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When starting your first blog on WordPress there are some basics you should be aware of. Because they can help you master your blog quickly. So you can start looking like a pro blogger.
These WordPress basics include learning about things. Like plugins, themes, the WordPress dashboard, Gutenberg and more. All of which are important steps to master your WordPress blog.
Another important WordPress feature to consider is understanding how to use WordPress widgets. As adding widgets to WordPress and knowing how to edit widgets in WordPress. Are all powerful blogging tools. That can help you take your blog to the next level.
So, let’s take a look at everything you need to know about WordPress widgets. Even if you are a complete beginner to the world of WordPress and blogging.
What Do Widgets Do In WordPress?
WordPress widgets are an important WordPress basic. That every blogger should understand how to use. As they can help you customize your blog. With powerful features such as calendars and even something as crucial as a search bar.
Widgets are a lot like plugins in this respect. As they can help you add features to your blog without the need to use any code. In fact, a lot of plugins will add widgets to your blog.
As an example, Jetpack will add the main features of the plugin. Such as blocking brute-force attacks and measuring your blog traffic. But it is also adding widgets to WordPress in the background. For things like a cookie consent popup, social icons or a top posts and pages list.
You can also consider WordPress widgets to be similar to Gutenberg blocks. As a widget is often a block you can move around and has certain features depending on its type.
Widgets generally appear on every page in the same way. But it is possible to change this by using extra plugins. Like Widget Logic or Jetpack. To toggle the visibility of widgets to only appear on certain pages.
Where Do I Find My Widgets?
There are 2 main places that you can use to find your WordPress widgets. Both can be found within your WordPress dashboard. By going to your Appearance > Widgets or Appearance > Customize > Widgets menu.
The latter method of using the Appearance > Customize > Widgets menu. Is the better option of the 2 because it not only allows you to visually see your changes. But you can also see all your changes before you save them.
However, in some cases, your theme might not support this option. Although this should be rare in today’s theme market. If your theme doesn’t support it. I would suggest that you consider whether this theme is best for you. Because having access to the WordPress customizer will make your life so much easier. Even if you’ve been blogging for a while. As everything is much more visual!
Either way, regardless of which method you decide is best for you. You’ll find instructions for both methods below.
How To Use WordPress Widgets Using The WordPress Customizer
As mentioned earlier. You will want to navigate to Appearance > Customize > Widgets to use this method. This will open up a screen that looks like the below:
You screen will look a little different. As the preview on the right side of the screen should reflect your blog’s theme and settings.
How To Add A Widget To A WordPress Page Using The Customizer
The first important step to know is how to add widgets to your widget areas. But one important point to consider first. Is that the widget areas shown to you on the left side of the screen are context dependant to your preview on the right.
How To Find Your Widget Areas In The WordPress Customizer
What this means is that WordPress will only show the widget areas that are used on the current preview page. So, if there is a WordPress widget area that you want to edit. That is not on your homepage. Then you will need to navigate to it using the preview on the right. This is why you will sometimes see a message above your widgets that looks like this:
The preview of your blog on the right can be navigated just like you can on any other website. So, for example, if you look at my blog’s homepage. You may have noticed it does not have a sidebar. Therefore if I want to add a widget in WordPress to my sidebar. I would have to click through to a blog post using the preview of my blog.
Adding Widgets To WordPress
With this vital consideration out of the way. Find the page on your blog using the preview on the right until the widget area on the left is available. Don’t worry if you do not know what widget area does what. As you can try these steps with any area and see the results without making any changes to your blog.
Once you’ve found the widget area you want to use. Click on it and it should expand to look like this:
From here click the Add a Widget button. A list of possible widgets you can add will appear to the right. Clicking on the widget will add it to your selected widget area.
You can either scroll through this list of widgets. Or use the search box at the top to find the widget you want to add.
How To Edit Widgets In WordPress Using Their Settings
For this example, I’ve clicked the Categories widget. As you can see, when it is expanded there are several settings we can adjust.
Most widgets that you come across will have the Title field. Here you can enter some text to appear above the widget on your blog. Think of it like a header, but it is completely optional. So you can leave it blank if you wish.
The other settings on this widget. Such as the display as dropdown, show post counts and show hierarchy. Are all specific to the Categories widget. As many widgets you will come across will have different settings you can adjust.
