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.

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Adding Widgets To The WordPress Sidebar Navigation AreaIn Part 1 of this step-by-step tutorial series, 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 commonly-used WordPress sidebar widgets.

In this final section, we are going to conclude the tutorial series by configuring a few more useful 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 To The Sidebar Section

Let’s now add An RSS widget to your sidebar section.

To add the widget, find 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: Enter the URL of your RSS feed into this field.
  2. Feed Title: If you would like to add an optional title to your widget, enter it into this section.
  3. Items to display: Choose how many items you want to display on your sidebar navigation area from this drop-down menu.
  4. Display item content: Check this box to display 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 if you want to display the RSS feed item date.

WordPress RSS Widget settings

(RSS Widget settings)

Experiment with different widget settings to find the ideal combination for you.

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

WordPress RSS Widget on blog sidebar

(RSS Widget added to sidebar)

The screenshot below shows the RSS widget configured using some of the other options selected …

RSS Widget settings

(WordPress RSS Widget settings)

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

Adding A Tag Cloud Section

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

Info

Tags displayed in the Tag Cloud widget can be found in the Tags panel …

Tags area

(WordPress Tags area)

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

Tag Cloud Widget

(WordPress Tag Cloud Widget)

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

Tag Cloud Widget settings

(Tag Cloud Widget settings)

Your Tag cloud will now display on the sidebar …

Tag Cloud widget set to display WordPress post tags

(Tag Cloud widget set to display WordPress tags)

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

Tag cloud displaying post categories

(Tag Cloud widget set to display WordPress post categories)

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

How To Configure Your Archives Widget

To complete this tutorial series, we’ll configure the Archives Widget, which is another commonly-used WordPress widget.

As you continue adding new posts to WordPress, your older posts begin to get pushed further down the chronology ladder and become less visible to visitors. Your posts are still there, it’s just not as visible.

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

Archives Widget

(WordPress Archives Widget)

There’s really very little to configure in this widget. You can add a title, and choose whether to display items in the Archives widget as a dropdown menu, and show the number of posts . Click Save when done …

WordPress Archives Widget settings

(Archives Widget settings)

The screenshot below shows a published Archives widget configured for displaying posts as a dropdown menu with post counts enabled …

WordPress Archives widget displayed on sidebar navigation area

(WordPress Archives Widget added to sidebar section)

Now that you know how to configure most of the commonly-used default sidebar widgets, let’s explore some other aspects of WordPress widgets.

Widgets – Useful Tips

Here are some useful features worth knowing about widgets.

Overriding Default Sidebar Widgets

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

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

How To Override Default WordPress Sidebar Widgets

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

How To Override Default Sidebar Widgets

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

As soon as you add one or more widgets to an active widget area, the placeholder widgets will disappear and the widgets you want added will be used instead.

Note: If you want no widgets to show up in your sidebar, either use a theme page template without a widgets layout or just add a blank Text widget to the sidebar.

Just add a blank text widget to a widget area …

Overriding Default Sidebar Widgets

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

Overriding Default Widgets

Accessibility Mode

As we have shown you in an earlier example, WordPress lets you easily reorganize how information is displayed in areas of your website sidebars, footers and navigation menus with only a few clicks of your mouse, using drag-&-drop …

Reorganize sidebar layout using widgets to improve your site's user experience

(Reorganizing sidebar elements using widgets can improve user experience)

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

You can reorganize your sidebar elements with widgets to improve your site’s user 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 if you enable Accessibility Mode.

Enabling Widget Accessibility Mode

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

To enable Accessibility Mode, log into your admin and navigate to Appearance > Widgets

Widgets Menu

(WordPress Widgets Menu)

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

WordPress Widgets - Screen Options

(Widgets – Screen Options)

Click on the Enable accessibility mode link …

Switch On accessibility mode

(Enable accessibility mode)

Once the feature 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 Widget Accessibility Mode

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 its settings, selecting a location to add the widget, with drop-down menus for specifying the position of the widget in the selected location (e.g. position “1”, “2”, “6”, etc.) …

How To Enable Accessibility Mode For Widgets

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

Enabling Widget Accessibility Mode

Click on an active widget’s Edit link …

How To Enable Widget Accessibility Mode

A screen will display your selected widget with options for editing its settings.

Click Save Widget to update your settings and go back to the Active Widgets section, or click the Delete button to delete the widget from the Active Widgets section …

How To Enable Accessibility Mode For WordPress Widgets

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

Turn off accessibility mode

(Turn off accessibility mode)

Create Your Own Custom Sidebar Widgets – A Simple 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 section by plugins that you install on your website.

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

First, create a new Post and type in the content that you would like to display in the sidebar navigation area…

How To Create Your Own Custom Sidebar Widgets

Ensure that any images you plan to use are resized to fit the maximum width of your sidebar section. Also, keep in mind that there’s no a lot of room to put content on your sidebar, so keep your information concise.

Also, don’t worry about saving your Post – all we really need is the content so we can paste it into a widget.

After creating your content, switch to the Text tab …

How To Create Your Own Sidebar Widgets

Select everything inside the text editor window and copy it to your clipboard…

Create Your Own Sidebar Widgets

Now, go into your Widgets Area.

Insert a new Text widget into 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 custom widget is now added to your sidebar…

Create Your Own Custom Sidebar Widgets

(Create your own sidebar widgets)

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

Adding WordPress Widgets To Your Sidebar Section

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Author: Martin Aranovitch

Martin Aranovitch is the founder of WPCompendium.org and has authored hundreds of FREE WordPress tutorials for beginners. WPCompendium.org provides detailed step-by-step tutorials that will teach you how to use WordPress with no coding skills required and at minimal cost!

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