A WordPress widget adds content or features to specific areas of your site – usually your sidebar. The areas that widgets go are specified in your theme and can sometimes be added in plugins too.
Widgets were originally designed to provide a simple and easy way to design the layouts of your websites header, footer and other areas of your site. This idea of laying out your site has evolved into the Theme Customizer and widgets are primarily used to add simple dynamic features in sidebars and other widgitized areas of your site. The location of and amount of widget areas differs from theme to theme.
WordPress includes over a dozen widgets by default and a number of plugins add their own widgets too.
Widgets can be used to display anything on your website but the most common uses are for displaying:
- Navigational links and blog information such as your blogs categories or tags.
- Contact and opt-in forms.
- Media such as images, galleries, videos or music.
Adding Widgets to your site
Most WordPress themes will utilize widgets in one way or another but not all themes support them. You can see if your theme supports them by going to either the following locations in the admin side menu:
- Appearance > Widgets or
- Appearance > Customize > Widgets
If there is no widgets menu then you can add widget support to your theme by editing your themes template files.
Adding widgets to your site via Widgets page
All of the available widgets are displayed on the Widgets page. Your widgets are displayed on the left hand side and your available widget areas are displayed on the right hand side. There are two ways to add widgets to your sidebar on the widgets page.
The first way to add a widget to your site is by clicking on the widget on the left which will reveal the widget area dropdown. You select the widget area you want to add it to and then click Add Widget.
The second way is to simply drag the widget from the left into the sidebar you are wanting to add it to on the right.
Configuring your widgets via Widgets page
After your widget is in your chosen widget area, you can click on it to configure it. Most widgets will have options to configure certain aspects of the widget but some may be simple enough that you do not need to configure anything.
In most cases you will be able to add a widget title which gets displayed at the top of the widget area.
Adding widgets to your site via Customize page
Widgets can be edited in a more front-end oriented visual way in the Appearance > Customize admin page.
Select the widgets menu to bring up the list of available widget areas you have on your site. Selecting one of the widget areas will display all of the widgets in that widget area and will allow you to add a widget by selecting the +Add a widget button.
You can adjust the order of the widgets by clicking on the reorder link and then clicking either the up or down arrows on each of the widgets to reorder them. You can also just drag them up or down to reorder them too.
When reordering is available, you can click the external move button next to the up and down arrows which will bring up a list of your other available widgitized areas that you can move the widgets to.
Configuring your widgets via Customize page
You can configure your widgets and see them update in real time via the Appearance > Customize > Widgets page. Select a widget area from the list and click on the widget you would like to configure.
The widget will drop down with all of the configuration options available for that widget. Once you make a change, the page preview will update reflecting your changes.
Once you are happy with your changes, you can select the publish button to make the changes live on your site. You can also click on the cog/settings button to specify different options for either a scheduled publish or creating a draft of the changes.
If you have created widgets but do not want them to be currently displayed in your widget ares then you can drag them to the inactive widgets area.
The inactive widgets area is underneath the available widgets on the Appearance > Widgets page.
Once you are ready to display the widget again, you can drag it back onto a widget area. If you do not want the inactive widgets then you can click the clear inactive widgets button to remove them.