Using Widgets

Widgets are a great feature of WordPress that enable you to quickly add functionality to all of your pages.  With their drag and drop simplicity, you can often accomplish in just a few minutes a change that will enhance your whole site.  The best part?  You don’t need to write a single line of code.

What is a WordPress Widget?

A WordPress Widget is a small plug-in piece of code that enables you simply implement certain things into your webpage.  Want to add a bit of text to every page of your site?  Put it into a widget.  Want to include a search function on your site?  Use a widget.  Want to give users quick access to your archives?  Use a widget.

Now while widgets are small bits of code, you do not need to know any code to use them.  You just find one that does what you want and then use the WordPress Widgets option under the Appearance menu item to get to a drag and drop interface.  Drag, drop, and then customize if you want to.  Done.

Where Does One Obtain WordPress Widgets?

WordPress comes with a number of widgets included by default, but you can obtain more on the internet.  You can download them through the Plugins interface and some themes, such as the ones from Elegant Themes, come with some included.

If you have never searched for a plugin before, you can check out my previous article on how to install WordPress plugins.  If you can get WordPress installed at a host like HostGator, you are more than capable of searching for a plugin to help accomplish your website goals.

Using WordPress Widgets

Using widgets is simple.  Simply drag the widget you want to the location you want, then provide any information the widget requests, click save and you’re done.  Here is an example.

  1. Navigate using the WordPress menu to the Widgets page.  You can find it by going to Appearance, and then Widgets.

    WordPress Widget Menu Item

    WordPress Widget Menu Item

  2. On the Widgets page you will see all the widgets that you have installed.  The image below has a few that you are not likely to have unless you choose to install an Elegant Themes theme, but most of them are part of WordPress by default.

    Available WordPress Widgets

    Available WordPress Widgets

  3. Select the location that you wish to use the widget from the selections to the right of your screen.  This example only has one option, Sidebar 1.  Your theme may have multiple options, such as Main Page Sidebar, Right Sidebar, Left Sidebar, Footer, etc.

    WordPress Widget Location

    WordPress Widget Location

  4. Click the selection triangle in the upper right corner of your selection.  This will expand it and enable you to add widgets.
  5. Drag and drop the widget of your choosing from the list at the left to the selection at the right.

    Drag and Drop WordPress Widget

    Drag and Drop WordPress Widget

  6. If your widget requires any input from you, enter in the needed information.  For the text widget I just needed to add a title and some text.  You can alter your inputs at any time by selecting the little triangle in the upper right corner.

    Edit the WordPress Widget

    Edit the WordPress Widget

  7. You are done!  Reload your page and you should see your widget.  In fact, if you look to the top of the sidebar to the right you will see the very widget in this example.  It’s that simple!

A Quick Tip to Help You With Your Widgets

There is a space below the list of widgets labeled Inactive Widgets.  If you go through the effort of putting a widget on your site and later decide to not use it, you can drag it into the Inactive Widgets area and save it while keeping it inactive.  So all the settings will remain intact, but it will not be active and therefore not be published anywhere on your site.  This is very convenient and I use it much more often than I expected to.

Good luck!  And Happy posting.

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