What is a widget?

Widgets are the building blocks of a WordPress website, and can be added and arranged to create widget areas and pages. They come in many forms, including text, menus, calendars, and galleries. 

There are two ways to access and edit widgets. First go to your WordPress Dashboard and click on “Appearance.” Now you can either click directly on “Widgets,” or you can click “Customize” and access “Widgets” from there. The two methods take you to two different pages related to widgets. We’ll mostly talk about the “Widgets” page under “Customize” because this page allows you to edit your widgets and immediately see what the website looks like as a result. 

Widget Areas

Widgets are arranged in “widget areas,” which are the available places for widgets on your website as determined by your WordPress template. These widget areas display one or several similar widgets grouped together. 

Let’s look at a blank church website template as an example. For this website, the homepage has five widget areas: Homepage Slider, Homepage Highlights, Homepage Bottom Left, Homepage Bottom Right, and Page Sidebar. (Other pages on this website have different widget areas.)

Within these widget areas, several widgets can be displayed. This template has a “Slider” widget at the top of the homepage. This means that the picture at the top of the page changes every few seconds, alternating between three different widgets. 

We also have the Homepage Highlights widget group, shown below. 

Each individual highlight is a separate widget, and each takes you to a different link when you click on it. By selecting “Homepage Highlights” underneath the “Widgets” for this page, you can rearrange and add more widgets to the widget area. 

There are dozens of options of widgets that you can add. These options vary depending on the template, page, and widget area. 

Let’s try editing a widget. We’ll go now to the “I’m New Here” page of this sample template. Here we have a sidebar widget area, with a “Get Directions” widget. 

By clicking on the “Get Directions” widget on the left side of the screen, you can edit it. For example, I could check the “show phone number” or “show email” box on the left. That information would show up on the widget on the right. 

We can also add a new widget to the sidebar. Here’s an example:

What about the Widget Page under Appearance?

At the beginning of this blog post, I mentioned that you could access the widgets in one of two ways: You could go from Dashboard > Appearance > Customize > Widgets, or you could go from Dashboard > Appearance > Widgets. What about the second route? Where does that take you? 

If you just go from “Appearance” to “Widgets,” you’ll find yourself on a very different page. Here’s what it looks like: 

On the right side of the screen, you’ll see all the available widgets for your website. These may vary depending on what kind of website you have and what your template looks like. On the left side of the screen, you’ll see all the available widget areas. While you’re on this screen, you can drag and drop widgets into widget areas so that you can edit them a little later. 

What’s Next?

Hopefully you have a better idea now of how widgets work. If you want to learn more about widgets, pages, and menus, you can watch our webinar. In addition, keep watching for next week’s post on more WordPress editing skills. 

Photo by Maja Petric on Unsplash

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