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

WordPress Widgets Explained

There are many great things about using WordPress to build and manage a web site. One of these is that you can easily add content, enhance your site and reconfigure the layout of your website without coding skills.

WordPress allows you to quickly and easily add, delete, and rearrange various blocks of content from your blog’s sidebar menu (and header and footer sections too, depending on what theme you are using) using widgets.

(WordPress widgets)

This blog post explains what WordPress widgets are, why widgets are ideal for non-technical users and how widgets can help to improve the functionality of your web site.

What’s A WordPress Widget? An Introduction To Widgets For Business Website Owners

(WordPress widgets help make managing and using WordPress easy!)

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

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

Now … don’t worry if this all sounds too geeky. As you are about to see, widgets are made for non-techies.

WP widgets help you manage technical features and functions on your website without having to edit code.

(WP widgets help you manage technical features and functions on your website without the need to edit code!)

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

Simply put, widgets let you do things like:

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

In other articles, we provide an overview of WordPress plugins and themes; what they are, what they do, how these easily add new features to WordPress and alter the whole look and feel of your website.

As you will soon learn, WordPress themes can affect how widgets work on your web site and a number of plugins also come with accompanying widgets that will enhance your website or blog’s capabilities.

Widgetized Themes

Most themes support widgets and provide widgetized areas on your site where you can add widgets to.

Normally, widgets can be found in your theme’s sidebar, but depending on the theme, widgets can also be in the site’s header, the footer, and even below the content.

It all depends on the theme you have installed.

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

(Some WP themes have only a single widgetized area)

Here is an enlarged image of the widget section of the theme shown above, and you can see that this specific theme only includes one widgetized area …

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

In contrast, the WordPress theme shown in the screenshot below includes various widget areas …

(Many themes provide multiple widget areas)

Below is an enlarged image of the widget screen of the theme above, so you can see how many widget areas this theme includes …

(Multiple widgets areas)

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

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

How Do I Access My Widgets?

To use widgets, access the Widgets panel located inside your dashboard by going to Appearance > Widgets

This loads the Widgets screen in your web browser …

(Widgets Panel)

The Widgets panel displays all the widgets that can be used on your site.

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

(Activate or deactivate widgets using drag & drop)

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

Widgets dragged from the Available Widgets section to widget areas like your sidebar, footer, etc. become available for use on your site.

The Widgets panel also includes an Inactive Widgets section that lets you remove any widgets that you no longer want to use on your site. Inactive widgets retain their pre-configured settings.

In a default WordPress installation, 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 the default WordPress theme right out of the box and display items like Search, Recent Comments, Meta, etc. to visitors …

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

Sometimes, whenever new plugins are installed on your site, you will see that new widgets are also added to your Widgets area …

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

Widgets Features: Drag-And-Drop

WP widgets are great because you can easily insert, activate, deactivate, reorder and delete them in your Widgets area just by using drag and drop …

(Rearrange widgets on your WordPress site using drag and drop)

Using drag & drop technology lets you easily reconfigure the layout of your widgetized sections.

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

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

(Widgets control the order certain features on your site appear)

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

If we reorganize the above widgets in the Sidebar Widget Area by dragging & dropping elements in the widget area …

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

The widgets have now been reordered in your sidebar …

As you can see, this instantly changes the layout of your site’s sidebar. Note in the screenshot below that the click to call feature (3) is now first the sidebar menu, and the contact us section (2) has been moved to the place above the newsletter sign-up form (1) …

(WordPress widgets are very easy to use!)

Pretty simple stuff, huh?

Here are a few more things worth keeping in mind with WP widgets:

Widget Management – Previewing Widgets

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

You can do many edits, modifications and adjustments in preview mode, like adding, deleting and reorganizing the currently added widgets to any widget areas that your theme makes available, and everything is done in real time. If you like what you have 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!)

The ability to manage widgets from within your own dashboard is a valuable 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 any changes you’ve made (to avoid making mistakes), or manage widgets on the fly using the Widget editor area shown previously.

Widget Configuration

As we’ve shown you earlier, WordPress lets you quickly reorganize how content displays in areas of your website or blog, like sidebars, footers and navigation menus with just a few clicks of your mouse, using drag-and-drop …

(Reorganizing sidebar elements using widgets can improve user experience)

In the screenshot above, for example, you can see that we have easily change the layout in the sidebar section 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.

Reorganizing sidebar elements using widgets can help improve your site’s user experience.

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

Absolutely!

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 content categories, a blog post archive section, menus that display only selected pages, links to external sites, a list of your most read posts, the latest comments, a section displaying advertisements, customer testimonials or polls, RSS content, images, Facebook feeds, and more.

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

(Some widgets offer little to no customization)

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

(Most widgets give you configurable options!)

How To Use Widgets

As you have just seen, widgets require no coding experience or programming expertise to use. Most widgets can be easily added to your site 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 great step-by-step tutorials showing you how to use various widgets in WordPress to boost the effectiveness of your site, plus lots of great tips for getting the most benefit out of WordPress using widgets:

Related Posts

If you are new at WordPress, you may also find the following topic-related posts useful:

Hopefully, now you have a better understanding of problems that can affect your web site and how WordPress can help you get better results online. To learn more about using WordPress for a business web site please click on links to visit our related posts section.

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"This is AMAZING! I had learnt about how to use WordPress previously, but this covers absolutely everything and more!! Incredible value! Thank you!" - Monique, Warrior Forum

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