Understanding WordPress Widgets and How They Work

If you’ve spent some time around the WordPress administrative area, chances are you’ve seen a section called “Widgets” (Hint: it’s hiding under the Appearance > Widgets menu of your admin area). But what exactly are WordPress widgets and how do they work?  Let’s dive right in to make sense of these unique facets of the web’s most popular content management system.

The History of WordPress Widgets

WordPress widgets were originally intended to make cumbersome tasks in WordPress (like adding a calendar or your latest blog posts) easier by putting control of this back in the user’s hands, rather than having them rely on a WordPress developer to make complex changes to the code.

With widgets, certain WordPress themes had predefined areas (called “widgetized areas”) where users could simply drag and drop these pre-made widgets right into a certain slot, such as the theme’s sidebar or footer.

WordPress Themes and Widgets

In order to put a widget into a certain place in your theme, the theme must first have pre-defined widgetized areas. Unfortunately, you can’t just drag and drop a widget anywhere, since WordPress has to know what you want to place there and how to display it. Generally speaking, widgetized areas in WordPress themes include:

  • The header
  • The footer
  • The sidebar
  • Below your content
  • And anywhere else (it varies from theme to theme!)

Theme authors generally want to give their users as much control as possible over the design possibilities within their theme, so don’t be surprised if you have several widgetized areas within your theme. If you have none, that means that your theme does not surprise widgets. It’s rare, but there are some themes out there that are more strict with regards as to what they let you add or not.

In addition, the type of content that you can add through widgets varies from theme to theme. WordPress comes with certain widgets  by default, including:

  • Categories
  • Tag cloud
  • Navigation menu
  • Recent posts
  • Site search

So, if you drag and drop the recent posts widget into an area defined as the “Sidebar”, your recent posts will show up there and update every time you add a new post without you having to do anything.

Types of WordPress Widgets

Although WordPress comes with certain widgets by default, that doesn’t mean that you’re relegated to using just those widgets. In fact, third parties have created a variety of widgets that, once you install them, that you can use freely to handle advanced WordPress tasks. Widgets are generally installed like plugins, but then you’ll find the widget capabilities under the Appearance > Widgets section of your administrative area.

With that being said, there are several great third-party widgets worth a look, including:


Replaces the default WordPress search (which is clunky and basic at best) with a more full-featured search. You have lots of configurable options with this search and the results are presented in a way that’s neat and clean.

Ultimate Social Media Icons

More than just a set of nifty social media icons, this widget lets you choose between over a dozen designs and lets users share your page, as well as like and follow. You can also use this widget to allow your users to subscribe by email to your blog as well as add add “counts” to the number of times your article or blog post has been shared.

Advanced Random Posts

This widget lets you give a little love to your older or less popular posts by displaying them alongside a thumbnail image, excerpt and post date. A great way to introduce your readers to some older content they may have missed.

All-in-One Event Calendar

Although this widget is not for everyone, those who maintain organizations, clubs or any other type of blog where an event calendar is needed will find it incredibly handy. Clean, fresh design and customization together with an easy-to-manage online calendar makes it simple and straightforward to add dates and noteworthy events to your blog.

Of course, these are just a few of the many widgets available for WordPress. You can find WordPress widgets in the online plugin repository and you can install them in the same way as you install plugins. Oftentimes, their features can be found in the widgets area, where you can customize the settings in one area, and then drag and drop the finished product into the widgetized area on your website.

What if I Need Help Working with Widgets?

When it comes to installing widgets and adding widgets to your site, the process is fairly straightforward. However, if you need some more advanced functionality that default widgets don’t give you, or you want a widget to go beyond its intended use and customize it for your own site, it’s a smart idea to contact us at WPDandy. We have years of experience as WordPress development professionals working with all kinds of themes and sites large and small.

We specialize in working with WordPress widgets, as well as WordPress maintenance and management. No job is too large or too small for our professional WordPress development team. Through our innovative administrative panel, you can correspond one on one with your personal developer and assign tasks, make clarifications, exchange files and more. It’s a simple, intuitive way to get your WordPress to-do list done, so you can concentrate on growing your site instead of slogging through a constant list of WordPress maintenance and management work.

We invite you to learn more about working with our team by contacting us today. We can install plugins, widgets, add and upgrade themes or make custom code changes, all for one affordable monthly fee. Contact us today to learn more about our comprehensive WordPress management and maintenance services and put our expert WordPress developers to work for you today!