WordPress lets you easily add, delete, and rearrange various blocks of content on your blog’s sidebar (or header and footer sections, depending on what theme you have installed) using widgets.
Once you know how to use widgets, you can easily add things to your site like:
- website page list
- blog categories
- blog post archive
- links to external sites
- your most popular posts
- clickable ads
- client testimonials
- RSS content
- newsletter registration form
- video thumbnails
- social media sharing buttons
- display widgets from other sites (e.g. Facebook friends)
- administrative forms (e.g. login, register, etc.)
(WP widgets help make managing and using WordPress easier)
To learn more about what widgets are, how widgets work and how using widgets can help you expand the functionality of your website, see this article:
In this tutorial series you will learn how to use and configure various commonly-used widgets in WordPress.
How To Use WordPress Widgets
Before we get into configuring and using widgets, let’s first explain some of the basics about using widgets:
Most WordPress Themes Support Widget-Ready Layouts
Many WordPress themes support widgets and provide built-in sections in the theme’s layout where you can use widgets, such as the sidebar navigation menu, header area, and footer. Depending on your theme, widgets can sometimes also get added inside the content area …
(Many WP themes provide multiple widget-ready sections)
These widget-ready areas correspond to a feature inside your Widget management area called “Widget Areas” …
Your Widgets Panel
The Widgets section displays all the widgets that are available.
The right-hand section of the screen displays your “active” widgets …
(Widgets can be activated or deactivated using drag-and-drop)
Available widgets can be made Active or Inactive using drag-and-drop.
Widgets dragged from the Available Widgets section to widget areas like the sidebar, footer, etc. automatically become available for use on your site.
In addition, the Widgets screen includes an Inactive Widgets section that lets you remove widgets that you no longer want on your site. Inactive widgets retain their settings.
Rearrange Widgets With Drag-And-Drop
You can easily insert, activate, deactivate, reorder and delete things using widgets by dragging and dropping items in your Widgets section …
(Rearrange widgets on your WordPress site using drag & drop)
You can also easily reconfigure the layout and order of your website’s widget-enabled areas with drag and drop ease.
For example, take a look at the image below. In this site, the widgets have already been configured to display things like:
- A newsletter subscription form,
- A contact support button, and
- A ‘click to call’ function from a widgetized WordPress plugin (i.e. a plugin with an accompanying widget) …
(Widgets control how certain features on your site display)
Inside the Widget area, you would see that the front-end features appear on the site in the same order as their corresponding widgets were arranged in the backend widget area …
If we reorganize these widgets in the Widget Area using drag and drop …
(Drag-and-drop to rearrange widgets in your widget area)
The widgets have now been reordered in your sidebar …
As you can see, this immediately changes the layout of the sidebar.
Rearranging sidebar layout with widgets can help 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 support graphic button (2) is now located above the newsletter subscription form (1) …
(Rearrange sidebar elements using widgets to improve visitor experience)
Removing Widgets From Your WordPress Sidebar
Removing widgets from the sidebar is very easy.
For example, let’s show you how to delete the Search widget from your sidebar navigation section …
To remove an active widget, either open up the widget settings and click the Delete link …
(Deleting your widget)
Or just drag the widget out of the Active Widgets section and drop it into the Inactive Widgets area …
(How to remove your widgets)
Repeat this process for all widgets you want removed from your sidebar navigation menu. You can always reinstate widgets by moving them back into the active widgets area.
Many widgets can be further customized. This includes hiding information from users (but allowing access 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 …
(Toggling expands/collapse widget settings)
When the widget expands, you can change and save your settings, click Delete to remove the widget from the “Active Widgets” section, close the widget, or click on the triangle to collapse the widget settings …
Some widgets give you little to no customization, or they may only allow you to add an optional title …
(Some widgets give you little to no customizable options)
Customize Widgets Section
Depending on which theme you have installed on your site, you can also preview any changes live without making actual changes to your site. This way, you can be sure that you are happy with what you have done before committing anything live 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 before publishing any changes you’ve made (to avoid making mistakes), or manage widgets on the fly using the Widget editor screen.
(preview widget changes live in the Customize feature)
If you need to make changes to your site while viewing the frontend, just click on the Customize link …
(Toolbar Customize Link)
This will bring you to the Customizer screen in the back-end.
You can do plenty of edits in preview mode (like inserting, removing and moving widgets around), and see all changes in real time. If you are happy with what you have done, click the “Save and Publish” button and your changes will instantly become available to your site visitors.
(Widget management – configure widgets on the fly!)
Once the changes have been saved, your site will automatically update the widget settings and display the new configuration to your site visitors.
Since WordPress Themes can display elements differently on your site, we recommend that you install the theme first before configuring widgets.
Also, remember to use the Customizer feature to preview all changes. This saves you from having to keep two browsers open while you go through this tutorial (one to work in and one to see your site the way your visitors will see it).
Now that you know the basics of using widgets, let’s configure a number of commonly-used WordPress sidebar widgets.
This is the end of section 1 of this tutorial.
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