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 Your SiteIn Part One of this tutorial, we explained how to use widgets in WordPress and in Part Two, we explained how to configure a text widget.

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

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

Useful Information

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 An RSS Widget

Let’s add An RSS widget to display news items on the sidebar.

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

RSS Widget

(WordPress RSS Widget)

Enter the following information into the widget settings:

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

RSS Widget settings

(WordPress RSS Widget settings)

Experiment with different settings to find the ideal combination for your website.

The example below shows the RSS widget configured with the above settings …

RSS Widget on blog sidebar

(RSS Widget displayed on sidebar)

The screenshot below shows the RSS Feed widget configured with some of the other 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 Blog Sidebar

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

Important Info

Tags displayed in the widget are managed in the Tags area …

WordPress Tags area

(Tags area)

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

Tag Cloud Widget

(WordPress Tag Cloud Widget)

There is really very little to configure. You can add a title if you want, and choose whether to display items in the tag cloud using Tags or Categories. Click Save when done …

Tag Cloud Widget settings

(WordPress Tag Cloud Widget settings)

Your Tag cloud will now display on your sidebar menu …

Tag Cloud widget displaying WordPress post tags

(Tag Cloud widget set to display tags)

The screenshot below shows the Tag Cloud widget configured to display Categories instead of Tags

Tag cloud displaying WordPress post categories

(Tag cloud displaying categories)

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

Configuring Your WordPress Archives Section In The Sidebar

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

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

The Archives Widget lets your visitors access less visible WordPress posts …

WordPress Archives Widget

(Archives Widget)

There’s very little to set up here. You can add a widget title, and choose whether to display items in your sidebar widget in a dropdown menu, and display the number of posts . Click Save when done …

WordPress Archives Widget settings

(WordPress Archives Widget settings)

The example below shows an Archives widget set up to display posts as a dropdown menu with post counts enabled …

WordPress Archives widget on sidebar navigation section

(WordPress Archives Widget displayed on sidebar)

Now that you know how to configure your widgets on your WordPress site, let’s explore some other aspects of using WordPress widgets.

WordPress Widgets – Useful Tips

Here are some useful features worth knowing about 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 WordPress Sidebar Widgets

If you see widgets showing up on your site’s sidebar area that aren’t showing up under your active sidebar inside your Appearance > Widgets section, it’s because with some themes, unless you add widgets to the sidebar section, the theme will display its own default set of widgets.

For example, the site below shows some widgets in the sidebar section …

How To Override Default Widgets

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

How To Override Default WordPress Sidebar Widgets

The above theme is obviously using default widgets.

As soon as you add one or more widgets to an available widget area, the placeholder widgets will your new widgets will be used instead.

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

Just add a blank text widget …

Override Default Sidebar Widgets

And default widgets will not show in the sidebar/footer section …

Override Default Widgets

Accessibility Mode

As we have explained in an earlier example, WordPress lets you completely reorder how information is displayed in areas of your site sidebars, footers and navigation menus with just a few clicks of your mouse, using drag-&-drop …

Reorganizing sidebar layout using widgets can help to improve visitor experience

(Reorganizing sidebar elements with widgets can improve user experience)

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

You can rearrange your sidebar elements with widgets to improve user experience.

If, for some reason, you find that you are unable to drag and drop widgets around (e.g. using a mobile device that doesn’t support dragging-and-dropping), you can still use widgets by enabling 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 navigate to Appearance > Widgets

WordPress Widgets Menu

(WordPress Widgets Menu)

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

WordPress Widgets - Screen Options

(WordPress Widgets – Screen Options)

Click link to enable accessibility mode …

Switch On accessibility mode

(Enable accessibility mode)

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

Enabling Accessibility Mode For Widgets

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

Enabling Widget Accessibility Mode

A screen will display the selected widget with options for customizing the widget’s settings, selecting the widget location, and dropdown menus that let you specify the position of the widget in the widget area (e.g. position “1”, “3”, “4”, etc.) …

Enabling Widget Accessibility Mode

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

Enabling Widget Accessibility Mode

Click on an active widget’s Edit link …

How To Enable Accessibility Mode For Widgets

A screen will display your selected widget with options for changing the widget’s settings.

Click Save Widget to update your settings and return to the Active Widgets section, or click the Delete button to remove the widget from the Active Widgets area …

Enable Widget Accessibility Mode

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

Switch off accessibility mode

(Turn off accessibility mode)

How To Create Your Own Sidebar Widgets – An Easy 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 when you install new plugins on your website.

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

First, create a new Post and type in the content that you want to display on your sidebar…

Creating Your Own Custom Sidebar Widgets

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

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

How To Create Your Own Custom Sidebar Widgets

Select and copy everything to your clipboard…

Creating Your Own Custom Sidebar Widgets

Next, 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 Sidebar Widgets

Your new widget will be added to the sidebar section…

Create Your Own Custom Sidebar Widgets

(Create your own sidebar widgets)

Congratulations! Now you know how to use and configure a number of WordPress sidebar widgets.

How To Add Widgets To The WordPress Blog Sidebar Area

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"If you're new to WordPress, this can stand on its own as a training course and will stay with you as you progress from beginner to advanced and even guru status." - Bruce (Columbus, Ohio)

Originally published as How To Use And Configure WordPress Widgets – Part 4.