One of the many great things about using WordPress is that you can easily add content and applications to your site and reconfigure elements of your site layout with no coding or programming skills required.

You can add, rearrange and remove various types of content and applications on your WordPress site’s sidebar menu (or header and footer sections depending on your theme) quickly and easily using a WordPress feature called a Widget.

In this tutorial you are going to learn more about using WordPress widgets.

Watch the video below and then complete the step-by-step tutorial to learn more about using WordPress widgets …

About WordPress Widgets

Widgets are self-contained modules of code that perform a specific function, such as adding a form, text box or menu to your site. Widgets also allow you to easily add, reorder and/or remove different types of content and programs on your site.

In WordPress, you can also “drag-and-drop” widgets around inside sections of your administration area to quickly rearrange the layout of your sidebars, headers and footers.

WordPress is written using a scripting language called PHP (Hypertext Preprocessor). Widgets eliminate the need to know how to program PHP or manipulate PHP code to customize your site’s content and layout, and can be used to extend the functionality of a number of WordPress plugins. Many widgets even allow you to finetune their settings to further enhance their function and usefulness.

Using WordPress Widgets

Simply put, widgets allow you to:

  • Easily add content and functionality to your WordPress sidebar without having to touch any code,and
  • Rearrange how various elements display on your sidebar using simple drag-and-drop.

Widgets were originally designed to provide a simple and easy way of giving WordPress users design and structure control of their WordPress Theme.

WordPress themes that are properly “widgetized” allow users to control many design and structural aspects of their site’s sidebar, header, footer, and other areas.

Here are just some of the things you can add to your sidebar menus (and headers and footers, depending on your theme) using widgets:

  • List Of Pages
  • Blog Categories
  • Post Archives
  • Custom Menus
  • Links To External Sites
  • Links To Recent Posts / Most Popular Posts
  • Excerpts Of Recent Comments Added To Posts
  • Text and Graphic Images (e.g. advertising banners)
  • Testimonials and Quotations
  • Poll / Survey – Questions and Results
  • Content from RSS feeds
  • Newsletter subscription / opt-in forms
  • Videos
  • Social Media Buttons
  • Display Widgets From Others Sites (e.g. Facebook Friends)
  • etc.

We provide a number of detailed step-by-step tutorials in our WordPress Training section that show you how to add all of the above functions and more to your site using widgets.

How To Customize Your Site’s Layout With Widgets

With most static websites, changing the site’s layout requires editing code in the site’s pages or templates.

With WordPress you can completely rearrange how information is displayed in areas like your site’s sidebars, footers and navigation menus with just a few clicks of your mouse button. This is because the built-in Widgets feature of WordPress lets you rearrange information on your sidebar and footers quickly and easily using “drag-and-drop” technology.

Using WordPress Widgets

In the above screenshot, you can see that we have rearranged the sidebar layout by switching the search and testimonial sections around. This was easily done by simply dragging and dropping the widget elements into different positions in the sidebar widget section.

Widgets require no code experience or expertise. They can easily be added, removed, and rearranged in the Widgets panel of your WordPress administration area …

Using WordPress Widgets

Some widgets are “fixed” in that they provide little to no configuration options, other than to add an optional title to the widget, as shown in the example below …

Using WordPress Widgets

Some WordPress Widgets offer various customization options and the ability to specify and configure settings. This includes enabling forms or fields, including or excluding data and information, displaying optional images, and more …

Using WordPress Widgets

Let’s take a look at an example so you can see exactly how to reconfigure your site’s sidebar layout by rearranging the widgets in the sidebar section.

In the screenshot below, you can see that the right hand sidebar of the site displays a newsletter sign-up form at the top (1), then a “contact support” button below it (2), and a “click to call” function below that (3).

Using WordPress Widgets

To change these features around, first log into your WordPress admin area.

Using WordPress Widgets

Once you have logged in, click on Appearance > Widgets.

Using WordPress Widgets

This brings up your Widgets area. The Widgets area displays a list of all of the widgets you have available. On the right hand side of the window, you can see your “active” widgets …

Using WordPress Widgets

Widgets dragged from the “Available Widgets” section to “Widget Areas” like your sidebar, footer, etc. become immediately active on your site.

In addition, your Widgets area includes an “Inactive Widgets” section that lets you remove widgets you no longer want to remain actively displayed on your site without losing its settings …

Using WordPress Widgets

As mentioned earlier, your Widgets area will also display different widget sections for your site, depending on the WordPress theme you choose. For example, some themes give you multiple sidebar and footer sections, and themes with multiple templates may include widget sections specific for each template …

Using WordPress Widgets

Note: Some widgets may require additional settings to be configured after being made active.

