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Widgets add features and functions to just about any WordPress-hosted site. Designed to contain a variety of add-ons such as a menu, calendar, text, an Instagram feed or a social media photo display, these small blocks can be placed in a variety of locations on a site’s posts and pages without knowing a bit of code. 

Most WordPress themes come with a set of pre-installed widgets ready to use—or you can add new ones from the directory of plugins that accompany every WordPress install. Easy to arrange and configure, widgets give users more control over the look and functionality of WordPress websites of all kinds.

What are widgets in WordPress & why do you need them?

Widgets in WordPress are small, pre-designed blocks of content or functionality that can be added to specific areas of your website, typically in a sidebar, footer, or other widget-ready areas. They offer an easy way to customize and enhance your website’s appearance and functionality without the need for extensive coding or design skills.

Here’s why you need widgets in WordPress:

  1. Ease of customization: Widgets allow you to add various elements to your website, such as text, images, navigation menus, recent posts, or even custom content. This customization helps you tailor your website to meet your specific needs and design preferences.
  2. User-friendly: Widgets are designed to be user-friendly and can be managed through the WordPress admin dashboard. You can easily add, remove, or rearrange widgets without delving into the website’s code.
  3. Enhanced functionality: Many widgets offer additional functionality, like displaying social media feeds, email subscription forms, or calendars. By adding widgets, you can make your website more interactive and informative.
  4. Layout control: Widgets give you control over the layout of your website. You can arrange and rearrange widgets in designated widget areas to create the desired layout for your site. This allows for a dynamic and versatile design.
  5. Improved user experience: Widgets can enhance the user experience by providing convenient navigation, quick access to important information, and visual appeal. This can make your website more engaging and user-friendly.
  6. Promotion and advertising: Widgets can be used to promote products, services, or advertisements. For instance, you can add an ad banner in a widget area to generate revenue or showcase featured products.
  7. Increased engagement: Widgets like comments, recent posts, and social media feeds encourage visitor engagement and interaction. This can help in building a sense of community and keeping users coming back for more.
  8. Efficient updates: Since widgets are easy to manage, you can swiftly update or change elements on your website, which is crucial for keeping your content fresh and up-to-date.

When to Use WordPress Widgets?

  1. Improving navigation: Widgets can help with navigation. You can include menus or navigation links in widget areas to make it easier for visitors to explore your site and find relevant content.
  2. Displaying content: Widgets like recent posts, categories, or tags can be used to showcase your content to encourage visitors to explore more of your articles and pages.
  3. Promoting products or services: If you have products, services, or special promotions to advertise, widgets can be used to display banners, advertisements, or product listings in prominent areas of your website.
  4. Generating leads: Widgets such as email subscription forms or contact forms help capture leads and encourage visitor interaction. They are invaluable for building your email list or facilitating communication with your audience.
  5. Optimizing for mobile devices: Widgets can be used to optimize your website for mobile users. Mobile-responsive widgets help ensure your site looks and functions well on various screen sizes.

How do WordPress widgets work?

WordPress themes come with all the essential elements everyone needs for a fully functioning website, but different users may need to add other kinds of features to meet a site’s purposes. To make that possible, WordPress also offers an array of free plugins and widgets that can be added or deleted whenever necessary as a site’s goals and structure change.

Nearly every WordPress theme includes some widget options for your blog or other parts of your site, although those options can vary from theme to theme, and some themes, such as those designed for a single-page site, don’t include them at all. In general, though, you can expect to have access to a gallery of preset widgets that can be customized from your theme’s WP Administration dashboard or theme customizer.

These small blocks of content can be placed in various locations such as a sidebar, header, or footer and appear on every page and post on the site. Widget presets can be customized individually and moved with drag-and-drop simplicity from one available location to another, and unused or inactive widgets can be stored for later use if needed.

Getting started with widgets

Since WordPress is a free and open-source site builder intended to help anyone establish a presence online, it was designed to be used by both new site owners with no web development experience and by seasoned developers able to work directly with its PHP framework to add even more customization. 

Like other aspects of WordPress, the widgets feature also accommodates users of all experience levels. The widgets panel on your site’s WP Admin dashboard offers all the tools needed to customize a site’s active widgets and place them as desired, but users with web development experience can also make code-level changes to widget structure and add widgets to themes that don’t have them.

The widget panel displays all the pre-installed widgets available for use with the current theme, as well as their potential locations: sidebars, headers, or footers. The widget panel also includes a space for storing inactive widgets that aren’t currently needed.

Activating widgets in WordPress

To activate a widget, select Appearance>Widgets from the site’s dashboard. This opens the widgets panel, with options including a menu, calendar, tag cloud, and text. Simply click on a widget and drag it to the desired location, then click and drag to reorder widgets in that space. Alternatively, your theme may include an Add Widget button and a Reorder option. To deactivate an existing widget, simply drag it back to the Inactive Widgets space to use later or not at all.

Active widgets can be customized by clicking the down arrow next to the widget’s name, which opens a menu of options specific to that widget. Users can add a title, insert new content, or change the parameters of a widget. When changes are saved, WordPress automatically updates the page to include the new widget and its updated content. You can edit, delete, or add Widgets at any time throughout the life of a site.

Installing new widgets

The preinstalled widget selection features a fairly wide range of widgets for common tasks. But it’s also possible to add other kinds of widget content from the plugin directory that comes with every WordPress install or from a variety of external sources to create a custom widget.

The Text widget is an open widget that can be used to add text such as a blog author bio or site information, but it can also contain content ranging from video and images to external links, buttons, and shortcodes for a variety of features such as image galleries and slideshows.

