Thursday, January 12, 2017

What You Need To Know About Widgets

WordPressThere are loads of great things about using the WordPress web publishing software for building and managing a digital presence. One of these is that you can easily add content, expand your website’s functionality and rearrange the layout of your website with no web programming skills required.

WordPress gives you the ability to quickly and easily insert, delete, and rearrange various blocks of content in your blog’s sidebar menu (and header and footer sections, depending on your theme) using widgets.

Widgets

(WP widgets)

This blog post explains how WordPress widgets work, why they are ideal applications for non-technical users and how widgets can help you to supercharge your site.

What Are WordPress Widgets? A Basic Guide To Widgets For Business Users

Widgets help make managing and using WordPress easier

(Widgets help make managing and using WordPress easy!)

WordPress widgets are small blocks of code that perform a specific function, such as adding a feature, or a script or item to your WordPress site.

The WordPress software is written using a scripting language called PHP (Hypertext Preprocessor). Normally, to add features and functions to a website, you have to learn how to program PHP code.

Now … don’t worry if this all sounds like geek speak. As you are about to see, widgets are perfect for non-technical users.

Widgets help you control many features and functions on your website without the need to touch code.

Widgets help you control technical features and functions on your site without requiring knowledge of coding

(WordPress widgets help you control technical features and functions on your site without requiring coding skills)

Widgets were originally designed to provide a simple way of giving WordPress users to control aspects of their WordPress theme’s layout and functionality.

Simply put, widgets let you do things like:

  • Easily insert, edit and remove content sections to certain parts of your site without having to touch any code, and
  • Rearrange 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.

Here are just some of the features you can add to your site’s sidebar navigation area (plus headers and footers and other areas, depending on the theme you have installed) using WP widgets:

  • site pages
  • site categories
  • archives
  • custom page menus
  • links to external sites
  • links to recent posts
  • post comments
  • clickable images
  • testimonials
  • survey results
  • RSS feed content
  • subscription form
  • product images
  • social media share buttons
  • add widgets from other sites (e.g. Amazon)
  • administrative forms (e.g. login, register, etc.)

In other blog posts, we write more extensively about plugins and WordPress themes; what they are, what they do, how these easily add new features to WordPress and even drastically change the entire look and feel of your site.

As you will see in a moment, themes affect where widgets work on your website and a number of plugins add accompanying widgets that can help further enhance your website’s features.

Widgetized Areas

Most themes support widgets and provide widget-ready sections on your site where widgets can show up in.

Normally, this is going to be in the sidebar, but depending upon the theme, widgets can also be located in your site’s header area, in the footer, even above or below your content.

It all depends on the theme that you have installed on your site.

For example, the theme in the screenshot below provides users with only one widget area for the theme’s sidebar area …

Some WP Themes provide only a single widgetized section

(Some WP themes have only a single widget enabled area)

Below is the widget section of the theme shown above, and you can see that this theme only contains one widgetized area …

An Overview Of WordPress For Beginners: About WordPress Widgets

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

In contrast, the theme shown in the screenshot below includes a number of different widget areas …

Many WordPress themes offer users a number of widgetized sections

(Many WP themes provide multiple widget-ready sections)

Below is an enlarged image of the widget screen of the above theme, where you can see how many widget areas this particular theme includes …

Multiple widgets areas

(Multiple WordPress widget areas)

As you can see, in the above theme, you can add widgets to the sidebar area of two different page templates (Main Sidebar and Showcase Sidebar) and three different Footer areas (Footer Area One, Footer Area Two, Footer Area Three) …

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

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

Where Can I See My Widgets?

The Widgets panel can be easily accessed inside the dashboard by going to Appearance > Widgets

What Are Widgets? A Basic Guide To WordPress Widgets For Business Users

This brings up the Widgets screen in your browser …

Widgets Area

(Widgets Panel)

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

On the right-hand side of the window, you can see 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 using drag-and-drop.

Widgets dragged from the Available Widgets section to widget areas like your sidebar, footer, etc. become active and available.

In addition, your Widgets screen includes an Inactive Widgets section that lets you remove any widgets that you no longer want on your site. Inactive widgets retain their pre-configured settings.

Useful Info

By default, your site already comes with a number of pre-installed widgets (e.g. widgets for displaying your pages, links, posts, post categories, adding text, adding RSS feeds, adding tags, 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 Recent Posts, Archives, Meta, etc. to visitors …

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

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

Sometimes, you may find that new widgets are added to your Widgets area whenever new plugins are installed on your site …

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

(Installing plugins can sometimes add new widgets to your Widgets admin area!)

