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How To Use And Configure WordPress Widgets

As we’ve discussed in this article, one of the many great benefits of using WordPress to manage and grow your web presence is that you can easily add content, expand your site’s functionality, and reconfigure the layout of your website without web coding knowledge required.

WordPress gives you the ability to quickly and easily insert, delete, and reconfigure content on your site’s sidebar area (or header and footer sections, depending on what theme you use) 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 the theme) like:

(WordPress widgets make managing and using WordPress easy)

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

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

Using Widgets

What You Need To Know First

Before we begin configuring and using widgets, let’s go over some of the basic concepts about using widgets:

Most WordPress Themes Support Widgetized Areas

Most WordPress themes support widgets and provide built-in widgetized sections in the theme’s layout where widgets can appear, such as the sidebar, header area, and the footer area. Depending on what theme you are using, widgets can sometimes also show up in the content area …

(Many themes provide a number of widgetized areas)

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

(Widget Areas)

Widgets Panel

The Widgets panel displays a list of all the widgets you can use on your site.

On the right-hand side of the window, you can see all “active” widgets …

(Widgets can be activated or deactivated by dragging and dropping)

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

Widgets dragged from the Available Widgets section to widget areas like your sidebar, footer, etc. automatically become active.

Your Widgets panel also includes an Inactive Widgets section that lets you remove widgets that you no longer want to use on your site. Inactive widgets do not lose their pre-configured settings.

Rearrange WordPress Widgets Using Drag-And-Drop

You can easily add, activate, deactivate, reorder and remove things using widgets just by dragging and dropping items inside the Widgets section …

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

You can also easily reconfigure the order of your website’s widgetized layout with drag-and-drop ease.

For example, in the image below, the widgets have already been configured to show the following:

  1. A newsletter opt-in form,
  2. A click for support button, and
  3. A ‘click to call’ section from a widgetized plugin (i.e. a WordPress plugin with an accompanying widget) …

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

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

Let’s now change the order the above widgets in the Sidebar Widget Area by dragging & dropping some of these elements around …

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

The widget features have now been reorganized in the sidebar …

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

Reorganizing sidebar layout using widgets can improve your site’s visitor experience.

Note in the screenshot below that the ‘click to call’ function (3) is now the first item on the sidebar menu, and the ‘contact us’ image button (2) is now located above the newsletter sign-up form (1) …

(Rearranging sidebar layout using widgets can improve your site’s user experience)

Removing Widgets From The WordPress Sidebar

Deleting widgets from your sidebar navigation area is really easy.

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

(WordPress Search widget)

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

(How to delete WordPress widgets)

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

(Removing your WP widgets)

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

Widget Settings

Most widgets can be further customized. This includes making certain types of information hidden to site visitors but visible to registered users, displaying additional forms, fields, or data, 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 widget’s settings …

(Toggling expands/collapse widget settings)

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

(Widget settings)

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

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

Previewing Widgets

Depending upon which WP theme you use, you’re also able to manage widgets without making actual changes to your site. This way, you can be sure that you are happy with your customizations before making any permanent changes to your website or blog.

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 prior to publishing changes (and avoid making errors), or manage your widgets on the fly using the Widget editor area.

(Edit widgets in the Customize feature)

Wherever you are on the front-end just calick the Customize link in the toolbar …

(Customize link in the toolbar)

This brings you to the Customizer section in the backend.

You can do a number of edits in preview mode (like inserting, deleting and moving widgets around), and see all changes in real time. If you like what you have done, click the “Save and Publish” button and the changes will instantly become visible on the blog’s frontend.

(Widget management – work in preview mode)

After your changes are saved, all changes made to widgets will be automatically updated.

Since WordPress Themes can display elements differently on your site, we recommend installing your theme first before configuring widgets.

Also, remember to use the WordPress Customizer to preview all changes. This will save you from having to keep two browsers open while you work through this tutorial.

Now that you know the basics of using widgets, let’s configure various commonly-used WordPress sidebar widgets.

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

Click on this link to read the rest of this tutorial:

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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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