets screen also includes an Inactive Widgets section that lets you remove widgets that you no longer want actively displayed on your site. Inactive widgets retain their settings.

Rearrange Widgets With Drag-And-Drop

You can easily insert, activate, deactivate, reorder and remove widgets by dragging and dropping items from your Widgets section …

Rearrange widgets using drag & drop

(Rearrange widgets on your WordPress site 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 things like:

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

Widgets control how certain features appear on your site

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

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 their corresponding widgets have been arranged in the backend widget section …

Rearrange widgets on your WordPress site using drag and drop

Let’s now reorganize these widgets in the Widget Area using drag & drop …

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

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

The widgets have now been reordered in your sidebar …

Rearrange widgets using drag and drop

This instantly changes the layout of the site’s sidebar.

Reorganizing sidebar layout using widgets can help to improve user experience.

Note in the screenshot below that the ‘click to call’ feature (3) is now first the sidebar, and the ‘contact us’ section (2) can now be found above the newsletter sign-up form (1) …

Rearrange sidebar layout using widgets to improve visitor experience

(Rearrange sidebar elements with widgets to improve visitor experience)

Removing Widgets From Your Sidebar

Deleting widgets from your sidebar is really easy.

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

Search widget

(WordPress Search widget)

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

Deleting your widgets

(Delete your WP widgets)

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

Remove a WP widget

(Remove widgets)

Repeat this process for all widgets you want to remove from your sidebar navigation menu. You can always reinstate 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 data, specifying dimensions of sidebar images, videos, etc.

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

Toggles expand/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 …

Widget settings

(Widget settings)

Important

Some widgets offer little to no configuration options, or they may only allow you to add something like an optional title …

Some widgets offer little to no configuration options

(Some widgets give you little to no customizable options)

Widget Customizer Section

Depending on the theme you have installed on your site, you can also manage widgets without making actual changes to your site. This way, you can be sure that you like what you see before making any permanent changes to your website or blog.

The ability to manage widgets from your 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 before publishing changes (to avoid making mistakes), or configure widgets on the fly using the Widget editor area.

Edit widgets in the Customize section

(preview widget changes live 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 your site quickly)

This brings you to the Customizer area in the backend.

You can do a number of things to the widgets in preview mode (like inserting, deleting and reorganizing your widgets), and it will all be done in real time. If you are happy with the results, click the “Save and Publish” button and the changes will instantly become visible on your site to visitors.

Widget management - work in preview mode

(Widget management – work in preview mode)

Once you have saved the changes, the new updates will automatically be displayed on your site.

Useful Tip

Because the WordPress theme you use 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 all changes. This will save you from having to keep two browsers open while you go through this tutorial.

Now that you know the basics of using widgets, let’s start configuring various frequently-used sidebar widgets in WordPress.

Using WordPress Widgets

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This is the end of part one of this tutorial on using Widgets.

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

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"These tutorials have so much information and are easy to understand. If you use WordPress or plan to in the future these will help you with everything you need to know." - Valisa (Mesa, Arizona)

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