Tutorial for newbies on WordPress Widgets and Sidebars

The great thing about WordPress can be its level of customization, even for beginners. Of course, you still have to understand how its basic features work if you want to get the most out of your website. Learn how sidebars and widget functions are a great first step.

WordPress widgets are handy little modules that allow you to add specific functionality to your site's sidebars and footers. Even better, you don't need to know any coding to use them. Thanks to the widget, you can use your sidebar to display images, display your recent posts, provide a search bar and more.

Introduction to WordPress Widgets and Sidebars

There are several ways WordPress helps you customize the look and functionality of your website, even if you are not a designer. For example, topics allow you to make large-scale changes to your site's appearance. However, what if you want to add specific features to your web pages?

Enter widgets - a simple but flexible option included in WordPress by default. Widgets are small, built-in modules that add new functionality to your website. Using a widget, you can include features like the search bar, list of recent posts, custom menus and more on your pages. Also, the method of actually placing an extension on your site couldn't be easier (we'll explain how to do this right away).

For their destination, there is one or more specified 'widget areas' on your website. How many widget areas you have and their location varies depending on your theme. However, they are generally located in the sidebar (s) and footer of your site. Therefore, widgets are a method of building your sidebars and similar elements, so you can customize what they contain.

How to add widgets to your WordPress website

It's always easiest to understand how a feature works by watching it work. So, learn exactly how to use widgets in WordPress. There are two ways to add widgets to your site. You will want to navigate to your control panel, then navigate to Interface> Customization or Interface> Utilities.

We will use the first method because the WordPress Customizer allows you to view changes to your site as you make them. When you are in the Customize screen, click the Utilities tab.

Here, you will see a list of widget areas on your website. Again, what these areas (and their location on your pages) will vary depending on the topic you are using. In our example, we are using the Twenty Seventeen WordPress theme, which has a sidebar on the right of the page and two separate footers.

Click on the widget area you want to customize. You will probably see a few widgets listed there. For example, the Twenty Seventeen version we are using has two utilities Document and utilities Search in the sidebar by default.

Select the Add gadget button and you will see a list of all the options you can put in your widget area. Suppose you want to include a list of categories in the sidebar. You just need to click on the Category widget and it will appear in the list on the left.

To customize a widget, click the small arrow in the right corner. Each widget has unique options. For example, the Category widget allows you to set a title and select from several settings.

If you want to delete a widget, you can click Delete at the bottom of its window. To rearrange widgets, select one and drag it up or down.

In the Customization window, you can see your changes take effect. For example, dragging the Category widget onto your sidebar will make it appear right on the page. You can do this with all the utility areas of your website, adjusting them until you are satisfied. When you're done, don't forget to press the Publish button to save your changes!

Explore WordPress default widget options

Once you've added the utilities to your WordPress site and browsed the list of default options, you might be wondering what all these modules actually do. We will not consider every single extension here, but touch on some of the most useful.

First, the Text widget is the most flexible in the group. If you open it, you will see a stripped down version of the regular WordPress editor.

Using this widget, you can add text, links, and more to your sidebar and footer. You can even use the Text tab to include code - meaning this little utility can help you add almost any feature to your widget areas.

Next, the Search utility is likely the simplest option.

This is an essential utility because users will expect a search bar on whatever website they visit.

For a blog, news site or similar site, the recent article widget is a smart inclusion.

This will display a short list of your recent posts in the widget area, enticing visitors to read your latest (and hopefully biggest) content. You can set the title, again optional, decide how many posts will be displayed and choose to display each day of the post.

Finally, you might also want to check out the Navigation Menu widget.

Most themes have one or more menus built in to their design. However, you can use widgets to place additional menus in your sidebars and footers. For more information on how to do this, see our full guide on creating custom menus.

WordPress offers many more utilities than we can mention here and it's worth getting yourself familiar with all of them. Most are self-explanatory, but if you're having trouble, you can check WordPress Codex For more details.

4 plugins to help Supercharge your WordPress utilities

Although WordPress's built-in utilities are very powerful, some users want more options. Additionally, you can benefit from having more control over the sidebar, footer and other widget areas. These four plugins give you more choice and flexibility when it comes to your widgets and sidebars.

1. Recent Posts Widget With Thumbnails

As we discussed above, WordPress already exists Recent Articles Widget. However, it will only display links to your latest posts. Adding an image to each post is a great way to draw more attention to this element and help your sidebar look more attractive. Recent posts widget with thumbnails is a simple yet effective free plugin that allows you to achieve this.

2. Top article and article widget of Jetpack

What if, instead of showing your most recent posts, you wanted to direct visitors to your best content? Jetpack Top Articles & Page Gadget allows you to show posts that are working well. You can show your most liked posts or content that has received the most traffic in the last two days.

3. SiteOrigin Widgets Package

The previous two plugins only included a single utility, which is great if you only need a specific feature. Other way , SiteOrigin's Widgets package , add dozens of new widgets to your website. Using this plugin, you will be able to place buttons, maps, carousel posts, social media links and more in your sidebar and footer.

4. Custom Sidebars - Dynamic Widget Area Manager

Generally, adding a widget to your sidebar means it will show up in the same place on every page and post. However, it is common to want different features and information displayed on different parts of your site. Custom sidebars allows you to change which widgets appear on which page, along with providing a host of other customization options.