Published by on May 13, 2020 • 0 Comments • Lire en Français

When you start using WordPress, you are confronted with dozens of new terms.

Plugins, themes, categories, keywords, sidebar, widgets, etc. are available. It's enough to make you lose your mind.

Don't panic. You don't have to hold it all back at once. By proceeding step by step, you will master everything you need to manage your site like a pro.

It's just a matter of time. Believe me 🙂

In this new post, we'll see what WordPress widgets are, what they're for and how they'll help you.

What is a WordPress widget?

Let's build on what we have. Do you know what a sidebar is? It's the column you can add on the side of a page.

All right, fine. Now you can learn what a WordPress widget is: it's a module you can insert in a sidebar. Thanks to it, you will be able to display precise information to your visitors.

By default, WordPress offers 12 widgets. Some WordPress themes add others, and plugins allow you to integrate widgets that perform specific actions.

If you have a developer side, you can even create your own widgets… but that's another story.

For example, on WPMarmite, there is a widget to subscribe to the blog's newsletter, a list of posts, a search field, and another form that remains at the top of the screen when scrolling through the articles.

How to add a WordPress widget to a sidebar

If your theme has one or more widget zones, you can insert widgets into them by going to Appearance > Widgets

(Can't find this menu? This means that your theme is not compatible with widgets).

Most themes have two “widgetized” areas (sometimes there are more):

  1. The sidebar
  2. The footer

By going to Appearance > Widgets, you will come to the next page. Let's see what it's made of:

The default WordPress widgets
  1. Widgets available: List of widgets offered by WordPress, your theme and possibly by your plugins.
  2. Widgetized areas of your theme: Depending on the theme it may have one or more. In some themes, it is even possible to create your own widget zones.
  3. Inactive widgets: If you wish to temporarily remove widgets from the widget areas, you will need to place them here. This space is kind of an invisible widget zone. The advantage is that the widgets' settings are kept safe (no need to set a new one).

To integrate a widget into a widget zone, just drag and drop it to the desired place:

Drag and drop your widgets in your sidebar

As you can see, it's not very complicated 🙂

Now, let's see how to manage your WordPress widgets.

Managing WordPress widgets on your site

Once you've added your first widgets, you'll find that they have a number of things in common.

We note the presence of a Delete link, Close link and a Save button.

  • Delete: Clicking on this link will remove the widget from the area where it was added along with all its settings.
  • Close: Clicking on this link will retract the widget. To redeploy it, click on the widget (or the arrow on the right).
  • Save: This button is used to save the changes made to the widget. It is important to click on it once after setting up your widgets.

If the location of one of your widgets no longer suits you, you can move them as you wish with a simple drag and drop:

Manage your widgets' locations in the sidebar

The example above shows that it is possible to change the order of the WordPress widgets in the sidebar of the theme, but you can also move a widget from one widgetized area to another :

Pretty easy, isn't it?

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Since this post is called the complete guide to widgets in WordPress, we won't stop there.

Now let's dive into…

The default WordPress widgets

We have seen that WordPress offers default widgets (12 exactly). Let's look at what they accomplish and how they are useful (or not).

This overview will also allow us to find out what the options they offer are all about.

The Archives widget

The Archives WordPress widget

This first widget is used to display the monthly archives of your site.

If your WordPress site is recent (less than 6 months old), I strongly advise you not to use it.

In the case of an older site, my opinion is mixed.

On one hand it shows your regularity in terms of publication.

That said, on the other hand, these links are quite seldom clicked (have you ever visited a site and thought: “Here, how about if I read the June 2012 articles?”).

I personally prefer not to use this WordPress widget.

Archives widget options

  • Title: Text to be displayed before the widget. For example “Archives”, “Blog archives” or nothing at all. This setting is optional.
  • Display as drop-down: Instead of displaying a list of links, this option will allow you to display a drop-down list, which takes up much less space within the widgetized area.
  • Show post counts: Checking this option will display the number of posts published each month at the link level or in the drop-down list (if enabled).

Don't forget to click Save to validate your options.

The Recent Posts widget

The Recent Posts widget

The second default WordPress widget is more interesting. It allows you to display the list of the latest articles published on your blog.

This widget is very useful to share your latest publications at a glance.

This widget is almost indispensable, but make sure you don't display it on your latest articles page to avoid duplication.

You can use the widget logic plugin to hide this widget on some pages.

Recent Posts widget options

  • Title: Text to be displayed before the widget. For example “Latest Articles”, “Fresh Articles” or nothing at all. This setting is optional.
  • Number of posts to show: Choose the number of items the WordPress widget should display. By default the number is 5, but don't go beyond 10.
  • Display post date: Checking this option will display the publication date of the submitted posts.

The Calendar widget

The Calendar WordPress widget

This widget is used to integrate a calendar that displays the current date. The posts' days of publication are marked by links to the archive page of the day (which displays the articles published that day).

Clearly, this widget is useless. Do not use it.

Calendar widget options

  • Title: Text to be displayed before the widget. For example “Calendar” or nothing at all. This setting is optional.

The Categories widget

A widget to display your WordPress categories

The Categories widget is used to display the list of categories on your site (created in Posts > Categories).

