Wordpress Widgets

A Quick Guide To This Page

Widgets are small movable blocks of code that can be placed on any page of your WordPress site to add content and extra features to engage site visitors. Widgets are one of the best features of WordPress since they are one of the easiest ways to add elements to your sidebars and footers without any code experience or expertise.

Sidebars offer a great opportunity to keep visitors engaged. You can highlight your most recent content, link to other relevant pages, show your popular posts or offer dynamic items such as display ads from third-party services. Your sidebar also serves as a great way to capture visitors, through newsletter signup and social media links widgets.

This post covers the role of a widget in WordPress, how it differs from a plugin and the types of widgets you need to help your site look and work better. Being aware of Widgets is necessary as they play an important role in designing your websites layout and displaying content other than the main article. Following this tutorial, you will have the skills add and use widgets on any WordPress based website.



What is a WordPress widget

Widgets are a must for any WordPress user since they give you an easy way to control the design and structure of your site while providing a straightforward way to add things to your sidebars. They enable users of any level to add advanced features to their pages without having to customize them individually.

You can easily manage your widgets’ locations, and add them to the sidebars and footers permitted in your WordPress theme in any order you want. Widget ready WordPress Themes include the header, footer, and elsewhere in the WordPress design and structure. You may install extra widgets to plugins and themes, and there are many different types available.

Widgets vs Plugins

There is often some confusion among WordPress beginners about the difference between Widgets vs. Plugins. They have similarities, both are used to customize your website, and both are installed using the WordPress Dashboard.

Plugins are pieces of software you can use on your WordPress site, use them to add additional functionality to a website that's not featured in the standard installation of WordPress. Plugins come they come bundled with widgets and can be found in the WordPress Plugin Directory. Widgets are sort of like plugins which explains the confusion. Widgets simply provide a way to arrange your sidebar content without having to alter your website code.


Managing widgets

The beauty of widgets lies in the simplicity of the widget user interface. A widget can be added anywhere on your page by simply dragging and dropping them in to sidebars in the order you want.

By default, WordPress comes with many useful widgets, to review them log in to your admin area and navigate to Appearance > Widgets. This page contains Available Widgets on the left, the Primary Sidebar on the right side is where you need to drag and drop the widgets. To begin using widgets, the first thing you need to do is activate a widget on your website; we recommend understanding the sections on the Widgets page beforehand, displayed as follow.

  • The Available Widgets section displays the widgets your theme supports, these are not yet on your site but available to use. Below the name of each widget there is a brief description of the content it displays. Click on a widget to display the sidebars you may add this widget to and drag them to the widget-area to use them.
  • The Widget area is a list of widgets currently displayed on your website.
  • The right of the page displays the designated areas on your WordPress site where you can place these widgets.
  • Click on Inactive widgets in the bottom right-hand corner of the page; this section holds widgets you’ve removed from your sidebar sections but chosen to preserve the settings you chose for the particular to use them again. If you changed themes and appear to be missing some widgets, open the Inactive Widgets area to find the missing widgets along with their saved settings.
  • You primary sidebar is the main sidebar that appears on the left part of your website template. Click the sidebar to reveal the widgets already added to this sidebar in your admin area. The most straightforward way to understand how widget work is to match the widgets displayed on your website's sidebar and those added to the same sidebar in your admin area.
  • The content sidebar tab displays an additional sidebar located on the right part or directly next to content displayed on your pages. This is empty by default, you may add diverse widgets here such as Calendars to display on your pages.
  • Select Footer Widget Area, this section is for widgets appearing in the footer section of your site. Again, this will be empty by default, you can add functionality such as Archives and Meta widgets to it which will appear in your website footer.

Widget Areas

Familiarize yourself with the widget areas in your theme and optimize your widgets sidebars to better suit your site's needs. You can make custom sidebar configurations using plugins, Custom Sidebars for instance is a flexible widget area manager which manages and replaces sidebars and other widget areas on your site. It lets you dynamically display custom widget configurations on any page or post. There is plenty of room for customization, you may even create a floating sidebar widget with this tutorial.