How To Delete A Widget In WordPress
Next up, if you want to delete a widget. Make sure the widget you want to delete is expanded so you can edit its settings. Then click on Delete. The widget will disappear and that’s all there is to it.
One disadvantage the customizer has compared to the Widgets panel. Is that you can only delete widgets. You’ll see later how you can store inactive widgets with all their settings saved.
How To Reorder Widgets In The WordPress Customizer
Okay, so let’s say you’ve added a few different widgets to your sidebar widget area. How can you reorder these? So they show in a different order to how you added them.
Well, if you look at my Primary sidebar. You will notice that I have a Custom HTML widget (my email opt-in form) and a Social Warfare: Popular Posts widget. To reorder these I could drag and drop these 2 items to rearrange them. (This is exactly the same as when creating WordPress menus.)
You could also click the Reorder button. Then you could click the up and down arrows to move items around on the list. Remember to click Done when finished though!
Once you’ve made all your changes to your WordPress widgets. And you’ve previewed them to make sure everything looks correct. You can then click the Publish button at the top. This will make these changes live. You can even schedule these changes for a specific time. Which is a feature you can use whenever you use the WordPress customizer to make changes to your blog.
How To Use WordPress Widgets Using The Widgets Panel
Right, so the alternative method to using the customizer. Involves going to Appearance > Widgets.
On the left side are the available WordPress widgets for your blog. Over on the right side are all the widget areas you can add your widgets to.
Now, this is where the WordPress customizer outshines this widget panel. Because if you don’t know which widget area affects which part of your blog. Then you are going to be playing a guessing game. As every time you add a widget you’ll need to go load the live version of your blog. In a separate tab to see what changes were made.
Also, if you’ve noticed the Manage with live preview at the top. This is a quick shortcut that will take you to the WordPress customizer screen.
Adding Widgets To WordPress Using The Widgets Panel
To add a widget using the widgets panel. There are a few different methods. Firstly, by clicking and dragging a widget from the left side. And dropping it into your chosen widget area on the right side.
Or you could also click on the widget and then select the widget area from the dropdown list. Before then clicking add widget from underneath.
Finally, the last option is that you can click on the Add or Edit buttons to the right of your widgets. To add them to a widget area or edit their settings. This option is only available when you Enable the accessibility mode. Which you can enable by clicking on the link at the top of the widgets page.
Whenever you add a widget the changes are automatically saved immediately. If you edit an existing widget then you need to ensure you click on the Save button.
How To Delete Widgets Within The Widgets Panel
If you want to delete a widget. You will need to click on the title of the widget you want to remove on the right side of the screen. Then click the Delete button that shows at the bottom left.
If you would rather store the widget and any settings you have given it for use later. Then instead you can drag and drop it into the Inactive Widgets section. (You can find it at the bottom left underneath all your available widgets.) This is useful for testing or widgets that involve a lot of settings.
How To Reorder Your WordPress Widgets
Want to reorder the widgets you’ve added? Well, this is as easy as dragging and dropping them. Or if you are using the accessibility mode. You can click on the Edit button next to the widget. This will take you to another screen where you can set the Position of the widget using numbers. It is much easier to drag and drop though. So, I’d stick to that if you can.
How To Edit Widgets In WordPress Using The Widgets Panel
To make any further edits to your widgets once you’ve added them to a widget area. You can click on the name of the widget to expand it. Here in the expanded view, you can change your settings the exact same way as you would in the customizer.
Which Widgets Are Installed By Default?
Earlier I mentioned that WordPress comes with some default widgets. These are available regardless of what WordPress theme you are using. So, what WordPress widgets can you add?
PHP code won’t work without an additional plugin though. So, if you use this widget for code. Make sure you know what type of code you are using.
Shows a small calendar display, which can be used to view both upcoming posts and past posts.
Recent Posts Widget
The Recent Posts widget does exactly as it sounds. It adds a list of your most recent blog posts to the area you add this widget to.The Recent Posts widget also lets you set the number of posts to show (max 10). Plus the option on whether to display the post date.
Displays a shortlist of the recent comments on your blog.
Displays an interface of monthly archives. So your readers can browse posts based on when they were posted.
