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What Are Widgets in WordPress?

In WordPress, Widgets are special elements, be it links, content, etc., that you can apply/add sitewide or perhaps, by site section. What I mean by sitewide is the presence of that element everywhere (all pages), or based on logic, different site sections.

A simple example can be a footer link to a contact us page that appears on all website pages. If you’re looking for a live and a real-world example, take a look at this site. Scroll down to the footer, and find the “explore by topics” heading. The links to various main topic pages in there are a result of using widgets.

One of the most significant advantages of widgets is that you rarely require coding skills to implement them on your site — a benefit that many WP users find enticing.

What Are the Different Kinds of Widgets Available?

The range of widgets is wide & extensive. You can insert things like:

  • Calendar
  • Recent Posts
  • Custom HTML
  • RSS Feed
  • Search Functionality
  • Audio
  • Tag Cloud
  • Something specific to a plugin, such as WP Forms
  • And a lot more!

For reference, take a look at the screenshot below, to see what choices I get for this site.

list of available widgets in wordpress
List of available widgets in the WordPress 2020 Theme

In What Locations Can I Place the Widgets?

A prominent determining factor in where you can place your widgets is the WordPress theme.

Depending on which one, some themes will allow you to add widgets to sidebars, headers, and other areas. Most of the themes though, will, or at the least, should, have some capability for accepting widgets into the footer.

A Few FAQs

What Is the Difference Between a Widget and a Plugin?

The non-technical difference is this:
Plugins enhance your WordPress site’s functionality, and in some cases, allow you to tweak things, either in the front-end or the back-end. For example, using a plugin for image CDN. On the other hand, Widgets lets you customize how, where, and more importantly, what to display on your site. For example, displaying a site-wide footer link to your contact us page.
Conversely, a commonality between the two is that both rarely require any coding skills.

How Do I Use Widgets in WordPress?

To start using Widgets, from your WordPress dashboard, head over to: Appearance > Widgets.

What Widgets Should I Add to My Blog?

The answer to this question depends on what your intent is. Many bloggers add Instagram and Twitter feeds to keep their followers updated on the latest. Some, even add a YouTube Gallery from their channels.
For me, having a search bar is quite essential, as I can get insights into what information users are looking for.
HubSpot has a great post that you may want to check out.

What Are Inactive Widgets

A carefully thought out functionality in WordPress, inactive Widgets can preserve all of your settings of a widget, as opposed to completely deleting it.
For example, say you wanted to get rid of Widget A from your site. You can either delete it, or drag it to the Inactive Widgets section. The former is self-explanatory; the latter, while also removes the widget, but as stated, keeps all of your settings and configurations. This way, if in the future you want that Widget Back with the same exact behavior, you simply reuse it again, versus creating it from scratch if you had deleted it.what are inactive widgets in wordpress

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In Closing

Part of the reasons why WordPress is one of the most loved platforms is because of the plugins and Widgets options out there. They complement each other with what you’re trying to achieve and further your brand’s messaging.

Widgets, as explained, are an incredible utility for highlighting and displaying various important areas of your site, or even external third-party assets such as a YouTube channel, or an Instagram Feed.

If you haven’t given Widgets a shot, seriously, play around with them. There are tons of customizations to be made and handy at one’s disposal.