Basic Guide To WordPress Widgets

Basic Guide To WordPress Widgets

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WordPress

There are loads of benefits to choosing the WordPress CMS platform to build, manage and grow a website. One of these reasons is that you can easily add content, enhance your website and rearrange your site’s layout with no programming skills and knowledge required.

WordPress gives you the ability to quickly and easily add, delete, and rearrange various types of content. Right from your blog’s sidebar menu (or header and footer sections, depending on what theme you use) using widgets.

Widgets

(WordPress widgets)

This post explains what WP widgets are, why widgets can make life easier for non-technical users and how widgets can help add functionality to your website.

About WordPress Widgets: An Overview Of WordPress Widgets For Business Website Users

WordPress widgets help make managing and using WordPress easier

(Widgets make managing and using WordPress easy!)

A WordPress widget is a self-contained block of code that performs a particular function, such as adding functionality, or a script or menu item to your website or blog.

WordPress 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 learn how to script code.

Now… don’t worry if the above reads like “geek speak“. As will soon see, widgets are made for non-techie website owners.

With WordPress widgets, users don’t have to know how to program code or manipulate PHP code to enhance their site.

WordPress widgets help you manage many features and functions on your website without the need to touch code

(Widgets help you change technical features and functions on your site without requiring coding skills)

Widgets were originally developed to provide a simple way to allow WordPress users to control aspects of their website’s layout and functionality.

In simple terms, a widget lets you do things like:

  • Easily add, edit and delete functionality to certain parts of your website without touching any underlying code, and
  • Reconfigure how various elements display on widget-enabled areas of your site (e.g. the sidebar, header, footer and other areas) using drag-and-drop technology.

Some of the things you can add to your WP site’s sidebar area (plus headers and footers and other areas, varies on your theme) using widgets:list of your web pages.

  • links to your recent posts
  • recent comments
  • RSS content excerpts
  • opt-in subscription form
  • video galleries
  • social media buttons
  • Add widgets from external sites (e.g. Facebook)
  • content categories
  • blog post archive
  • menus
  • links to resources
  • clickable text ads
  • quotations
  • polls & surveys
  • Administrative forms (e.g. login, register, etc.)

In other articles, we provide an overview of themes and plugins. What they are and what they can do. As well how these can add new features to WP and even change the look and feel of your website or blog.

As you will learn Padawan, WP themes affect how widgets display on your site, and some plugins also come with accompanying widgets that will fine tune your website or blog’s capabilities.

Widget-Ready Themes

Most WP themes support widgets and provide widget sections in the theme’s layout where you can add widgets to.

Most of you will find features controlled by widgets in the theme’s sidebar. Depending on the theme, widgets can also be found in the header, footer, and even below or above your content section.

It depends on what theme you have installed.

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

 

Some WordPress Themes provide only one widget-ready area

(Some WordPress themes only provide a single widget area)

Below is the widget section of the theme shown above, where you can see that this theme only includes one widget area.

An Introduction To WordPress For New Users: Widgets - What Do They Do?

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

In contrast, the theme shown in the screenshot below includes a number of widget-ready areas.

Many WordPress themes offer users multiple widget-ready sections

(Many themes provide a number of widget areas)

Here is an enlarged image of the widget panel of the theme above, and you can see how many widget areas are included in this theme.

Multiple widgets areas

(Multiple widgets areas)

As shown above, with the above theme, widgets can be added to the sidebar area in two different page templates. (The Main Sidebar and Showcase Sidebar) and different Footer areas (Footer Area One, Footer Area Two, Footer Area Three).

Some themes let you add widgets to your site’s footer area.

Some themes let you add widgets to your site's footer area

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

Where Do I Access My WordPress Widgets?

The Widgets panel can be located inside the WP dashboard by going to Appearance > Widgets.

An Overview Of WordPress For Newbies: Widgets - How Do They Work?

This brings up your Widgets panel in your browser.

Widgets Panel

(Widgets Area)

The Widgets screen displays a list of all the widgets that are currently available for use on your site.

The right-hand section of the screen shows your “active” widgets.

Activate or deactivate widgets using drag and drop

(Activate or deactivate widgets using drag & drop)

Available widgets can be made Active or Inactive by dragging & dropping items to different areas of the panel.

Widgets pulled from the Available Widgets section to widget areas like your sidebar, footer, etc. become immediately activated for use on your website.

Your Widgets area also has an Inactive Widgets section that lets you remove any widgets that you are not using anymore. Inactive widgets retain their pre-configured settings.