To add content to a Text widget:

  1. Activate the widget by moving it to the desired location.
  2. Click the down arrow to edit the widget.
  3. In the text box that appears, type or paste in any text-based content, or insert links or shortcodes for other kinds of content.
  4. Click Save and the resulting content is displayed on the site’s pages and posts.

The Text widget can be used as often as needed to add different kinds of content in any widget location.

Managing themes and widgets

Although nearly all WordPress themes include widgets, they may not include them in the same way. For example, a theme may be designed in such a way that a certain widget area isn’t available, or it may include additional widget areas that similar themes don’t have. Because WordPress makes it easy to change themes either from its theme directory or from outside developers, a website owner may try out several themes while searching for the best one to represent a brand or a service.

In that kind of situation, changing WordPress themes can affect the number of widgets available for display and how those widgets are configured. Although the set of standard WordPress widgets may still be available, they may need to be rearranged to accommodate the structure of the new theme. Because inactive widgets are still available for use in the widgets panel, they can be moved into the sidebar or other locations in the new theme as well.

WordPress widgets add specialized functionality when building a WordPress website. Whether you want to add an Instagram widget to highlight your social media, create a widget for displaying your most recent blog posts through a slider, or you’d like to design a custom widget specific to your site’s needs, you can do so with WordPress. With drag-and-drop management and an array of available options, widgets are another versatile, free tool for customizing your WordPress site.

How to add widgets to your WordPress site?

  1. Access the WordPress admin dashboard: Log in to your WordPress admin dashboard. You can do this by visiting your website’s URL followed by “/wp-admin” (e.g., and entering your login credentials.
  1. Navigate to the widgets section: In the admin dashboard, go to “Appearance” in the left sidebar, and then click on “Widgets.” This is where you can manage and add widgets to your site.
  1. Select a widget area: On the Widgets page, you’ll see a list of available widget areas, such as “Sidebar,” “Footer,” or any custom widget areas your theme supports. Click on the widget area where you want to add a widget.
  1. Choose a widget: In the selected widget area, you’ll see a list of available widgets on the left-hand side. These are the widgets you can add to your chosen area. You can expand the widget area to see the available widgets by clicking on it.
  1. Drag and drop the widget: To add a widget, simply drag it from the list of available widgets on the left and drop it into your selected widget area on the right. You can place the widget in your preferred location within the widget area. Some widgets may have settings or options that you can configure.
  1. Customize widget settings: Depending on the widget you’ve added, there may be settings or configurations to adjust. These settings will vary depending on the widget’s purpose. Configure the widget settings as needed.
  1. Save or publish: Once you’ve added the widget and customized its settings, click the “Save” or “Publish” button to confirm your changes.
  1. Preview your site: Visit your website to see how the widget looks and functions on the live site. You can make further adjustments if needed.
  1. Reorder or remove widgets: If you want to reorder the widgets within a widget area or remove a widget, you can do so by dragging and dropping them or clicking the widget and selecting the “Delete” option.

What kinds of widgets are available for WordPress? 

WordPress offers a wide range of widgets that cater to various purposes, helping you enhance your website’s functionality and appearance. 

These widgets are designed to make it easy to customize and improve your site’s user experience. Some widgets allow you to add custom text or code, while others help you organize and display your content in a user-friendly manner. 

Additionally, there are widgets for integrating with third-party services, such as email marketing or social media. The available widgets can vary depending on your theme and any additional plugins you’ve installed, giving you the flexibility to tailor your website to your specific needs and preferences. 

Widgets are a powerful tool for enhancing your WordPress site without requiring extensive technical expertise.

Types of widgets

  1. Meta widget: The Meta widget typically provides links for users to log in or log out of the WordPress site, along with links to the site’s RSS feed and
  2. Email subscription widgets: Email subscription widgets are used for collecting and managing email subscriptions. They often integrate with email marketing services, allowing visitors to sign up for newsletters, updates, or promotions.
  3. Social media widgets: These widgets display social media icons or links, making it easy for site visitors to connect with the website’s social media profiles, promoting social engagement.
  4. Recent posts, pages, and categories widgets: Widgets of this type of display lists of recent blog posts, pages, or categories on your site, encouraging visitors to explore related content.
  5. Search widget: The Search widget adds a search bar to your website, allowing users to search for specific content within your site.
  6. Text widget: The Text widget is a versatile widget that enables you to add custom text, HTML, or code to your sidebar or other widget areas. This flexibility allows you to include various content elements on your site.
  7. Shopping cart widget: Shopping cart widgets are essential for e-commerce websites. They display the user’s current shopping cart and its contents, providing a seamless shopping experience.
  8. Map widget: Map widgets can integrate maps from services like Google Maps, helping visitors find your physical location or explore places of interest.
  9. Form widget: Form widgets allow you to create and display forms on your site, such as contact forms, feedback forms, or survey forms, facilitating communication and data collection.
  10. Call-to-action widget: Call-to-action (CTA) widgets are used to create eye-catching buttons, banners, or messages that encourage visitors to take specific actions, such as signing up, making a purchase, or contacting you.


In a nutshell, widgets in WordPress are user-friendly tools that entrust users to easily improve their website’s functionality and appearance. Whether you’re aiming to personalize your site, engage your audience, or optimize for mobile devices, widgets provide a versatile solution.

  • Machielle Thomas

    Machielle is a content enthusiast who has a passion for bridging the gap between audiences and brands through impactful storytelling. Machielle has also spoken at dozens of WordCamps throughout the years.

    Texas State University
    Previous Experience
    Brand Content, Content Marketing, Brand Lead, Operations Lead, Course Instructor
    Other publications
    Shopify, Contently
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