If you haven't integrated them into your menu, this widget can be a good way to guide your visitors through your site.

Categories widget options

  • Title: Text to be displayed before the widget. For example “Categories”, “Blog categories” or nothing at all. This setting is optional.
  • Display as drop-down: Instead of displaying a list of links, this option will allow you to display a drop-down list, which takes up much less space within the widgetized area.
  • Show post counts: Checking this option will display the number of items contained in each category.
  • Show hierarchy: If you use sub-categories, you can highlight them in the widget by displaying the category tree.

The Search widget

The Search widget on WordPress

If you want to give your visitors the possibility to search your site, this widget will integrate a search field in one of the widgetized areas of your theme.

If your blog contains a small number of articles, I don't recommend using it because you can easily browse through everything.

If your theme already has a search field, in the header for example, this widget will not be useful (no need to have two).

Search widget options

  • Title: Text to be displayed before the widget. For example “Search”, “Find what you're looking for” or nothing at all. This setting is optional.

The Recent Comments widget

The Recent Comments WordPress widget

This WordPress widget is used to display a list of the latest comments posted by your visitors.

As a visitor, have you ever clicked on this kind of widget? No? Neither do I.

This widget is therefore useless, and pollutes your site. Do not use it.

Recent Comments widget options

  • Title: Text to be displayed before the widget. For example “Last comments” or nothing at all. This option is optional.
  • Number of comments to show: Set the number of comments to display.

The RSS widget

A widget to display RSS feeds in your WordPress sidebar

The RSS widget is used to display the content of an RSS feed on your site.

For information, an RSS feed corresponds to the list of posts in a blog or news site (it can also correspond to a specific category or keyword).

Unless you want to send your visitors to another site, this widget isn't really useful.

RSS widget options

  • Enter the RSS feed URL here : Enter the URL of the RSS feed you wish to display.
  • Give the feed a title (optional): As for other widgets, you can define a title.
  • How many items would you like to display?: How many items do you want to display for this feed? By default, the number is 10.
  • Display item content?: Checking this box will display the content of the feed elements, which may be cumbersome in some cases.
  • Display item author if available?: Checking this box will display the author of the item if it is available.
  • Display item date?: Checking this box will display the publication date of the item.

The Navigation Menu widget

If your site's menu is too narrow, you can use this widget to display an additional menu.

Some themes do not have a menu in their header. So you have the possibility to display one with this widget.

This widget is very useful in some very specific cases. You can also use it instead of the Categories widget to display the categories of your choice.

Navigation Menu widget options

  • Title: Text to be displayed before the widget. For example “Main menu” or nothing at all. This setting is optional.
  • Select Menu: The menus you have created in Appearance > Menus will appear here. Create a new one, and then return to this widget to define the newly created menu.

The Meta widget

WordPress' Meta widget

The Meta widget displays a series of useful links for the webmaster of the site (in this case, you).

This widget will display :

  • A link to the administration (wp-admin)
  • A connection/disconnection link
  • The link of the RSS feed of posts
  • The link to the RSS feed of comments

This widget is useless and clutters up your sidebar. Do not use it.

Meta widget options

  • Title: Text to be displayed before the widget. For example “Useful links” or nothing at all. This setting is optional.

The Tag Cloud widget

The Tag Cloud WordPress widget

This WordPress widget is used to display an anthology of tags or categories used on your site.

Each keyword will have a size proportional to the number of times it is used.

Don't use this widget. No one clicks on it to navigate a site.

Tag Clouds widget options

  • Title: Text to be displayed before the widget. For example “Tags”, “Tag Cloud” or nothing at all. This setting is optional.
  • Taxonomy: Choose the type of classification to display: tags or categories.

The Pages widget

The Pages widget allows you to display the list of pages on your site.

This WordPress widget may have been useful before the Navigation Menu widget appeared.

Today it seems to me it's out of date. But it can probably be used in some very specific cases.

Pages widget options

  • Title: Text to be displayed before the widget. For example “Resources” or nothing at all. This setting is optional.
  • Sort by: Select a sort criterion for displaying pages.
  • Exclude: It is possible to exclude certain pages from this widget by indicating their ID.

The Text widget

The Text widget in WordPress

This last WordPress widget allows you to display text and any HTML type content (PHP will not be interpreted).

It can be used to post a Facebook Like insert, a newsletter subscription form or many other things.

To include images, you will need to use HTML. Come on, I'll help you this time. Here's how to integrate an image:

This widget is a must-have. Of course, there must be a valid reason for using it. Be careful not to saturate your widgetized areas with anything.

Text widget options

  • Title: Text to be displayed before the widget. I think you've figured out what this option is for by now!
  • Text widget content: Insert anything you want here 🙂

Well, fortunately WordPress doesn't provide 36 widgets otherwise my keyboard would start to overheat 🙂

Conclusion

Widgets are so important to WordPress that you can't imagine a site that wouldn't use them.Click To Tweet

We have seen that WordPress offers a dozen of widgets by default, and that it is possible to add new ones, via the WordPress theme we use and the plugins we install.

Do you use WordPress widgets? What are your favorite ones?

Thank you for reading this guide until the end! Share it if you think it's worth it.