Did you know that the term “widget” was coined in 1924? That was 59 years before the birth of the internet (1983) and 67 years before the creation of the first website (1991).
Today, a widget is integral to any GUI (Graphical User Interface) on electronic devices. You have desktop widgets, android widgets, iOS widgets, web widgets, WordPress widgets and a lot more.
This article is about WordPress widgets, how to add them to your website, how to create them and a lot more.
What Is A WordPress Widget?
Wondering who coined the word “widget” almost 100 years ago? It was coined by playwrights George S. Kaufman and Marc Connelly in their play Beggar on Horseback (1924). In the play, the widget was the name of a hypothetical manufactured product. What was the product? Well, the play doesn’t explain that.
Over the years, the word has been used to refer to various small devices and gadgets. But in the context of computers, a widget is a small GUI element that displays information and allows you to interact with a software application or the device’s OS (Operating System).
Then, what is a widget in WordPress?
A WordPress widget is a software component that adds a specific feature to your website. The feature can be recent posts, search bar, archive posts, social media links, calendar, gallery etc. Although a website’s sidebar is the most preferred location for widgets, you can also add them in the footer.
Difference Between Widget And Plugin
Are WordPress widgets and WordPress plugins the same? They add extra features and functionality to your website, yet they are different.
A widget is a small block on your website that adds a specific, focused feature and usually displays some content. It is placed on a particular area on your website called the widget area. Each widget has a specific place on your website layout where the visitors can view and interact with it.
A WordPress plugin is a small software that adds a set of features to a website and increases the functionality of your overall website. It is like the apps and software on your smartphone or PC – you need to install them on your website. Unlike a widget, your visitor cannot see your plugin.
Check out our previous blog to learn more about WordPress Plugins.
How To Add A Widget In WordPress?
Now let’s see how to install widgets in WordPress. Since WordPress widgets are native WordPress features, you don’t have to install any plugins to add them. Or write any code. All you need to do is select and add one from the list of available widgets.
Follow these steps to add a WordPress Widget:
- Log in to your WordPress dashboard.
- Go to Appearance -> Widgets, and you can see the different areas where you can add widgets like Main Sidebar, Header, Footers etc.
- Select the Main Sidebar (or any other area).
- Click on the “+” button to see a list of available widgets. You can either type the widget name on the search bar or scroll down to browse through them and select.
- That’s it. You have successfully added a widget!
Is it that simple? Yes. Now you can change the order of the widgets on the sidebar and customize each one. The customizations are different for each WordPress widget. Apart from the default WordPress widgets and theme widgets, you can also add third-party widgets from the plugins directory. For this, you will have to install specific plugins like:
- Google Maps Widget – useful for businesses with a physical store to display the physical location to their customers.
- More Widgets – has a bunch of various widgets in a single plugin.
- Simple Social Icons – supports more than 30 social media platforms.
- WP Call Button – useful for businesses and allows the visitor to call you directly without entering the phone number.
- WP Live Chat Support – you can choose from the six chat box designs and place a live pop-up chat anywhere on your website.
How To Add A Widget To A Specific Page In WordPress?
Since the sidebar is primarily universal within your website, your widgets get displayed on every page of your site. The same goes for your headers and footers as well. Then, can you add a widget to a specific page or post in WordPress?
Yes. But for this, you need to add a plugin. Adding widgets to specific pages is not a native WordPress feature. Below are a few WordPress plugins that allow you to add and display WordPress widgets on specific pages:
- Widget Context
- WP Page Widget
- Display Widgets
- Content Block
- AMR Shortcode Any Widget
- Sidebar Widget & Widget Manager for WordPress
- Custom Sidebars
- Cherry Sidebars
- Dynamic Widgets
- Widget Logic
How To Remove Widgets From A WordPress Page?
What if you accidentally added the wrong widget or didn’t like a current WordPress widget? Can you remove it? Absolutely.
To remove widgets from your website:
- Select the widget from your widget dashboard. You will see a small menu on the top of your widget.
- Select the three-dot button on the right to see a drop-down menu of various actions.
- Click on the last option, always Remove <widget name>.
- Alternatively, you can press Shift+Alt+Z on your keyboard after selecting the widget.
- Done. You have now successfully removed a widget.
How To Create Custom Widgets In WordPress?
What if you don’t like the existing WordPress widgets? Can you create one? Yes, you can create custom widgets in WordPress. But you need to know to code.
That doesn’t mean you need to hack into your website or anything. Because WordPress provides its users with something called Widgets API. It is a coding library and comes with technical documentation. If you are a WordPress developer or web developer, you can try your hand at this.
Since it is pretty technical, we will not be covering it here.
10 Best WordPress Widgets To Add To Your Website
Now that you know how to add and remove WordPress widgets, you might be wondering which ones you need to add to your website. Let’s see what the different widgets in WordPress are:
The Search widget is a no-brainer. A search widget helps the visitor search your website for any articles, blog posts, pages, or other content. The widget is just a simple search box.
- Recent Posts
As the name suggests, the widget displays the titles of the most recent blog posts. Your home page or the blog section does the same job. However, only some of your visitors are from direct traffic; others might be from social media or google searches. In those cases, this widget encourages them to read the recent posts on your website.
- Recent Comments
This widget displays a list of the most recent comments across your website with links to the posts. If the post comments are interesting, a visitor may be intrigued to read the full article.
The Categories widget displays a list of all categories on your website. Each post category is linked to a page that shows all the previous blog posts in that category. If your website has multiple categories, this widget allows visitors to browse through and read selected blog posts.
What if a new visitor wants to browse through or read all your previous blog posts? Going through the categories wouldn’t be enough. The Archive widget has a list of links by month in descending order. On clicking on a particular month’s name, the visitor is taken to a page with the list of blog posts published in that month.
- Social Media
Whether yours is a personal blog, eCommerce website, or any other type, you will probably have more than one social media account. You would also love to engage with your visitors there, wouldn’t you? The social media widget allows you to link to all your social media accounts without taking up much space.
- Author Bio
The author bio widget is more useful if your’s is a personal website or blog and only you write the blogs. You can have your photo, name and a small bio of 3-4 sentences on your sidebar.
You can add different widgets to display any media on your website. You can display a photo from your gallery using the Image widget, embed a podcast or any audio using the Audio widget and embed YouTube or any other video using the Video widget.
- Email Newsletter Form
If you have an email newsletter, you will likely have a separate landing page or a pop-up form. Yet you can still have another opt-in method through an email subscription widget. It contains a subscription form with the name and email address or only the email address. You will have to integrate it with your email marketing service.
RSS widget displays the most frequently updated content from a particular feed. By default, the WordPress Widget displays a post title or the first 100 characters of the content, but you change it in the widget’s settings. The source for an RSS feed can be a Twitter account, Facebook account, other blogs or your website itself.
So, that was all about WordPress widgets you need to know. You can either add them from the existing list, from third-party plugins or create one by yourself through coding. If you need a customized widget but don’t know how to code it, you can still hire someone to do it for you.
We have given a list of the ten best WordPress widgets you can have on your website but feel free to try out others too. Every website or business is unique and will have different requirements. Also, you need to consider the overall website design and layout too. So, while picking your widget, consider its functionality and how it affects your site’s overall aesthetics.
Surabhi Bellippady wrote this guest post for Learn WP Tutorials.
– An ex-software engineer, Surabhi is a freelance SEO writer and content strategist passionate about tech. She loves to write about technology, apps, and gadgets in simple language that everyone can understand. She has helped businesses and agencies create high-quality, engaging content that resonates with their target audience. You can check out her articles at https://surabhibelli.com.