How to add a widget to WordPress

WordPress comes with seven pre-installed widgets including Calendar, Archive and Text widgets. You can add these pages to your site straight away, or If you don’t see the widget you’re looking for, then its likely available when installed with a plugin. WordPress widget plugins come in two flavors: dedicated widget plugins and general WordPress plugins with support for widgets.

Install a Widget

You can install new widgets by searching the WordPress Plugin Directory. First, make sure a plugin is not old or broken, if it’s not listed in the WordPress Plugin Directory, make sure it’s from a credible source, check the rating and when it was last updated, at least six months ago.

Most importantly, check the plugin is either a sidebar widget, includes a sidebar widget, or adds extra functionality to sidebar widgets. To install head to the WordPress Administration Plugins Add New Screen, select a plugin, click Add New, then activate. Now your plugin is installed, you can add it to a sidebar.

Add a widget

Before you can add a Widget, you need to make sure the theme you’re using supports widgets. Most are widget ready with multiple designated widget areas however they aren’t required to support adding them so If you do not see any widget-ready areas (side bars) you cannot add a widget to your theme.

There are multiple ways to add widgets to your sidebars. The easiest option is just to drag and drop them to your chosen sidebar. Select a widget in Appearances > Widgets, drag it to your sidebar area and dropping it into a sidebar in the available Widgets area. The widget will automatically save. Now you’ve added a Widget WordPress will automatically update your theme.

You can also add widgets using the customizer page with live preview. From your dash, click Appearance then Customize, you can add widgets to sidebars from here. It’s worth noting that not all of your widget-ready areas and sidebars will appear in the customizer. The preferred method is using the Appearance » Widgets screen to add widgets in WordPress.

Configure Widgets with your content

You need to add settings and content to configure and display a widget properly. To customize widgets feature click the arrow in the upper right corner of the widget to expand its interface, then fill in some details and click Save. Now preview your site to see the content displayed in the widget.

Create custom WordPress widgets

You can create custom widgets, but for beginners, we recommend avoiding code and utilizing WordPress plugins. These help customize your theme and add functionality to your pages. On the other hand, If you feel comfortable with coding then you can alter your theme to suit your needs. You can always look at the sample theme for the framework as a starting point, or you can analyze the code in your child theme.

Remove a widget

When you no longer need a widget, you can remove it. To delete a widget log into the Wordpress Dashboard; Navigate to Appearance > Widgets on the left side of the WordPress dashboard. To remove the Widget, click Delete. If you think the widget might be useful for future use, save its setting by dragging it into the Inactive Widgets area. Saving widget in this area is helpful when you change themes, since there can be some variation in their set, having them saved here will make your transition smoother.

Now you can manage the widgets on your website, onto the types of widgets your site will benefit from.


Essential WordPress widgets

Once you understand what widgets are, you will likely need more of them for your site. As we mentioned earlier, WordPress doesn’t come with much choice of widgets. The good news is there are plenty of free and premium WordPress widgets using plugins. The options may be overwhelming to newbies, for this reason, we’ve compiled a list of core widgets useful for all WordPress sites.

Image widget

Image widgets provide a simple way to display an image in your WordPress websites sidebars. Adding images to sidebars is an easy way to add some visual interest to your site. HTML knowledge is needed to add an image to a sidebar, to avoid using HTML we recommend the Image Widget. With this plugin users can add an image using the WordPress Media uploader, you may add captions, alt text, and select the image size the easy way with their graphic UI. Look to Envira for one of the most powerful and user friendly image plugin compatible with widgets. To showcase more images, consider a slider widget such as Soliloquy, a powerful and user-friendly WordPress slider plugin.

Text widget

The WordPress text widget is one the most flexible, anything you can form with HTML can go into this widget which is designed specifically to hold text and code. Insert text, links, images, video, the possibilities are endless. You don’t need a plugin, this is included with your WordPress installation.

There are lots of plugins to help utilize the text widget, the Enhanced Text Widget is an enhanced version of the default WordPress text widget, that lets you add CSS, JavaScript, Flash, Shortcodes and PHP as content.

Pages widget

WordPress comes with a pages widget which adequately displays your pages in your sidebar making it easier for your readers to navigate around, alternatively, the Flexi pages widget is highly customizable, include and exclude pages, show as dropdown boxes and Sort by preferences.

