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.

Configuring Widgets On Your WordPress Blog SidebarIn Part One of this step-by-step tutorial, we explained how to use widgets in WordPress and in Part Two, we explained how to configure text widgets.

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

In this final installment, we are going to conclude the tutorial by configuring a few more commonly-used 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

Let’s add a widget to the sidebar navigation section that will display news items from An RSS feed.

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

WordPress RSS Widget

(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 a title to the feed, type it here.
  3. Items to display: Choose the number of feed items you want to display on your sidebar section from the drop-down menu.
  4. Display item content: Check this box if you would like to display the feed item content.
  5. Display item author: Check this box if you want to show the feed item item author.
  6. Display item date: Tick this box if you want to show the item item date.

RSS Widget settings

(RSS Widget settings)

Experiment with different settings to find the combination that suits your needs best.

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

WordPress RSS Widget on sidebar

(RSS Widget on sidebar)

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

WordPress RSS Widget settings

(RSS Widget settings)

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

Adding A Tag Cloud To The WordPress Blog Sidebar

Now, let’s add A Tag Cloud widget to your sidebar.

Important Info

Tags appearing in the Tag Cloud widget are managed in the Tags screen …

Tags screen

(Tags area)

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

Tag Cloud Widget

(Tag Cloud Widget)

There is 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 …

WordPress Tag Cloud Widget settings

(Tag Cloud Widget settings)

Your Tag cloud will now display on the sidebar …

Tag Cloud widget displaying post tags

(Tag Cloud widget displaying WordPress post tags)

The example below shows the Tag Cloud widget set for showing Categories instead of Tags

Tag Cloud widget displaying WordPress categories

(Tag cloud displaying WordPress categories)

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

Configure Your Archives Section In Your Sidebar

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

As you continue adding new content to 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 site visitors view WordPress posts that you may have published some months ago …

Archives Widget

(WordPress Archives Widget)

There’s not much to set up. You can add a widget title, and choose whether to display items in your Archives widget in a dropdown menu, and display post counts . Click Save when finished …

Archives Widget settings

(WordPress Archives Widget settings)

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

Archives widget added to sidebar

(Archives Widget added to sidebar)

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

Useful Widget Tips

Here are some additional features worth knowing about widgets.

Overriding Default Sidebar Widgets

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

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

Override Default WordPress Sidebar Widgets

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

Override Default WordPress Sidebar Widgets

The above theme could be using default widgets.

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

Just add a blank text widget to a widget area …

How To Override Default Widgets

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

How To Override Default Widgets

Widget Accessibility Mode

As we’ve shown you in an earlier example, with WordPress you can quickly and easily reorganize how content is displayed in areas like your site’s sidebars, footers and navigation menus with just a few clicks of your mouse, using drag-and-drop …

Rearrange sidebar elements using widgets to improve your site's visitor experience

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

In the screenshot above, for example, you can see that we have change the order of elements in the site’s sidebar by switching 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 visitor experience.

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

Enable Accessibility Mode For WordPress Widgets

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

(Widgets Menu)

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

Widgets - Screen Options

(WordPress Widgets – Screen Options)

Click on the Enable accessibility mode link …

Enable accessibility mode

(Turn on 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

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

Enabling Accessibility Mode For Widgets

A screen displays the selected widget with options for customizing the widget’s settings, selecting a location to add the widget, plus dropdown menus that let you specify the position of the widget in your widget area (e.g. position “1”, “3”, “5”, etc.) …

Enable Widget Accessibility Mode

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 …

Enabling Widget Accessibility Mode

A screen displays the selected widget with options for changing its settings.

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

How To Enable Accessibility Mode For Widgets

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

Turn off accessibility mode

(Turn off accessibility mode)

Create Your Own Custom Sidebar Widgets

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 a new plugin on your site.

Here is a simple way to create your own sidebar widgets:

First, create a new Post and enter the content that you want to show on the sidebar…

Creating Your Own Sidebar Widgets

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

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

After composing your content, click on the Text tab …

Create Your Own Custom Sidebar Widgets

Select and copy everything to your clipboard…

How To Create Your Own Custom 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

Creating Your Own Sidebar Widgets

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

Create Your Own Custom Sidebar Widgets

(Create your own custom sidebar widgets)

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

Adding Widgets To The Sidebar Area

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Author: Martin Aranovitch

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