WordPress For Non-Techies: Free WordPress Tutorials – WPCompendium.org

WordPress Widgets Explained

There are so many benefits to using the WordPress CMS platform for building and growing your web site. One of these is that WordPress makes it very easy to add content, enhance your site and reconfigure the layout of your website without having any code editing skills or knowledge.

WordPress lets you quickly and easily add, remove, and reconfigure various types of content in your blog’s sidebar menu (and header and footer sections, depending on what theme you use) using widgets.


In this blog post you will learn how widgets work, why they can make life easier for non-technical users and how widgets can supercharge your website or blog.

Widgets – How Do They Work? Understanding Widgets For Newbies

(Widgets help make managing and using WordPress easy!)

WP widgets are small modules of code that perform a specific function, such as adding a form, or a text box or list item to your website.

The WordPress software is written using a web language called PHP (Hypertext Preprocessor). Normally, to add features and functions that will enhance the functionality of a website, you have to know how to script web code.

Now … don’t worry if this all sounds like geek speak. As you are about to discover, WP widgets are made for non-techies.

With WordPress widgets, you don’t have to know how to program or manipulate PHP code to enhance the functionality of your site.

(WP widgets help you manage specific features and functions on your website without requiring knowledge of coding)

Widgets were originally designed to provide an easy way to allow WordPress users to control aspects of their WordPress theme’s layout and functionality.

In plain English terms, widgets allow you to:

Here are just some of the many things you can add to your site’s sidebar section (and headers and footers and other areas, depending on the theme you have installed) using WP widgets:

In other blog posts, we provide an overview of plugins and WP themes; what they are, what they do, how plugins and themes easily add loads of new functionality to WordPress and even drastically change the design of your website or blog.

As you will soon learn, WordPress themes can affect how widgets display on your site and many plugins also install accompanying widgets that can help further fine tune your website’s performance.

Widgetized Areas

Most WP themes support widgets and provide widgetized areas in the theme’s layout where widgets can display.

Normally, this is going to be in the sidebar menu, but depending upon the theme, these can also be located in the header, in the footer area, and even below or above your content section.

It all depends on the theme you have installed on your site or blog.

For example, the theme shown in the screenshot below provides users with only one widget area adding functionality to the theme’s sidebar area …

(Some WordPress themes only have one widget section)

Below is an enlarged image of the widget panel of the theme shown above, and you can see that this particular theme only contains one widget-enabled area …

As you can see, the only area where you can add widgets to your site using the theme shown above is in the site’s sidebar section.

In contrast, the WordPress theme shown in the screenshot below includes a number of widgetized areas …

(Many WP themes provide a number of widget sections)

Here is an enlarged image of the widget section of the above theme, and you can see how many widget areas are included in this specific WordPress theme …

(Multiple WordPress widget areas)

As you can see, with the above theme, you can add widgets to the sidebar area of 2 different page templates (Main Sidebar and Showcase Sidebar) and 3 different Footer areas (Footer Area One, Footer Area Two, Footer Area Three) …

(Some themes let you add widgets to your site’s footer section)

Where Do I Access My Widgets?

The Widgets panel is located within your WP admin area and can be easily accessed by going to Appearance > Widgets

This loads the Widgets screen in your browser …

(Widgets Section)

The Widgets area displays all the widgets that are available.

The right-hand section of the window displays your “active” widgets …

(Activate or deactivate widgets using drag-and-drop)

Available widgets can be made Active or Inactive using drag & drop.

Widgets dragged from the Available Widgets section to widget areas like your sidebar, footer, etc. become active and can be used.

In addition, your Widgets panel includes an Inactive Widgets section that lets you remove any widgets that you no longer want actively displayed on your website. Inactive widgets retain their pre-configured settings.

By default, your site already comes with several pre-installed widgets (e.g. widgets for displaying your pages, links, posts, post categories, adding text, adding RSS feeds, adding tags, adding a search box, etc …) and active widgets.

These widgets are available in your default WordPress theme right out of the box and display items like Search, Archives, Meta, etc. to your site visitors …

(By default, your site already comes with a number of pre-installed widgets)

Sometimes, you may find that new widgets display in your Widgets section as new WordPress plugins are installed on your website …

(Installing WP plugins can sometimes add new widgets to your Widgets area!)

