How To Use And Configure WordPress Widgets – Part 4

Learn how to add and configure various useful WordPress widgets on your sidebar and how to create custom sidebar widgets …

Adding WordPress Widgets To The Sidebar Navigation MenuIn Part One of this tutorial, we explained how to use widgets in WordPress and in Part 2, you learned how to configure text widgets.

In Part 3, we began configuring a number of WordPress blog widgets.

In this final installment, you are going to learn how to complete the step-by-step tutorial series by configuring a few more useful WordPress widgets.

Important Info

In WordPress v. 4.8, WordPress introduced new media widgets covering images, audio, and video, and an updated text widget that supports visual editing

WordPress 4.8 - WordPress Widget Updates

(WordPress 4.8 introduced new widget updates)

These widgets let you add content from your media library and media stored in other servers or storage locations (e.g. Google Drive, Dropbox, Amazon S3, etc.).

Let’s go through how to configure and use each of these widgets:

Rich Text Widget

From version 4.8 onward, WordPress has added native rich-text editing capabilities to text widgets …

Rich Text Widget

(Rich Text Widget)

This lets you format text, create lists, add emphasis, and insert links into your sidebar text quickly and easily …

(Format text easily with the new text widget)

To learn more about using text widgets in WordPress, see the tutorial below:

WordPress Image Widget

The WordPress Image Widget lets you add an image to your sidebar from your Media Library or an external storage location.

To add an image, drag an image widget to your active widgets area …

Image Widget

(Image Widget)

Click on ‘Add Image’ …

Let's add an image!

(Let’s add an image!)

Select an image from the Image Library, check or add image details (e.g. Caption, Alt text, Description, etc.) if desired and click the ‘Add to Widget’ button …

Select an image

(Select an image)

The image will automatically load into the widget area …

Image added to widget

(Image added to widget)

Add a Title to your image if you want, or leave the ‘Title:’ field blank and click ‘Save’ …

Save your image

(Save your image)

Preview your website and you should see the image displayed where you have placed your image widget …

Image added to website using image widget

(Image added to website using WordPress image widget)

If you want to link your image to an URL, go back to your image widget and click on ‘Edit Image’ …

Image Widget - Edit Image

(Image Widget – Edit Image)

Add a URL in the ‘Image Details’ > ‘Display Settings’ > ‘Link To’ screen and click the ‘Update’ button …

Link your image to an URL

(Link your image to an URL)

To add an image stored in an external server or remote location, locate and copy the URL of the image to your clipboard …

Copy image URL to your clipboard

(Copy image URL to your clipboard)

Go back to your image widget and click on ‘Replace Image’ …

Image Widget - Replace image

(Image Widget – Replace image)

The Media Library browser opens. Click on ‘Insert from URL’ and paste in the image URL copied to your clipboard, then click on ‘Add to Widget’  …

Add image URL

(Add image URL)

If you have previously added an image title in your widget, remember to replace it if required, then click ‘Save’ …

Save your new image

(Save your new image)

The new image will now display on your sidebar …

New image added using WordPress image widget

(New image added using WordPress image widget)

To learn more about adding images to WordPress, see this tutorial:

WordPress Video Widget

The WordPress Video Widget lets you add audio files to your sidebar from your Media Library, YouTube, Vimeo, or an external storage location.

To add a video to the sidebar, drag a Video widget to your active widgets area …

Drag a Video widget to your sidebar

(Drag a Video widget to your sidebar)

Click the ‘Add Video’ button …

Video widget - Add Video

(Video widget – Add Video)

Select a video from your media library or add a video URL and click the ‘Add to Widget’ button …

Add a video URL

(Add a video URL)

Add a title to the widget if desired and click ‘Save’ …

WordPress Video Widget - Save Button

(WordPress Video Widget – Save Button)

Your video will display on your site where the video widget has been added …

Video added using WordPress video widget

(Video added using WordPress video widget)

To learn more about adding video to WordPress, see this tutorial:

WordPress Audio Widget

The WordPress Audio Widget lets you add audio files like podcasts, music or a personal greeting to your sidebar from your media library or an external storage location.

To add an audio file to your sidebar, drag an audio widget to your active widgets area …

Add an audio widget to your sidebar

(Add an audio widget to your sidebar)

Click the ‘Add Audio’ button…

WordPress Audio Widget - Add Audio button

(WordPress Audio Widget – Add Audio button)

Select an audio file from your media library or insert the URL of an audio file stored in an external location …

Select your audio file

(Select your audio file)

Add a title to your widget if desired and click the ‘Save’ button …

Save the audio file on your audio widget

(Save the audio file on your audio widget)

Your site will now display an audio file to visitors where you have placed the audio widget …

Audio file added to your site using the WordPress Audio Widget

(Audio file added to your site using the WordPress Audio Widget)

To learn more about adding audios to WordPress, see this tutorial:

Adding A Newsfeed Section To The Sidebar Navigation Area

Let’s add An RSS widget to the sidebar navigation menu.

