Understanding WordPress Widgets

You can use WordPress Widgets to add extra content and features to certain areas of your site. Widgets can be used to display lists of Categories, highlight popular Posts, show social icons, related Posts…

Widget Areas

The Sidebar is a common place for Widgets

Widgets are used in what’re called Widget Areas. The number and location of Widget Areas is usually defined by the active Theme your WordPress site is using.

A common place to find a Widget Area is in the Sidebar of a site. So although your active Theme decides where you can add Widgets – you get to choose which Widgets are displayed.

Widget Areas are shared

Widget Areas can be thought of as a way of having the same content across multiple pages of your website – without having to duplicate content each time. For example, this website has a Widget Area in the Sidebar, and every Post (article) uses that same Sidebar, so any Widgets placed in it are displayed whatever Post (article) you happen to be on.

Different Widget Areas

Your Theme might have different Widget Areas depending on the content type; Posts and Pages may have different Widget Areas, so if you’re on a Post you might see one Widget Area, and if you’re on a Page you might see another. The footer is another common place for a Widget Area – and any Widgets added here are displayed across the entire site.

Checking your available Widget Areas

The easiest way to see what Widget Areas are available is to navigate to Appearance > Widgets.

On the left hand side you’ll see a list of available Widgets, and on the right you’ll see the Widget Areas.


Now you know what Widget Areas are it’s time to add some Widgets to those areas.

Adding Widgets

  1. Navigate to Appearance > Widgets.
  2. Choose a widget, then either;
    • Click on it(holding your mouse button down) and drag the widget into your chosen Widget Area.
    • Click on it, then click the Add Widget button, if your site has multiple Widget Areas then a list will appear, select your choice before clicking the button.
  3. The Widget should then be open in the Widget Area, change any settings necessary. The settings will save automatically.
  4. Visit your site and view your new Widget in place.

Re-ordering Widgets

  1. Navigate to Appearance > Widgets.
  2. Expand you Widget Area open if not open already by clicking on the small down arrow.
  3. Drag and drop any Widgets into your preferred order.
  4. Change a Widgets settings by clicking on the small down arrow to expand it, make your change and click Save.

Deleting or Removing Widgets

  1. Navigate to Appearance > Widgets.
  2. Expand you Widget Area open if not open already by clicking on the small down arrow.
  3. Delete a Widget by clicking on the small down arrow to expand it, then click the Delete link.
  4. Remove a Widget (but keep all it’s settings intact) by dragging and dropping the widget into the Inactive Widgets area under all of the available widgets.

Choosing Widgets

WordPress comes with over ten Widgets as standard. Many Themes and Plugins will also add their own Widgets for you to choose from. Each Widget is configured differently – so it’s best to consult the author’s documentation if you run into difficulties.

When choosing whether to use a Widget or not ask yourself why you’re adding it. If the answer is to help your sites visitors, or to promote more of your content then great. But does knowing the current temperature in Mongolia really add to your users experience of your site!

Switching Themes

When switching Themes the Widget Areas may be different, so if WordPress doesn’t know where to place your current Widgets in the new Theme is will save them into the Inactive Widgets area where you can then move them into their new Widget Areas.

It’s important to remember that Themes can add their own Widgets, so if you’re using a Widget that came with a particular Theme it will disappear when you switch to a different Theme.

Published on in Tutorials.

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