WordPress Widgets Features: Drag & Drop

Widgets are great because you can easily insert, activate, deactivate, rearrange and remove them all right inside your Widgets section just by using drag & drop …

Rearrange widgets using drag-and-drop

(Rearrange widgets on your WordPress site using drag-and-drop)

Using drag-and-drop lets you easily reconfigure the layout and order of your widget-enabled sections.

For example, take a look at the image below. In this site, the widgets have already been configured to display:

  1. A newsletter subscription form,
  2. A click for support banner, and
  3. A couple of click to call sales buttons from a widgetized plugin …

Widgets control the order certain features appear on your site

(Widgets control the order certain features display on your site)

Looking inside the example site’s Widget area, you would see that these features appear on the site’s sidebar menu in exactly the same order as they have been arranged in their active widget area …

Understanding WordPress For Newbies: What's A Widget?

Let’s now change the order these widgets in the Widget Area by dragging & dropping elements in the widget area …

Drag and drop to rearrange widgets in your widget area

(Drag-and-drop widgets in your widget area to rearrange their order)

The widgets have now been reordered in your sidebar …

A Basic Guide To WordPress For Business Users: What's A Widget?

This instantly reorganizes the order of items in your site’s sidebar. Note in the screenshot below that the click to call feature (3) is now the first item on the sidebar menu, and the contact us banner (2) can now be found above the newsletter subscription form (1) …

WordPress widgets are really easy to use!

(WordPress widgets are very easy to use!)

Pretty simple stuff, huh?

Let me show you some other things worth knowing about widgets:

Widget Management – Widget Previews

Depending upon the theme that you have installed, you can also manage widgets without making actual changes to your site, so you can be sure that you like what you have done before committing these changes to the live website.

You can do several things 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’ve done and click the “Save and Publish” button, your changes will then be instantly updated and reflected on your site.

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

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

The ability to manage widgets from your own dashboard is a great feature of WordPress. You can work in preview mode inside the WordPress Theme Customizer screen (Appearance > Customize) and see how your widget content will appear before publishing changes (and avoid making mistakes), or manage your widgets on the fly using the Widget editor screen discussed previously.

Widget Configuration

As we have explained earlier, WordPress lets you completely rearrange how information is displayed in widgetized areas of your website or blog, like sidebars, footers and navigation menus with just a few clicks of your mouse, using drag-&-drop …

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

(Reorganize sidebar layout with widgets to improve visitor experience)

In the above screenshot, for example, you can see that we have quickly and easily reorganized the layout in the site’s sidebar by switching the search and testimonial sections. As you now know, this was easily done by simply dragging and dropping the widgets into different positions inside the sidebar widget area.

Reorganizing sidebar layout using widgets can help to improve your site’s user experience.

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

Absolutely!

With most traditionally-designed websites, you would need to edit code in the web templates to reorganize the layout, make unique customizations to features on page elements like newsletter subscription forms, or just add things like a list of your web pages, or a dropdown menu of your blog post categories, an archives section, custom menus, links to external sites, a list of your most read posts, the latest comments, a section displaying image banners, testimonials or surveys, RSS feed items, videos, social media buttons, and more.

While some widgets are “fixed” in the sense 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 offer little to no customizing options

(Some widgets give you little to no configurable options)

Most widgets provide various settings that allow you to further customize things. This can include things like making certain types of information hidden to site visitors but visible to registered users, displaying additional forms, fields, or data, specifying dimensions of sidebar images, videos, etc. and more …

Many widgets give you configurable options

(Many widgets give you customizing options!)

How To Use WordPress Widgets

As you have seen, widgets require no coding experience or programming expertise to use. Most widgets can be added to your website or blog simply by activating a plugin and then dragging and dropping the plugin’s related widget into your Active widgets area.

There are some tips and tricks to using widgets, however, and we will be adding more detailed step-by-step tutorials showing you how to use various widgets in WordPress to improve the effectiveness of your site, plus many cool tips on how to get the most benefit out of WordPress using widgets, so remember to bookmark this site and come back soon!

Related Posts

If you are a new WordPress user, you may also find the following related posts useful:

Hopefully this information has given you a better understanding of issues that can affect your website and how WordPress can help you build a better online. To learn more about the benefits of using WordPress for a business website or blog please click on links to visit our related posts section.

Want more help with WordPress? Please add your thoughts below and feel free to share this article with your friends.

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