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.

How To Add WordPress Widgets To The SiteIn Part 1 of this tutorial, we explained how to use WordPress widgets and in Part 2, you learned how to configure a text widget.

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

In this final section, we show you how to complete this tutorial series by configuring a few more commonly-used sidebar widgets.

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:

Add A Newsfeed Section

Let’s now add An RSS widget to the sidebar.

To add the widget, find an RSS widget in the Available Widgets section and drag it to your active area …

WordPress RSS Widget

(WordPress RSS Widget)

Enter the following information into the widget settings:

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

RSS Widget settings

(WordPress RSS Widget settings)

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

The screenshot below shows a published RSS Feed widget configured using the above settings …

WordPress RSS Widget on blog sidebar

(RSS Widget on sidebar navigation section)

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

RSS Widget settings

(RSS Widget settings)

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

Add A Tag Cloud Widget To The WordPress Sidebar Navigation Section

Let’s now add A Tag Cloud widget to the sidebar.

Info

Tags displayed in your Tag Cloud widget are managed in the Tags area …

Tags screen

(WordPress Tags area)

To insert the widget, find a Tag Cloud widget in the Available Widgets section and drag it to your sidebar area …

Tag Cloud Widget

(WordPress Tag Cloud Widget)

There’s 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 done …

WordPress Tag Cloud Widget settings

(WordPress Tag Cloud Widget settings)

Your Tag cloud will now display on the sidebar …

Tag cloud set to display WordPress tags

(Tag Cloud widget set to display tags)

The screenshot below shows a published Tag Cloud widget configured for displaying Categories instead of Tags

Tag Cloud widget set to display WordPress categories

(Tag cloud set to display WordPress post categories)

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

How To Configure The Archives Section In Your Blog Sidebar

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

As you continue publishing new posts in WordPress, your older posts begin to get pushed further down the chronological list and become less visible to readers. Your posts are still there, it’s just not as visible.

The Archives Widget allows readers to access dated content …

WordPress Archives Widget

(WordPress Archives Widget)

There is really not much to configure in this widget. You can add a title if you want, and choose whether to display items in the sidebar as a dropdown menu, and show post counts . Click Save when done …

WordPress Archives Widget settings

(Archives Widget settings)

The example below shows a published Archives widget configured for displaying posts as a dropdown menu with number of posts checkbox enabled …

WordPress Archives widget displayed on sidebar navigation area

(Archives Widget on sidebar)

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

Widgets – Useful Tips

Here are some useful 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:

Override Default Sidebar Widgets

If you see widgets showing up on your blog sidebar navigation section that aren’t listed under the active sidebar in your Appearance > Widgets section, it’s because with some themes, until you add widgets to your sidebar navigation menu, the theme will display its own default set of widgets.

For example, this site displays a couple of widgets in the sidebar area …

How To Override Default Widgets

If you look inside the Widgets section, however, you will see that no widgets have been added to any of the active widget areas …

How To Override Default Sidebar 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 placeholder widgets will your newly-added widgets will be used instead.

Note: If you want nothing to display in your sidebar, either use a theme page template without a widgets section or just add a blank Text widget to the sidebar.

Just add a blank text widget to a widget area …

How To Override Default Widgets

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

How To Override Default WordPress Sidebar Widgets

Accessibility Mode

As we’ve explained in an earlier example, WordPress lets you easily reorganize how content displays in areas of your website or blog, like sidebars, footers and navigation menus with just a few clicks of your mouse, using drag-and-drop …

Reorganizing sidebar elements using widgets can help to improve your site's user experience

(Reorganize sidebar elements with widgets to improve your site’s user experience)

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

You can reorganize your sidebar layout with widgets to improve your site’s visitor experience.

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

Enabling Accessibility Mode For WordPress Widgets

Enabling Accessibility Mode, via Screen Options, allows you to use Add and Edit buttons instead of dragging and dropping.

To enable Accessibility Mode, log into your WordPress administration area and navigate to Appearance > Widgets

WordPress Widgets Menu

(Widgets Menu)

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

WordPress Widgets - Screen Options

(Widgets – Screen Options)

Click link to enable accessibility mode …

Switch On accessibility mode

(Turn 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 …

How To Enable Widget Accessibility Mode

If you click on a Widget’s Add link in the Available Widgets section …

Enable Widget Accessibility Mode

A screen opens up the selected widget with options for customizing the widget’s settings, selecting a widget location, with dropdown menus for specifying the position of the widget in your widget area (e.g. position “1”, “2”, “6”, etc.) …

Enabling Accessibility Mode For WordPress Widgets

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

Enable Accessibility Mode For WordPress Widgets

Click on an active widget’s Edit link …

Enable Accessibility Mode For Widgets

A screen will display your selected widget with options for modifying 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 area …

How To Enable Accessibility Mode For WordPress Widgets

Click on Disable accessibility mode in the Screen Options section to go back to using drag-and-drop …

Turn off accessibility mode

(Turn off accessibility mode)

How To Create Your Own Sidebar Widgets – An Easy Cheat

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

Here is an easy way to create your own custom sidebar widget:

First, create a new Post and type in the content that you want to show on the sidebar navigation area…

Create Your Own Custom Sidebar Widgets

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

Also, don’t worry about saving your Post – all we are after is to copy the content to paste into your sidebar widget.

To get the content code, switch to the Text tab …

Creating Your Own Custom Sidebar Widgets

Select and copy everything to your clipboard…

Create Your Own Sidebar Widgets

Next, go into your Widgets Area.

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 Sidebar Widgets

Your custom widget will be added to your sidebar navigation section…

How To Create Your Own Custom 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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"This is an awesome training series. I have a pretty good understanding of WordPress already, but this is helping me to move somewhere from intermediate to advanced user!" - Kim Lednum

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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 – Part 4.