Categories widget

WordPress comes with a basic categories widget that shows all recent posts from a selected category. For expanded functions, we recommend the Category posts widget, this displays categories elegantly. The premium version features eye catching extra from vertical and horizontal sliders, Categories, Custom Post Types, Taxonomies, Events, Products, responsive grid layouts and more.

Calendar

The pre installed WordPress Calendar Widget is a straight forward calendar which displays links to your posts by date. This is quite basic, you can’t create or display calendar events or anything similar. There are many calendars with more functionalities such as Google Calendar and plugins which display more complex booking and ticketing systems such as Booking Calendar.

Social Media widget

Social media widgets let your visitors connect with you through your preferred networks including Twitter, Facebook and Google. Use the Social Icons Plus widget to display buttons linked to your social media accounts in any widget area of your theme.

RSS widget

RSS widgets provide an ideal way of integrating outside content into your site. The WordPress RSS Widget allows you to integrate an external feed for recently published content from any source into a Widget area of your site.

Add from any RSS feed such as your Twitter account, Facebook posts, Google+ posts, or other blogs, useful if you want to bring attention to these sources in your sidebar. The WordPress RSS Widget displays either the post title, limited characters of a Tweet, a link to the original source.

Footer Widget

The footer area is a key component of a site generally not considered important, on the contrary, a good footer area incorporates helpful data about the site. You might include T&Cs, delivery charges, sitemap, contact us and once in a while promotional banners in this segment adding valuable data to connect with your visitors. Footer widgets are used to tweak the presence of a site or to execute extra usefulness in it. Utilizing footer gadgets such as Add Inserter Plugin spares you time to execute extra components.


Best WordPress widgets

Now we’ve covered the basics, you might want to enhance your site further. What’s best for your website depend on your needs and requirements, no matter what your website niche is, there is most likely a widget to support you. Our best of list covering a broad spectrum of plugins. The one thing they all have in common is usefulness and simplicity for adding new widgets and improving sidebars with all the UX design and aesthetics needed in a modern website.

  • YouTube Channel Gallery allows you to display videos from your Youtube channel in a user friendly grid layout, maximising space.
  • The WordPress Ad Widget is one of the easiest ways to display adverts on your WordPress site.
  • Show off satisfied customers with the Testimonals widget, place them in your footer for ultimate effect.
  • But your authors on display with the Authors widget, displaying an avatar, links to their posts and and the author’s RSS feed.
  • There are many widgets included in WordPress lead generation plugins. If you’re looking to build a list for your website or blog and boost your conversions, look no further than OptinMonster which comes with high converting subscribe forms for your site.
  • Feature a page widget - This plugin adds a page as a featured page in your WordPress sidebar, you may add a page title, featured image, and excerpts to the display.
  • Add credibility and warmth with an authors widget or the Simple Contact Info widget to add your own contact information, social icons and location by filling out a simple form.
  • If your looking to integrate weather information in to your site, look no further than weather widgets. We recommend WP-forecast accurate weather reports from Accuweather.
  • Adding a map can be helpful to navigate users to business or simply display your location on your site. The Google Maps Widget is the most straight-foward way to add a map to your site’s sidebar. The user simply clicks on the map to open it up.

Widgets for Blogs

Sidebars are equally important on WordPress Blogs. You can benefit from particular widgets aimed at enhancing your UI, SEO and conversions.

  • WordPress comes with a recent simple recent posts widget displaying a simple list of your latest published posts. Add some interest by displaying recent posts with thumbnail images with this name sake plugin.
  • Add a simple tag cloud widget with the Tag Cloud plugin, it looks at your tags and displays them in a widget, the more a tag is used, the larger it is. Each tag links to the tag page which helps with SEO.
  • Use widgets to display your blogs pages in your sidebar to make it easier for your readers to navigate around your blog and improve your SEO, the WordPress default widget takes care of this and comes preinstalled. Use WordPress Popular Posts to display your sites most popular posts in a light widget.
  • WordPress includes an archive widget great for new blogs but, once you’re established you might want something a bit more advanced. We recommend Compact Archives, this displays your archive of blog posts in a compact monthly calendar instead of the more common list format.

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