To add the widget, select an RSS widget in the Available Widgets section and drag it to your sidebar …

RSS Widget

(RSS Widget)

Enter the following information into the widget settings:

  1. RSS feed URL: Paste the URL of your RSS feed into this section.
  2. Feed Title: If you would like to add a title to your widget, enter it here.
  3. Items to display: Select how many feed items you want to show on your sidebar navigation section from the drop-down menu.
  4. Display item content: Tick this box if you want to show the feed item content.
  5. Display item author: Tick this box if you want to display the feed item item author.
  6. Display item date: Tick this box if you would like to display the RSS feed item date.

RSS Widget settings

(RSS Widget settings)

Experiment with different widget settings to find the combination that works best for you.

The screenshot below shows an RSS widget configured as per the above settings …

RSS Widget on blog sidebar

(RSS Widget on sidebar)

The screenshot below shows an RSS Feed widget configured with additional options selected …

WordPress RSS Widget settings

(WordPress RSS Widget settings)

To learn more about using RSS feeds in WordPress, see this tutorial:

Adding A Tag Cloud Section To The WordPress Sidebar Section

Let’s now add a widget to your sidebar that displays clickable tags.

Important Info

Tags displayed in your widget are listed in the Tags section …

WordPress Tags screen

(Tags area)

To use the widget, select a Tag Cloud widget in the Available Widgets section and drag it to the active area …

Tag Cloud Widget

(WordPress Tag Cloud Widget)

There is very little to set up. You can add a title, and choose whether to display items in the tag cloud using Tags or Categories. Click Save when finished …

Tag Cloud Widget settings

(WordPress Tag Cloud Widget settings)

Your Tag cloud will now display on the sidebar …

Tag Cloud widget displaying post tags

(Tag cloud set to display post tags)

The example below shows the Tag Cloud widget set to display Categories instead of Tags

Tag cloud set to display post categories

(Tag Cloud widget displaying WordPress post categories)

To learn more about using post tags in WordPress, see this tutorial:

Configuring The Archives Widget In Your Sidebar Navigation Section

To complete this tutorial, we’ll configure the default Archives Widget, which is a common widget.

As you continue publishing new posts in WordPress, your older posts begin to move further away from public view. Your content is still there, it’s just not as visible.

The Archives Widget lets blog visitors access WordPress posts that you may have published some months ago …

WordPress Archives Widget

(WordPress Archives Widget)

There’s very little to set up here. You can add a title, and choose whether to display items in your sidebar in a dropdown menu, and display post counts . Click Save when finished …

WordPress Archives Widget settings

(Archives Widget settings)

The screenshot below shows a published Archives widget set up to show posts as a dropdown menu with post counts checkbox enabled …

Archives widget added to sidebar

(Archives Widget displayed on sidebar)

Now that you know how to configure widgets in WordPress, let’s explore some other areas of WordPress widgets.

WordPress Widgets – Useful Tips

Here are some additional things to know about using WordPress widgets:

Add ‘Visibility’ Function To Widgets

Installing the Jetpack plugin not only adds many new widgets to your widgets area …

Jetpack Widgets

(Jetpack Widgets)

It also adds a useful ‘Visibility’ function to all WordPress widgets …

Jetpack adds 'Visibility' to all widgets

(Jetpack adds ‘Visibility’ to all widgets)

This function lets you specify whether to display or hide widgets from your sidebar based on conditions you set for a particular category, author, user. role, tag, date, or page …

Set conditions to show or hide widgets

(Set conditions to show or hide widgets)

This is a really useful function to have.

For example, you can:

  • Display a widget only on your home page or only on posts published under certain categories, tags, authors, dates, etc.
  • Configure widgets to display specific or time-sensitive announcements based on a post’s category, date, etc.
  • Configure widgets to display targeted ad banners based on a post’s category or tag.
  • Hide widgets from appearing on certain posts or pages to prevent users from being distracted (e.g. remove widgets with ads from your sales pages).
  • And more!

To learn more about using the Jetpack plugin, go here:

Overriding Default Sidebar Widgets

If you see widgets appearing on your blog sidebar section that aren’t showing up in the active sidebar inside the Appearance > Widgets section, it’s because some themes will display their own default set of widgets unless you add widgets to your sidebar navigation section.

