Use Widgets

How to Use Widgets in WordPress and Why You Should

Widgets are expansions to a website that often provide additional information or useful tools. They are the small blocks of content usually in the sidebar of a website. The possibilities are endless when you use widgets in WordPress, but how do you manage them?

Widgets are some of the easiest elements to control. In some cases, all it takes is to drag and drop the widget and change a couple of settings.

In this tutorial, I’ll show you how to use widgets to boost the appearance of your site. Knowing this will help you find the best tools and plugins to install for WordPress.

Where to Use Widgets

Most widgets you’ll come across are things you can add to your sidebar. For example, this website uses a “Text” widget to show my family’s published books. WordPress comes with an assortment of built-in widgets you can use for a variety of purposes.

To access these in WordPress, go to Appearance and click, “Widgets.”

If you want to add something, just drag and drop the widget into a sidebar.
Add Widget

Each widget will come with its own settings. Once you drop something into the sidebar, you’ll be able to make your modifications depending on what you’re building.

Some widgets are part of certain plugins you install to add functionality to your site. For the most part, these will be added to the list in the Appearance section of WordPress. However, some will provide you with a shortcode so you can add the widget almost anywhere on your site.

Shortcodes are small snippets of text coding that works in WordPress. For example, you might see something like “[sample]” when installing a plugin. This is an example of what shortcode looks like.

Some of these shortcodes let you use widgets in posts, pages, text widgets and a slew of other custom post types you might use in WordPress.

Theme-specific Widgets

When you install themes, some will come built with several custom widgets to use. For instance, the ColorMag and ColorNews themes I use have widgets specifically for ads, category content as seen in the front page and sliders for the front page header.

However, not all themes will come equipped with their own tools outside of the Customizer. The best way to see if you have theme-specific functions is to go to Widgets and look for blocks related to the theme.

For instance, this site’s template was designed by ThemeGrill. It’s the ColorNews theme available for WordPress. You can find the “TG” widgets available in the left column.
Developer Widgets

How Widgets Help

I’m not saying that you cannot have a degree of success without offering a feature or tool in the sidebar of your site. However, there are a few reasons why you should consider adding something to spruce up the website.

Expanding What You Offer Visitors

Widgets give you a way to offer something appealing to the visitor outside of amazing content. They are often used to share additional information, ads or functions a visitor may find interesting.

For example, I include a live feed of my Twitch channel in the sidebar of my gaming blog. Anyone who wants to watch the feed when they visit have the option to unmute the channel and enjoy the show.

This website shows off my family’s published books with links to where you can find them.

It’s just something more you can offer visitors which may improve engagement.

Removing the Need for Code

One of the biggest reasons why I use plugins of all kinds in WordPress is because I am not a fan of coding. In reality, I just don’t know enough about PHP and CSS to really make something jaw-dropping.

Just by dragging a feature from one side of the Widgets area into a sidebar, I expand what my site delivers without entering a single line of code.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with entering custom code. In fact, it’s the best way to get exactly what you want on your website. But for those of us who don’t have time to learn website development, these simple tools are ideal.

Creating a Unique Appearance

Adding extras to the sidebar is a good way to give your guests a unique experience. It’s all in a matter of what you can add to accentuate the content. And the more memorable you make the site, the more likely people will return.

Just make sure when you use widgets they are relevant to your site. For example, you wouldn’t want to put a widget for advertising an affiliate link for car parts if you’re blog is about gaming.

Keep the tools you offer connected to your site in some fashion. The last thing you want is to confuse readers. And, it looks bad for search engine optimization if you have irrelevant materials on your site.

The Drawbacks of Too Many Widgets

Although these little features are useful, there is such a thing as going too far. I mean, you don’t want your website to look like the side of a Nascar vehicle.

Having too much “flash” can take away from the purpose of the content. You want eyes reading your posts and pages first and playing with tools second.

Also keep in mind that some widgets will make external calls to other websites and databases. This slows the performance down of your site, which is bad for SEO as well as the reader experience.

More than half of visitors will leave a website if it takes longer than three seconds to load on a mobile device. Since more than 55% of Internet users are now on smartphones and tablets, speed is vital for success.

Stick to the basics and only use what will benefit the reader most.

Use Widgets to Engage Visitors

Widgets are exceptionally easy to manage in WordPress. The hardest part is finding tools that fit what you’re trying to build. Luckily, there are thousands of plugins available in WordPress which provide widgets to accentuate the site. Find elements that engage your visitors and keep them coming back for more.

Michael Brockbank
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