What is a widget?

Widgets enable you to add content and features to your sidebars and other widget areas without any coding experience or expertise. WordPress comes with its own widgets, such as Categories, Search, Archive, or the Tag Cloud; some of these may already be visible on your site. WordPress also has text widgets that allow you to embed content from other sites, and RSS widgets that enable you to add feeds from social media. Additionally, many plugins, such as the Events Calendar, come with widgets that will add even more functionality to your site.

What is a widget area?

A widget area is any place in a theme's layout where you can add widgets. Widget areas are typically sidebars, and all of EWU's themes include sidebar layouts. The most common widget area is the primary sidebar, followed by the secondary sidebar.

Some themes have extra widget areas. The Sites theme, for example, has a widget area in the header.

Displaying widgets

There are two ways to add widgets to your site: with the Customizer and with the Widgets page on the dashboard of your site.

Adding widgets with the Customizer

First, navigate to the Customizer. From your website, you can select Customize from the admin toolbar. Or, from the dashboard of your site, you can hover over Appearance in the sidebar and select Customize from the options. This will open your website into a preview mode with customization tools in a sidebar on the left.

WordPress customizer

Select the Widgets tab in the sidebar to see all the available widget areas for that page. Some pages, such as the homepage, may have more widget areas than other pages; in preview mode, you can navigate to other pages to see which widget areas are available. Remember that the widget areas are global, so if you edit the primary sidebar on one page, the same widgets will appear on other pages that use the primary sidebar widget area.

Select the widget area you want to edit. The sidebar will then display all the widgets currently active in that widget area.

Active widgets in the primary sidebar

To add a widget, simply press the Add a Widget button. The sidebar will extend to show all widgets available to you in alphabetical order.

Adding a widget in the customizer

Then you can select the widget you want to add. The sidebar will collapse and a tab for your new widget will appear; it will also appear in your page preview. When you first add a widget, its configuration options will automatically expand, so you can customize your widget as you please—at least, as much as the widget allows. You can expand or collapse configuration options by selecting the arrow on the right side of the widget's box.

To rearrange your widgets within the widget area, click the widget you want to move and drag it to the desired location. Alternatively, you can click the Reorder link next to the Add a Widget button and use the arrows to move your widgets up or down; click Done when you have finished. As you reorder your widgets, the site preview will update with your changes.

To remove a widget, expand its configuration options and select Delete at the bottom of the widget box.

To save your changes, click the Save & Publish button at the top of the customizer sidebar.

Adding widgets with the Widgets page

First, navigate to the Widgets page. From your website, hover over the name of your site in the Admin toolbar and select Widgets from the drop down. Or, from the dashboard of your site, you can hover over Appearance and select Widgets from the options. This will direct you to the Widgets page, which has three important sections: Available Widgets, Inactive Widgets, and widget areas.

Widgets page

Available Widgets

The Available Widgets section is located on the left side of the screen. This section lists all widgets available to you, along with a brief description of each widget. To add and activate a widget, click and drag it to one of the widget areas on the right side of the page. Or you can click on the widget, select the widget area from the drop down, and select Add Widget.

Widget areas

When you add a widget to a widget area, the configuration options for that widget will automatically expand. Here you can add content or customize settings for that widget. After you have configured the widget, select Save to save your changes. To expand or collapse configuration options, click the arrow on the right side of the widget box.

To move or rearrange widgets, click and drag the widget up or down within the widget area.

To delete a widget and all its settings, open its configuration options and select Delete at the bottom of the box, or drag the widget back to the Available Widgets section. To remove a widget but keep its settings, drag it to the Inactive Widgets section instead.

Inactive Widgets

The Inactive Widgets section is located on the left side of the page beneath the Available Widgets section. This section lists all widgets you have previously used and configured, but are not currently in use. If you drag a widget here, it will remove that widget from the widget area but preserve its settings for future use. This means if you drag them to a widget area at a later time, you will not need to re-enter any information or settings.

For this reason, the Inactive Widget area is invaluable when you change your site to a new theme. Themes often come with different default layouts, sidebars, and widget areas. When you change to a new theme, your site will revert to the new theme's default and some of your widgets may be missing. This is inconvenient, but easy to fix because all your widgets and their settings will be saved in the Inactive Widgets section. To add them back to your widget areas and restore your site to how you want it, all you have to do is drag them back to their widget areas.

Saving changes on the widgets page

Although you do need to save whenever you change your settings for an individual widget, you do not need to save when you add, remove, or reorder widgets. Your site will automatically reflect the changes. This is why the Widgets page does not have a Save button.

Text widgets

The text widget enables a user to add text, images, video and more to their WordPress site. The text widget is especially powerful and flexible because you can add HTML and JavaScript, which means you can embed almost any kind of content from a third party site. For example, you could easily embed a YouTube video or a map from Google.

You can add a text widget to your page with the Customizer or with the Widgets page, as previously described.

Use the text editor within the widget to add and format text. If you want to embed content from another site, copy the embed code the site provides and paste it in the text editor. You have the option to add a title to the text widget.

RSS widgets

The RSS widget is useful because it enables you to integrate an external feed source from social media sites, such as Facebook or Twitter, into a widget area. The RSS widget displays the most recently published content. If you have a social media page for your group or organization, this is a great way to incorporate that outside content.

To add an RSS feed, copy the RSS feed URL from the source and paste into the first box. You have the option to give the feed a title. Then you can configure the settings for your feed, such as how many items and what kind of content you want to display.