This simple widget only has the option to customize the title. Despite this, it is one of the most powerful widgets you can get. That every blog that should make use of. As it will add a search bar to wherever you add the widget.
If you are looking for more tips to use the WordPress search widget. As well as ways to make the search feature even more powerful on your blog. Then you can read this full tutorial guide here.
Creates a menu like as a list or dropdown of your WordPress categories. That users can use to navigate and find more relevant content on your blog.
Displays your most used tags in a cloud-style. Try to stick to using the Categories widget instead though. As it is much more efficient in helping your audience browse your blog posts.
Pulls in information into a feed format from various external sources. Like other blogs or social media posts on platforms like Twitter.
Audio & Video Widgets
These widgets allow you to add video and audio players into your blog from a range of sources.
Adds a list of all your blog pages.
Easily display an image in your widget areas. You can even use this widget to create links out of your images. So they work a lot like buttons.
Allows you to display a list of links for WordPress.org and RSS pages. Plus it includes a shortcut to the site admin (if available). And your WordPress login status.
Custom Menu Widget
Use this widget to create custom menus outside of the usual WordPress menu bar locations.
How Do I Get New Widgets In WordPress?
So far we’ve looked at how to use widgets in WordPress. As well as the default widgets that all blogs start with. But what if you need something more than the defaults?
Adding Widgets To WordPress Using Plugins
Well, more widgets can be added through plugins. Some plugins that you will add to your blog for other reasons. Will add widgets in the background. That you won’t notice until you go into your widgets menu. Some plugins are even dedicated to only adding widgets. Which you might use if you are looking for something specific.
It’s not only your plugins that can add widgets to WordPress, though. Some WordPress themes can also come with extra widgets. Especially if it is a premium theme, the chances are more likely.
Popular Options To Add Extra Widgets
Looking to add some extra widgets to your WordPress blog? Here are some popular options. That might be a worthy addition to your blog.
This widget is a lot like the recent posts widget. But instead, it allows you to list your posts by popularity. Whether this is based on the number of comments or pageviews is up to you.
The SiteOrigin Widgets Bundle. Is a massive collection of widgets. That includes buttons, Google maps, contact forms and more. With 1 million+ active installs it is definitely 1 of the most popular widget plugins there is.
For displaying Instagram feeds from 1 or more accounts. This widget plugin has over 900,000+ active installs. So it’s popular too!
Quickly allows you to add social media buttons to your widget areas. That link back to your social media accounts.
What You Should Watch Out For With Widgets & Themes
Widget options are vast and flexible but there are also some limitations to them as well. Whilst they can be used in widget areas, reordered and arranged to your preferences. The main limitations of widgets are related to your WordPress themes.
Why? Because themes are what set your widget areas. So if you do not decide carefully on your WordPress theme. You might end up with one that is poor quality. That doesn’t have many widget area options.
In addition, you need to be mindful of your widgets if you ever decide to change themes. As some widgets might be extras only included in certain themes. Also, if the widget areas change in the new theme. Then it is likely your widgets will disappear. Though you can usually find them in the Inactive Widgets area. If you go into Appearance > Widgets.
Recap Of How To Use WordPress Widgets
Overall, when learning how to use WordPress widgets. It is obvious that they are simple to use but powerful too. Especially, as they do not need you to know any code.
Some important points to note. Are that you can choose between the 2 methods of how to edit widgets in WordPress. By using either the WordPress customizer or the default Appearance > Widgets menu. Depending on your preferences and your theme’s capabilities.
However, I do recommend using the WordPress customizer if you can. As you can easily see changes before you save and make them live.
If you need a specific widget. That currently isn’t part of the default widgets included with WordPress. Then there are tons of options to choose from. As adding new widgets is as simple as installing a new plugin.
But as always, keep in mind that widget areas are dependant on your theme. Whilst some bonus widgets might be specific to your theme as well. So if you ever decide to change themes later. You might find yourself missing widgets and having to recreate them. Or even trying to find alternative ways to achieve your previous settings. Which is why it is important to try to choose the best WordPress theme, the first time when possible.
So, what WordPress widgets are you currently using on your blog? Do you have any widget plugins installed for extra features? Let me know in the comments below!
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