Useful Information

In a default WordPress installation, your website already comes with pre-installed widgets. (e.g. adding RSS feeds, widgets for displaying your pages, links, posts, post categories, adding text, adding tags cloud, adding a search box, etc.) and active widgets.

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

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

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

Sometimes, as new WP plugins are installed on your site, you may find that new widgets are also added to your Widgets section.

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

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

Widgets Features: Drag & Drop

WP widgets are great because you can add, activate, deactivate, rearrange and delete them all within your Widgets section just by using drag and drop.

Rearrange widgets on your WordPress site using drag & drop

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

Use drag & drop technology to reorder quickly the order and layout of your website’s widget-enabled areas.

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

  1. A newsletter opt-in form,
  2. A support button, and
  3. A click to phone sales buttons from the widget area…

Widgets control how certain features on your site appear

(Widgets control how certain features display on your site)

Looking inside the example site’s Widget area, you would see that these features appear on the site in exactly the same order as they were arranged in the site’s active widget area.

An Overview Of WordPress For Beginners: WordPress Widgets - What Are They?

Let’s now change these widgets in the Sidebar Widget Area using drag & drop.

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

(Drag & drop to rearrange widgets in your widget area)

The widgets have now been reorganized in the sidebar.

An Overview Of WordPress For Beginners: What Is A WordPress Widget?

This instantly changes the layout of your sidebar. See in the screenshot below that the click to call function (3) is now at the top of the sidebar menu, and the contact us section (2) can now be found above the newsletter sign-up form (1).

WordPress widgets are really easy to use!

(Widgets are very easy to use!)

Pretty cool stuff, huh?

Let me show you some more things about using widgets that are also worth keeping in mind about:

Widget Management – Customize Widgets Section

Depending on the theme that you have installed, you can also change widgets without making actual changes to your site. So you can be sure everything look correct before committing any changes to your live published site.

You can do several things 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 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 to your site visitors.

Widget management - work in preview mode or configure widgets on the fly!

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

Widget Management is an incredible feature of WordPress. You can edit in preview mode inside the WP Theme Customizer screen. (Appearance > Customize) and see how your widget content will appear before publishing it. Or you can change widgets on the fly using the Widget editor screen shown beforehand.

Widget Configuration

As explained earlier, WordPress lets you completely rearrange how information displays in areas of your blog, like sidebars, footers and navigation menus with only a few clicks of your mouse button, using drag-and-drop technology.

Reorganizing sidebar layout with widgets can help improve your site's visitor experience

(Rearranging sidebar layout using widgets can improve readers experience)

In the above screenshot, you can see that I have changed the structure in the site’s sidebar menu by switching around the search and testimonial sections. As you now know, this was easily done by dragging and dropping the widgets into different positions inside the sidebar widget area.

Rearrange sidebar elements with widgets to improve your site’s visitor experience.

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

Absolutely!

With many static websites, you would need to edit code in your web templates to rearrange the layout. Or to make unique customizations to features on page elements like subscriber forms, or an index of your site pages, or a drop-down menu of your blog categories, an archived blog post entries section, custom menus, links to external sites, your most read posts, the latest comments to your posts, a section displaying text ads, customer testimonials, poll questions, RSS content, video galleries, Youtube feeds, and more.

Some widgets are “fixed” in the that they provide little to no customizable options, other than to add something like an optional title to the widget as shown in the example below.

Some widgets provide users with little to no customization

(Some widgets offer little to no custom options)

Most widgets provide additional options that allow you to customize further things. This includes making types of info hidden to your site visitors but visible to registered users. For example, displaying additional forms, fields, or information, specifying dimensions of sidebar images, videos, etc. and more.

Many widgets give you customization

(Many widgets offer customizing options!)

How To Use WP Widgets

As you have seen, widgets require no PHP coding experience to use. Most widgets can be added to your WordPress website by activating a plugin, then dragging and dropping the it’s widget into your Active widgets area.

There are some useful tips and tricks to using widgets. We plan to add more awesome tutorials to my website showing you how to use a number of different widgets in WordPress.  To help improve the effectiveness of your blog. Plus many great tips for getting the most out of WordPress using widgets, so stay tuned and come visit us again soon!

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

Comments? Questions? Feel free to post a comment below and share this information with your friends.

 

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Disclaimer: This site is not associated with WordPress or any of the WordPress products written about on this site. We may derive a financial benefit from sales of products advertised, reviewed or linked to from this site. All images used in this review have been supplied from the plugin’s website and/or from websites.
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