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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Using WidgetsIn Part 1 of this step-by-step tutorial, we explained how to use widgets in WordPress and in Part Two, you learned how to configure text widgets.

In Part 3, we began configuring various widgets in WordPress.

In this final installment, we are going to conclude this step-by-step tutorial series by configuring a few more frequently-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 add An RSS widget to the sidebar area.

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

WordPress RSS Widget

(WordPress RSS Widget)

Enter the following information into the widget settings:

  1. RSS feed URL: Enter the RSS feed URL here.
  2. Feed Title: If you want to add a widget title, type it here.
  3. Items to display: Choose the number of feed items you want to show in your sidebar from this drop-down menu.
  4. Display item content: Check this box if you would like 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 would like to display the RSS feed item date.

WordPress RSS Widget settings

(WordPress RSS Widget settings)

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

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

WordPress RSS Widget on blog sidebar

(RSS Widget added to sidebar navigation section)

The example below shows the 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:

Add A Tag Cloud Section

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

Important Info

Tags appearing in the Tag Cloud widget are listed in the Tags panel …

WordPress Tags screen

(WordPress Tags screen)

To add 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 set up in this widget. 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 navigation area …

Tag Cloud widget displaying WordPress tags

(Tag cloud set to display tags)

The screenshot below shows an Tag Cloud widget set up to show Categories instead of Tags

Tag Cloud widget set to display post categories

(Tag cloud set to display WordPress categories)

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

How To Configure The Archives Widget

To complete this tutorial, we’ll configure the Archives Widget, which is a common WordPress 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 allows readers to access WordPress posts that you may have published a while ago …

WordPress Archives Widget

(WordPress Archives Widget)

There is not much to set up. You can add a title, and choose whether to display items in your sidebar in a dropdown menu, and show post counts . Click Save when done …

Archives Widget settings

(WordPress Archives Widget settings)

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

WordPress Archives widget displayed on sidebar

(Archives Widget added to sidebar section)

Now that you know how to configure a number of widgets on your WordPress site, let’s explore some other useful ways to use WordPress widgets.

WordPress Widgets – Useful Tips

Here are some additional ways to use 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 displaying on your site’s sidebar that aren’t listed under 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 the sidebar navigation menu.

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

How To Override Default WordPress Sidebar Widgets

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

Overriding Default WordPress Sidebar Widgets

The theme above is obviously 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 want no widgets to display in your sidebar, either use a theme page template without a widgets layout or just add a blank Text widget to the sidebar area.

Add a blank text widget to a widget area …

How To Override Default Widgets

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

Override Default Sidebar Widgets

Accessibility Mode

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

Reorganize sidebar layout with widgets to improve your site's visitor experience

(Reorganize sidebar elements using widgets to improve user experience)

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

Rearranging sidebar layout with widgets can help to improve your site’s visitor experience.

If, however, 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), then you can still work with widgets if you enable Accessibility Mode.

Enabling Accessibility Mode For Widgets

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 admin area and go to Appearance > Widgets

WordPress Widgets Menu

(Widgets Menu)

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

WordPress 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 …

Enable Widget Accessibility Mode

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

Enabling Widget Accessibility Mode

A screen opens up the selected widget with options for customizing the widget’s settings, selecting the widget location, with dropdown menus that let you specify the position of the widget in your selected area (e.g. position “1”, “2”, “4”, etc.) …

Enable Accessibility Mode For WordPress Widgets

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

How To Enable Widget Accessibility Mode

Click on the Edit link of an active widget …

Enabling Accessibility Mode For Widgets

A screen displays your selected widget with options for modifying the widget’s 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 Widget Accessibility Mode

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

Turn off accessibility mode

(Switch off accessibility mode)

How To Create Your Own Custom 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 when you install a new plugin on your site.

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

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

How To Create Your Own Sidebar Widgets

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

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

After creating your content, switch to the Text tab …

Create Your Own Sidebar Widgets

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

Creating Your Own Sidebar Widgets

Now, go into your Widgets Screen.

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

Creating Your Own Custom Sidebar Widgets

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

Creating Your Own Sidebar Widgets

(Create your own sidebar widgets)

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

How To Add And Configure Widgets In WordPress

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Author: Martin Aranovitch

Martin Aranovitch is the founder of WPCompendium.org and the author of The Small Business Digital Manager. WPCompendium.org provides hundreds of FREE detailed step-by-step tutorials that will teach you how to use WordPress to grow your business online at minimal cost with no coding skills required!

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