What Are WordPress Widgets

Simply put, a widget adds content to your website’s sidebars or other areas like the footer. Widgets allow you to drag and drop blocks of text for specific purposes. Widgets allow you to add elements to your website without needing to know any code.

(Tell the truth: Were you afraid this was going to start like, "If Sally makes 10 widgets an hour and works for 3.2 hours...."?)

Some widgets are static content, such as a text box or an area in the footer for contact information. Others are more interactive like maps and forms visitors can complete.

What Widgets Do I Have?

To some extent, the widgets available to you will depend upon the WordPress theme that you’re using, but all themes have some widgets built in. Default WordPress comes with the following widgets for everyone’s use:

  • Categories
  • Tag cloud
  • Navigation menus
  • Calendar
  • Search bar
  • Recent posts

We’re sure you’ve seen some of these in action in your travels around the web. An educational website might show an array of recent blog posts, to pique interest, right on the home page by placing a widget in the sidebar. The website for a nightclub might use a calendar widget to make it easy for visitors to find upcoming events to attend.

Plus, widgets beyond your theme’s default options can be incorporated into your site.

And here’s where it gets ever so slightly confusing.

Is It a WordPress Widget or a Plugin?

YES! Well, sometimes.

Additional widgets, beyond the theme’s defaults, can be added to your WordPress site using plugins. Yet not all plugins are widgets, and not all widgets (the defaults) require a plugin!

Many of the “fancier” widgets, or those with interactive functionality, require installing a plugin. For example, if you’ve ever visited a website that shows rotating client testimonials in the footer, it was likely added to the site by installing a plugin for the widget and then placing that widget in the footer.

How Do I Add Widgets to My WordPress Website

Adding default widgets to your WordPress site is super easy. And incorporating plugin widgets only requires that you know how to install a plugin. (Which we’ve taught you!) In other words, they’re also easy.

To get to your available widgets, go to Appearance >> Widgets from the admin sidebar (on the left) in your WordPress dashboard.

Navigating to widget menu

On the left side of the screen, you’ll see the widgets you can use. On the right, the areas on your site where you can place them. To place a widget, simply click on it and drag it to the right, to the specific area of real estate where you want it to show up. (Seriously, a toddler could do this part – you’ve got this!)

Shows array of available widgets

Once you’ve dragged it to its new home on your site, when you click its down arrow, a window opens to allow you to configure the widget.

Placing WordPress Widgets

Most areas on your site will allow for multiple widgets. For example, you may be able to place multiple widgets in the sidebar of your website. You can rearrange the order in which they appear by dragging them up and down the list.

Also, you can have the same type of widget appear in multiple places. For example, most websites include more than one navigation menu. It’s pretty standard now for websites to have their main navigation menu across the top of the website. But most sites also have at least one other menu, which may or may not include the same elements as the main navigation menu! Menu widgets allow you to control which headings are displayed on the various menus you may choose to use.

An Example of a Basic Widget

A text box! Okay, we know it sounds boring, a plain text widget is highly useful. Many companies have a spot on their homepage, often in the footer on the left, where they have a little “about” blurb (an example of boilerplate copy) for their business.

This image shows how the text widget was dragged to the footer and then opened for customizing. There’s a place to title the text widget, which might be “About Us” for example. Below that, there’s a box where the ‘about’ text would be added.  As you can see, this widget has a text editor for adding format to the text. AND – even though it’s a “text” widget, you can add media like images or video!

Showing text widget window

That’s all there is to adding a key piece of information to your site - one you’d want to appear on every page in the footer.

At the End of the Day…

Widgets are a super-handy tool for placing different types of content on your site without learning code. (Did we mention that it’s just clicking and dragging?)

 

To wrap it up, here’s another list of commonly used widgets that business owners find to be helpful.

  • Forms (e.g., for visitors to subscribe to your emails)
  • Recent posts with thumbnails
  • Google Maps
  • Social profile links
  • Instagram feed
  • Popular posts
  • Events calendar
  • Scheduling calendar
  • Location/address

Is there a widget here that might help you achieve your website and digital marketing goals?

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