WP Widgets Features: Drag & Drop

Widgets are great because you can easily insert, activate, deactivate, rearrange and remove them inside your Widgets section using drag and drop …

(Rearrange your site’s widgets using drag & drop)

Drag and drop lets you easily reconfigure the layout and order of your site’s widget-enabled areas.

For example, take a look at the image below. In this example site, the widgets have already been configured to show the following:

  1. A newsletter subscription form,
  2. A click for support banner, and
  3. A couple of click to call sales buttons from a widgetized WordPress plugin …

(Widgets control how certain features appear on your WordPress site)

Inside this site’s Widget area, you would see that these features display on the site’s sidebar area in exactly the same order as their corresponding widgets have been arranged in the site’s active widget section …

Let’s now reorganize these widgets in the Active Widget Area using drag and drop …

(Drag-and-drop to rearrange widgets in your widget area)

The widget features have now been reorganized in your sidebar …

As you can see, this immediately reorganizes the layout of the site’s sidebar. Note in the screenshot below that the click to call function (3) is now first the sidebar menu, and the contact us section (2) is now placed above the newsletter sign-up form (1) …

(Widgets are really easy to use!)

Pretty simple stuff, huh?

Here are some other things about WP widgets that are also worth knowing about:

Widget Management – Widget Customizer Section

Depending upon the WP theme that you have installed, you’re also able to manage your widgets without making actual changes to your site, so you can be sure that you like what you have done before committing these changes to your live website.

You can do several modifications and adjustments to widgets in preview mode, like adding, deleting and reorganizing the currently added widgets to any widget areas that your theme makes available, and see all changes in real time. If you like what you’ve done and click the “Save and Publish” button, your changes will then be instantly updated and reflected on your site.

(Widget management – work in preview mode or configure widgets on the fly!)

Widget management is a great feature of WordPress. You can work in preview mode inside the WordPress Theme Customizer screen (Appearance > Customize) and see how your widget content will appear prior to publishing changes (to avoid making errors), or change your widgets on the fly using the Widget editor screen as discussed earlier.

Widget Configuration

As we have explained in an earlier example, with WordPress you can quickly and easily reorganize how content displays in areas like your site’s sidebars, footers and navigation menus with only a few clicks of your mouse button, using drag-&-drop technology …

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

In the screenshot above, for example, you can see that we have quickly and easily reorganized the layout in the site’s sidebar by switching around the search and testimonial sections. As you now know, this was easily done by simply dragging and dropping the widgets into different positions inside the sidebar widget area.

Rearrange sidebar elements using widgets to improve user experience.

Now … what about the widgets themselves? Can the widgets be customized instead of simply added, removed and rearranged?


With many traditionally-designed websites, you would need to edit code in your site’s templates to reorganize the order of elements, customize features on page elements like a newsletter registration form, or just add things like a list of your web pages, or a dropdown menu of your site categories, a post archives section, menus, links to external sites, links to your recent posts, the latest excerpts of comments added to your posts, a section displaying clickable ad banners, quotations or survey results, content from RSS feeds, image galleries, Facebook feeds, and more.

While some widgets are “fixed” in the sense that they provide little to no configurable options, other than to add something like an optional title to the widget as shown in the example below …

(Some widgets offer little to no customizable options)

Many widgets offer various settings that allow you to further configure these. This includes making certain types of information hidden to site visitors but visible to registered users, displaying additional forms, fields, or data, specifying dimensions of sidebar images, videos, etc. and more …

(Many widgets give you customization!)

How To Use WP Widgets

As we have seen, widgets require no coding experience or programming expertise to use. Most widgets can be added to your website or blog simply by activating a plugin and then dragging and dropping the plugin’s widget into your Active widgets area.

For useful tips and tricks to using widgets, see these detailed step-by-step tutorials showing you how to use various widgets in WordPress to improve the effectiveness of your web site, plus many cool tips for getting the most out of WordPress with widgets:

Related Posts

If you are a WordPress newbie, you may also find the following posts useful:

Hopefully, now you have a better understanding of issues that can affect your website and how WordPress can help you build a better online. To learn more about using the WordPress website management software please click on links to visit our related posts section.


"I am beyond impressed with what you have put together. I can tell that you put a ton of hard work into building what you have. You have the absolute best content on WordPress I have ever seen!" - Robert T. Jillie


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