Important

By default, your WordPress installation comes with a number of widgets (e.g. widgets for displaying your pages, links, posts, post categories, adding text, adding RSS feeds, adding tags, adding a search box, etc Ö). These widgets are available on the default WordPress theme “right out of the box”.

Using WordPress Widgets

New widgets can be added to your site whenever you install new plugins (we cover plugins in separate tutorials). In most cases, however, installing a new plugin does not automatically make the widget associate with that plugin become active on your site.

To make a widget active drag the widget from the “Available Widgets” area, to an active widgets area (e.g. the “Main Sidebar”) by clicking on the widget and holding your mouse button down, then dragging the widget element to the position in your sidebar, footer, etc. where you want the widget to appear.

Using WordPress Widgets

For this tutorial example, the widgets have already been configured to display a newsletter form, support button and the click to call plugin …

Using WordPress Widgets

As you can see from the screenshot below, the features appear on the site in the same order as they have been arranged in the widget bar.

Using WordPress Widgets

Let’s now rearrange the order of the above widgets in the Sidebar Widget Area, using the click, drag and drop method.

Using WordPress Widgets

The widget features have now been reordered in the sidebar.

Using WordPress Widgets

This immediately changes the layout of your site’s sidebar.

Note in the screenshot below that the “click to call” feature (3) is now at the top of the sidebar menu, and the “contact us” graphic button (2) is located above the newsletter sign-up form (1).

Using WordPress Widgets

Useful WordPress Tip

Tip #1: A really useful widget is the Text widget …

Using WordPress Widgets

A text widget lets you insert just about anything you want into your sidebar or other widget sections, such as single lines or paragraphs of text, images, media, forms, etc … by simply typing in text or adding HTML into the widget content area (you can also add an optional title in the Title field). Remember to click Save to save your settings …

Using WordPress Widgets

Tip #2: Click on the little triangle in the Widget corner to display the settings for that widget …

Using WordPress Widgets

When the widget expands, you can change and save your settings, or click Delete to remove the widget from the “Active Widgets” section. Click on the triangle or click Close to close the widget …

Using WordPress Widgets

As soon as your changes are saved, your site will automatically update the widget settings and display your latest changes to your site visitors.

Tip #3: If you see widgets showing up on your site’s sidebar that aren’t listed under your sidebar in the Appearance > Widgets section, it’s because with some themes, until you add widgets to your sidebar, the theme will display its own default set of widgets, which will not be listed in your sidebar area.

Once you add one or more widgets to your sidebar, the default set of widgets will no longer be used.

If you don’t want anything to show up in your sidebar, just add a blank Text widget to your sidebar area.

Tip #4: If, for some reason, you find that you are unable to use the drag-and-drop function to move widgets around (e.g. using a mobile device that doesn’t support drag-and-drop), then you can still work with widgets, by enabling the accessibility mode for WordPress widgets on your site.

How To Enable Accessibility Mode For WordPress Widgets

Log into your WordPress administration area and navigate to the Widgets section …

Using WordPress Widgets

Click on Screen Options on the top right hand corner of the screen …

Using WordPress Widgets

Click on Enable accessibility mode

Using WordPress Widgets

Once accessibility mode has been enabled, the widgets in the “Available Widgets” section will display an Add link, and the widgets in the “Active Widgets” section will display an Edit link …

Using WordPress Widgets

If you click on a Widget’s Add link in the “Available Widgets” section …

Using WordPress Widgets

A screen will display the selected Widget with options for customizing the Widget’s settings, selecting the location to add the Widget, and drop-down menus for choosing the position of the Widget in the specified location (e.g. position “1”, “2”, “3”, etc…).

Click Save Widget to add the widget to the “Active Widgets” section, or the Cancel button to return to the previous screen …

Using WordPress Widgets

In you click on an active Widget’s Edit link …

Using WordPress Widgets

A screen will display the selected Widget with options for changing the Widget’s settings, reassigning the Widget’s location, and drop-down menus for rearranging the position of the Widget.

Click Save Widget to return to the “Active Widgets” section, or click the Delete button to remove the widget from the “Active Widgets” section …

Using WordPress Widgets

Click on Disable accessibility mode in the Screen Options section to restore the drag-and-drop function to your Widgets …

Using WordPress Widgets

Congratulations! Now you know how to add and remove Widgets from your WordPress site.