The power of WordPress as a content management system (CMS) platform has revolutionized the way we make websites. Gone are the days when people need to learn HTML coding to create a good website. These days, WYSIWYG editors and plug-and-play website makers are all the rage, and this is why WordPress has become the number one website framework in the world.

One of the best features of WordPress is its flexibility. The standalone skeletal structure of WordPress already works on a technical perspective, but there are so many things that you can do to enhance the functionality of your WordPress-powered website.

Extending WordPress functionality

Here are some of the most common ways to expand the already awesome properties of WordPress:

Install a custom theme: You have the option to change the themes that come with a default WordPress installation. There are a lot of free and premium themes in the market, but you can also create your own custom theme from scratch using a tool like TemplateToaster WordPress website builder and WordPress theme builder. This way, you’ll have the opportunity to really custom-fit your desired website actions according to your purposes.

Install plug-ins: These mini-applications serve as extended functions to enhance the way we can use WordPress. Plug-ins are a dime a dozen in the market these days, and so there’s bound to be something that will tickle your fancy. Bottom line, these plug-ins have the ability to add new features and functions that the default WP installation doesn’t have.

Add widgets: These additional sections of the site page promote efficient use of space on the website. By dividing the whole page into sections – whether it’s in the form of sidebars or widgets – you are essentially making use of valuable white space for something as basic as a Facebook like button.

What Are Widgets?

We’ve been talking a bit about widgets, but what is it really? The official WordPress Codex defines it as the following:

WordPress Widgets add content and features to your Sidebars. Examples are the default widgets that come with WordPress; for Categories, Tag cloud, Search, etc. Plugins will often add their own widgets.

In other words, widgets were originally designed to enhance the usability and functionality of a WordPress website. What makes it unique is that the process of adding and maintaining widgets on a page uses drag-and-drop interface for a seamless site management experience.

The existence of widgets makes it easy for any website owner or developer to craft a specific layout or structure by simply “widgetizing” the WordPress theme. In a standard WordPress website, the most basic widgetized area of the page is called the sidebar. Whether it’s positioned on the left or on the right, the sidebar serves as a house for widgets. All you need to do is choose your desired widgets, and drag them into the sidebar.

How Do I Use Widget Areas?

You might be wondering how to configure a WordPress theme to make widgets compatible to it. The good news is that practically all of the existing themes already have widget areas (in the form of sidebars at the very least). More advanced themes have widget areas at the header and footer sections, so that the website owner can simply drag and drop header and footer widgets, respectively.

Here are the steps on how to use widget areas and place your preferred widgets:

  1. From the Admin Dashboard, hover your mouse pointer to Appearance at the left sidebar , then click “Widgets”.
  2. On the Widgets interface, you will see two columns: Available Widgets, and Widget Area.
  • The Available Widgets column lists down all on the widgets that you can use on the site. These widgets may be either bundled with the default installation of WordPress (such as Archives, Categories, Pages, and Custom Menu), or included in a plug-in that you installed.
  • The Widget Area column lists down the available widget areas for your site. At the very least, this portion contains a Sidebar. For more advanced WordPress themes, you may see more widget areas, such as Header Area, Footer Area, or Second Sidebar. The existence of the widget areas will depend on the theme used.
  1. To use a particular widget, drag its tab into the widget area where you want it to appear.
  2. After dropping the tab into the widget area, the widget should expand to reveal options. Some widgets may ask for an optional title, while others ask for more specific details depending on their functionality.
  3. Once you have entered changes in the widget options, click Save to publish the widget.

 

Add widget areas anywhere on your WordPress theme just by a click using TemplateToaster

 

Editing Widgets

With WordPress, you have the ability to configure the widgets according to your liking. Aside from adding new widgets, here are some more functions that you can do on widget areas:

Removing a widget

  • From the Admin Dashboard, go to Appearance > Widgets.
  • Look for the widget area and the particular widget that you want to remove.
  • On the widget’s tab, click the down arrow (or “Edit” in some versions).
  • Click Delete to remove the widget permanently.

Moving a widget

  • Follow the same access to the Widget section (i.e. Appearance > Widgets).
  • Look for the widget area and the particular widget that you want to move.
  • Click on the widget’s tab, hold the mouse down, and drag the tab to the position where you want it to go. Release the mouse as soon as you see the widget tab positioned properly on the screen. In other words, moving a widget is done using drag-and-drop functionality.

Default WordPress Widgets

Don’t be surprised if you see a few widgets already installed in your default WP site. Here are the widgets that come bundled with the standard WP installation and default theme:

  • Archives
  • Calendar
  • Categories
  • Custom Menu
  • Meta
  • Pages
  • Recent Comments
  • Recent Posts
  • RSS
  • Search
  • Tag Cloud
  • Text

 

How to add a new widget area

Some WordPress users may find the default themes and other existing themes in the repository fairly limited in terms of widget areas. Aside from the sidebar, there are dozens of ways to present and put widget areas on a page. Examples include the following:

  • Header section
  • Footer section
  • A hidden top header that pops out only when the site visitor clicks on a drop-down arrow
  • A secondary sidebar
  • Some other section of the site where widgets may be placed

If you need to widgetize more parts of the WordPress theme, here are the steps to adding new widget areas. Note that the following steps require a fair amount of knowledge on PHP and WordPress theme customization.

1. Add a piece of code on the part of the theme that you want to widgetize

Look for the section of the theme where you want to put a new widget area. You can add this to practically any theme PHP file such as single.php, page.php, and index.php.

<?php if ( !function_exists(‘dynamic_sidebar’) || !dynamic_sidebar(“Name of New Widget Area”) ) : ?>
<?php endif;?>

Replace “Name of New Widget Area” with something that you understand. Afterwards, you need to either upload the PHP file to the web host server, or save the file if you’re editing it through the Theme Editor panel of the WordPress Admin Dashboard.

2. Add the following code to functions.php.

if ( function_exists(‘register_sidebar’) )
register_sidebar(array(
‘name’ => ‘Name of New Widget Area’,
‘before_widget’ => ‘<div class = “newWidgetArea”>’,
‘after_widget’ => ‘</div>’,
‘before_title’ => ‘<h3>’,
‘after_title’ => ‘</h3>’,
)
);

The above code registers the new widget area for use in your WordPress theme. Make sure that the terms that you use in “Name of New Widget Area” are exactly the same as in Step 1.
The parameters before_widget and after_widget allow you to insert codes before and after the widgets, respectively. This is the same with the parameters before_title and after_title, only, this time, they are applicable to the widget title.

3. See the new widget area in action.

If you have successfully performed Steps 1 and 2, then you should be able to see a new widget area in Appearance > Widgets. You may now insert widgets into the widget area that you created, following the procedures earlier in the article.

 

 

Conclusion

If it’s your first time to use WordPress, widget areas will be your new best friend as you will find it easy to change the layout and positions of your website elements until you achieve the look and functionality that you desire.

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