For example, this site displays some widgets in the sidebar section …

Override Default Sidebar Widgets

If you look inside the Widgets area, however, you could find that no widgets have actually been added to any of the available widget areas …

Overriding Default Widgets

This is because the above theme is probably using default widgets.

Once you add one or more widgets to an active widget area, the other widgets will disappear and be replaced with your newly-added widgets instead.

Note: If you don’t want anything to show up in the sidebar navigation menu, either use a theme page template without a widgets section or just add a blank Text widget to the sidebar navigation section.

Add a blank text widget …

Override Default WordPress Sidebar Widgets

And the default widgets won’t show in your sidebar/footer section …

Override Default Sidebar Widgets

Accessibility Mode

As we have shown you earlier, WordPress lets you quickly and easily reorder how information displays in widgetized areas like your site’s sidebars, footers and navigation menus with only a few clicks of your mouse button, using drag-and-drop technology …

Rearranging sidebar layout with widgets can help improve your site's user experience

(Rearranging sidebar layout with widgets can improve your site’s visitor experience)

In the above screenshot, for example, you can see that we have quickly and easily rearranged the site’s sidebar menu by switching the search and testimonial sections. This is easily done by dragging and dropping the widgets into different positions inside the sidebar widget area.

You can reorganize your sidebar elements using widgets to improve your site’s user experience.

If, for some reason, you find that you cannot move widgets around using drag & drop (e.g. using a mobile device that doesn’t support dragging-and-dropping), you can still use widgets if you enable Accessibility Mode.

How To Enable Widget Accessibility Mode

Enabling Accessibility Mode, via the Screen Options, lets you use Add and Edit buttons instead of using drag and drop.

To enable Accessibility Mode, log into your WordPress dashboard and go to the Widgets section …

Widgets Menu

(WordPress Widgets Menu)

Select Screen Options on the top right hand corner of your screen …

WordPress Widgets - Screen Options

(Widgets – Screen Options)

Click link to enable accessibility mode …

Turn on accessibility mode

(Switch On accessibility mode)

Once accessibility mode has been enabled, the widgets in the Available Widgets and the Active Widgets sections, widgets will display an Add and Edit link respectively …

Enabling Accessibility Mode For WordPress Widgets

Click on a Widget’s Add link in the Available Widgets section …

Enabling Accessibility Mode For WordPress Widgets

A screen opens up the selected widget with options for customizing its settings, selecting a widget location, plus drop-down menus for specifying the position of the widget in the widget area (e.g. position “1”, “3”, “6”, etc.) …

How To Enable Accessibility Mode For Widgets

Click Save Widget to add the widget to your Active Widgets section, or Cancel to return to your previous screen …

Enabling Widget Accessibility Mode

Click on the Edit link of an active widget …

Enabling Widget Accessibility Mode

A screen displays the selected widget with options for editing the widget’s settings.

Click Save Widget to return to the Active Widgets section, or click the Delete button to remove the widget from the Active Widgets section …

Enable Widget Accessibility Mode

Click on Disable accessibility mode in the Screen Options section to restore the drag-and-drop function to your Widgets …

Disable accessibility mode

(Turn off accessibility mode)

Create Your Own Sidebar Widgets – A Simple Cheat

Most widgets will either be installed by default when you create a new WordPress site, or be automatically added to your Available Widgets section by plugins that you install on your website.

If you want to create a sidebar widget, then here is an easy way:

First, create a new Post and enter the content that you want to display on your sidebar navigation section…

Creating Your Own Sidebar Widgets

Make sure that any images you plan to use are resized to fit the maximum width of the sidebar area. Also, keep in mind that you don’t have a lot of room to put content on the sidebar, so keep your information concise.

Also, don’t worry about saving your Post – all we are really after is to copy the content HTML to be pasted into your widget.

After writing your content, click on the Text tab …

Creating Your Own Custom Sidebar Widgets

Select and copy everything to your clipboard…

Creating Your Own Sidebar Widgets

Now, go into your Widgets Screen.

Add a new Text widget to your sidebar, paste the content from your clipboard into the content field and click Save

How To Create Your Own Custom Sidebar Widgets

Your new widget will be added to the sidebar navigation area…

Creating Your Own Sidebar Widgets

(Create your own sidebar widgets)

Congratulations! Now you know how to use and configure your WordPress sidebar widgets.

Adding And Configuring WordPress Widgets In Your Site

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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 – Part 4.