How To Use Widgets In WordPress

Widgets are a brilliant feature of WordPress. They allow you to add and remove content and features with just a few clicks. Learning how to use widgets in wordpress is really easy, but lets go over the process and discuss some of the widgets that are built into a standard WordPress installation.

Finding Your Widgets

In your WordPress dashboard go to Appearance, and click Widgets. The screen will then show all the available widgets and the areas you can place them. WordPress comes with some predefined widgets, outlined below, but themes and plugins can also add widgets, so you should check this area whenever you install a new theme or plugin.

Each theme can have numerous widget areas, normally these are in the sidebar and/or footer, occasionally elsewhere, dependant on what the designer has done.

Click to see the full size image

How to Use Widgets in WordPress

When I said earlier this was as easy as a few clicks I wasn’t joking. To add a widget, simply drag the widget of choice from the Available Widgets area and drop it into the Widget Area of choice.

Now most widgets will then give you some options to select or fill out. Once that’s done, click save and the widget will be live on your site!

Click to see the full size image

How to Remove Widgets

Getting rid of a widget is just as easy. Simply click the widget area where it is, click the small arrow on the right of the widget name and then select delete at the bottom.

Inaction Can Be Good

If you remove a widget by deleting it, all the settings disappear, because well, you deleted it! If you want to remove the widget but want to keep the settings to use again in the future, don’t delete it but simply drag that widget and drop it on the Inactive Widgets area (below the Available Widgets area).

Then when your ready to reuse it, drag it from there to the widget area as if you are putting a new widget, but this one will have all the previous settings still. Time saving in action!

Available Widgets

As you can see, using widgets in WordPress is really easy. Now let’s look at all the available widgets that come with WordPress.

Archives

The archives widget provides a list (or dropdown list) of all months, which when clicked shows all of the posts from that month in question.

Categories

Weirdly enough this lists all your categories! Can be as a list or dropdown menu, and a nice little feature here is that you can include the hierarchy, so if you have sub categories they are listed appropriately. Whilst the Custom Menu (below) is still the best for navigation, this widget can be easily used for a sidebar navigation when all you are listing is categories.

Calendar

This widget does what it says on the tin, kind of. Some people would try and use this for adding events and things for their websites. Well it doesn’t do that, it merely marks on the calendar when your posts where published so people can find posts by date. There are other calendar plugins available should you require more functionality.

Custom Menu

I have already done a post on Custom Menus, which I’m sure you have already read! But just to summarise, custom menus are awesome! They allow you to place Posts, Pages, Categories, Tags, outside links and probably a kitchen sink onto your navigation menu with ease.

You can also create drop down menus and reorder menu items by just dragging and dropping. If your theme doesn’t support custom menus, get a better theme and save yourself time and effort when creating and changing menus.

Links (Blogroll)

An often underrated widget, this displays the links that you have added in the Links section of the Dashboard. Wow I hear you cry! Well its really useful if you link to multiple sites – your own or others. Not only that but you can organise the links into categories for easy erm, categorising, which means you can create a kind of basic directory system using this. Just remember to delete all the links that WordPress puts in there to begin with!

Meta

This displays a login link, links for your post and comments feeds and a link to WordPress.org. I understand why this may have been important when WordPress was a blogging system, but nowadays most people either go to www.yoursitename.com/wp-admin to log in or their themes have an option for it, and they have a lovely RSS icon should people want to hook up to that service. If it just contained the login option, it could be useful but the extra links make it unsightly and a little bit pointless.

Pages

Lists all your sites pages. Mostly pages are used in navigation so the Custom Menus offer more flexibility, but could still be useful in some situations. You need to manually remove pages you don’t want listed by adding in their page ID, so its not the most user friendly plugin.

Recent Comments

Does what it says, displays a specified number of the most recent comments.

Recent Posts

Displays a specified number of recent posts. If your looking to show Related Posts (posts which somehow relate to the one you’re visitors are viewing, normally by worked out by tags), you will need a plugin for it. My favourite being YARPP.

RSS

This is nice if you have a related site, say two similar affiliate sites, you can add the RSS feed from one into the other. A nice way to cross sell. Or you could put an Amazon or other affiliate site feed directly into your site.

Search

Adds a basic search box to your site. WordPress search isn’t that intelligent (i.e wont pick up on spelling mistakes), so if you want something more, check out Yolink or Google Site Search.

Tag Cloud

The tag cloud feature is an interesting navigational aid, but needs to be used wisely. It lists the available tags (or categories) and increases their size depending on how often the tag appears in posts. The standard settings are rubbish though and can only be changed by coding or by using a plugin.

Text

The Text widget is another brilliant little widget that is often underrated as people just see its name and think its just for text. Well it is, BUT that text can include HTML which means you can use the text widget to place images (or adverts) or other coding lovelies.

One note, you can’t enter PHP into the text box unless you get an addon or change the code slightly to accomodate it.

Once you have mastered how to use widgets in WordPress, you can then use the right widgets for the right job and building websites or blogs on WordPress becomes a snap.