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

WordPress Widgets Explained

There are so many great benefits to using the WordPress web publishing software for building, managing and growing your web site. One of these is that WordPress makes it very easy to add content, expand your site’s functionality and rearrange your site’s layout without having any code editing skills or knowledge.

WordPress gives you the ability to quickly and easily insert, remove, and control various types of content on your blog’s sidebar menu (and header and footer sections, depending on what theme you have installed) using widgets.

(WP widgets)

In this article you will learn what WordPress widgets are, why they can make life easier for non-technical users and how widgets can help to expand the functionality of your web site.

What Are Widgets? A Basic Guide To WordPress Widgets For Business Owners

(WP widgets make managing and using WordPress easy!)

A WordPress widget is a small module of code that performs a specific function, such as adding a feature, or a text box or menu item to your site.

The WordPress application is written using a scripting 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 write web code.

Now … don’t worry if it all sounds like geek speak. As you are about to see, widgets are perfect for non-techie users.

Widgets eliminate the need to know how to program or manipulate PHP code in order to enhance their website.

(Widgets help you control technical features and functions on your website without having to touch code)

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

In simple terms, widgets let you do things like:

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

In other posts and tutorials, we provide an overview of WP plugins and WP themes; what they are, what they do, how plugins and themes can add new features to WordPress and even drastically alter the design of your site.

As you will learn shortly, WP themes can affect how widgets work on your site and many plugins also add accompanying widgets that can further extend your website’s usability.

Widget-Ready Areas

Most WordPress themes support widgets and provide widget-ready areas in the theme’s layout where widgets can be added to.

Normally, features powered by widgets can be found in the theme’s sidebar menu, but depending upon the theme, these can also be in your site’s header section, footer, even below your content.

It all depends on what theme that you have installed.

For example, the theme shown in the screenshot below has only one widget area for the theme’s sidebar …

(Some WP themes only have a single widget section)

Below is an enlarged image of the widget panel of the theme shown above, and you can see that this WordPress theme only includes one widgetized area …

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

In contrast, the WordPress theme shown below contains multiple widget areas …

(Many themes offer users multiple widget sections)

Here is the widget screen of the theme above, so you can see how many widget areas are included in the WordPress theme …

(Multiple widgets areas)

As you can see, in the above theme, widgets can be added to the sidebar area of two 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 area)

How Do I Access My WP Widgets?

The Widgets area is located inside your admin by going to Appearance > Widgets

This brings up the Widgets section in your browser …

(Widgets Screen)

The Widgets area displays all the widgets you can use on your site.

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

(Activate or deactivate widgets using drag-and-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 immediately active and can be used.

In addition, the Widgets screen includes an Inactive Widgets section that lets you remove widgets that you no longer want to use on your site. Inactive widgets do not lose 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 your default WordPress theme right out of the box and display items like Search, Recent Comments, Meta, etc. to site visitors …

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

Sometimes, new widgets appear in your Widgets area when new plugins are installed on your website or blog …

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

Widgets Features: Drag And Drop

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

(Rearrange widgets using drag and drop)

Drag-and-drop lets you easily reconfigure the order of your widgetized sections.

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

  1. An opt-in form,
  2. A click for support button, and
  3. Click to call sales buttons from a widgetized plugin …

(Widgets control how certain features display on your site)

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

Let’s now reorganize the above widgets in the Main Sidebar Widget Area using drag & 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 changes the order of items in your 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 banner (2) now sits above the newsletter sign-up form (1) …

(WordPress widgets are really easy to use!)

Easy, huh?

Here are some more things about WP widgets that are also worth keeping in mind about:

Widget Management – Theme Customizer

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

You can do lots of modifications and adjustments to your widgets in preview mode, like adding, deleting and moving around your active widgets to any widget areas that your theme makes available, and see all changes 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!)

Widget management 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 before publishing it (to avoid making errors), or change your widgets on the fly using the Widget editor screen as discussed earlier.

Widget Configuration

As we’ve shown you previously, WordPress lets you quickly rearrange how content is displayed in areas of your website sidebars, footers and navigation menus with just a few clicks of your mouse button, using drag-&-drop …

(Rearranging sidebar elements using widgets can help to improve visitor experience)

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

Reorganize sidebar elements using widgets to improve your site’s visitor experience.

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


With most traditionally-designed websites, you would need to edit code in your website’s templates to rearrange the order of elements, make unique customizations to features on page elements like subscriber forms, or just add things like page lists, or a dropdown menu of your post categories, an archived blog posts section, menus that display only selected pages, links to external sites, a list of your most read posts, the latest excerpts of comments added to your posts, a section displaying clickable ad banners, quotations or polls, RSS feed items, product images, social media buttons, and more.

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

(Some widgets give you little to no customization)

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

(Many widgets give you configuration options!)

Using Widgets

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

For some useful tips and tricks to using widgets, see these great tutorials showing you how to use different widgets in WordPress to boost the effectiveness of your website or blog, plus lots of cool tips for getting the most benefit out of WordPress with widgets:

Related Posts

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

Hopefully, this post has given you a better understanding of problems that can affect your website and how WordPress can help you grow your business online. To learn more about the benefits of using WordPress please see other posts we have published on this site.


"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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