What is a Widget in WordPress?

WordPress widgets provide an easy way to add features and functionality to your website without coding. Widgets are blocks of content that can be placed in widget areas of your theme. The most common widget areas are sidebars, footers, and headers.

Depending on the theme, widgets may also be used in many other locations on your site.

What are WordPress Widgets?

Widgets are small blocks that perform a specific function. The core WordPress widgets include:

  • Search bar
  • Archives
  • Categories
  • Tag cloud
  • Navigation menus
  • Recent posts
  • RSS feeds
  • Calendar
  • Text

Many WordPress plugins also come with custom widgets. For example, a newsletter plugin may include a widget to display a newsletter signup form.

Widgets make it easy to add features and content to your site without coding. You just drag and drop them into a widget area, configure settings, and they’re ready to go.

Where Can You Use Widgets?

Where you can use widgets depends on the theme. Most WordPress themes come with at least one sidebar widget area. Many also have footer, header, homepage, and other widget sections.

Common widget placement includes:

  • Sidebars: Popular posts, search bar, newsletter form, social icons.
  • Footer: Menu, text, social links, copyright text.
  • Header: Shopping cart, social links, phone number.
  • Homepage: Custom content blocks, call-to-action.

The widget areas available in your theme can be found in Appearance → Widgets.

Core WordPress Widgets

WordPress comes packed with several helpful widgets:

Search Bar

Adds a search form to your site to help visitors find articles.


Displays a list of dates your posts were published. Helps readers browse old content.


Shows a list of all your blog categories to make it easy for visitors to browse by topic.

Tag Cloud

Displays your most frequently used tags in different font sizes depending on popularity.

Navigation Menu

Adds a custom menu created from Appearance → Menus.

Recent Posts

Shows a list of your most recent posts. Great for helping visitors discover new content.

RSS Links

Displays RSS feed links to help readers subscribe to your content.


Adds a calendar to your site showing your published dates.

Text Widget

A custom text or HTML block. Can be used to add custom content.

There are also many WordPress plugins that come with extra widget functionality.

How to Use Widgets in WordPress

Adding widgets to your WordPress site is simple:

  1. Go to Appearance → Widgets
  2. Find the widget you want to use in the left sidebar.
  3. Drag the widget to a widget area on the right side.
  4. Once added, click on the down arrow to expand the widget settings.
  5. Configure the widget settings to your liking.
  6. Click Save to store your configuration.

Most widgets include basic settings to configure titles, text, links, and more. Refer to a widget’s documentation for detailed setup steps.

The process is the same whether adding a default WordPress widget or one provided by a plugin. Install any required plugins first, then the widgets will appear alongside the core options.

Widgets vs Plugins

Widgets and plugins are similar in that they both extend WordPress functionality. But there are some key differences:

Plugins need to be installed and activated to work. They usually add complex features like contact forms, SEO, security, etc.

Widgets are like drag-and-drop blocks. They don’t need to be “activated” and are used to add small pieces of content.

Many plugins come with custom widgets. So you first install the plugin, then activate the widget functions by adding them to a widget area.

An easy way to think of it is:

  • Plugins = smartphone apps
  • Widgets = smartphone widgets

So a contact form plugin is like an app. And a contact form widget would be a widget you can drag and drop onto your homepage.

Essential WordPress Widgets

Here are some of the most useful WordPress widgets that are worth checking out:

  • Search – Help visitors find your content.
  • Recent Posts – Show the latest blog posts.
  • Categories – Make it easy to navigate by topic.
  • Tag Cloud – Show popular topics.
  • Social Icons – Add links to social media profiles.
  • About Me – Add a bio and headshot.
  • Subscribe Form – Grow your email list.
  • Image – Add photos and graphics.
  • Contact Info – Share phone, address, and email.
  • Calendar – Display a calendar showing your posts.
  • Text – Add custom text, HTML, and links.

Take advantage of these essential widgets to improve your site navigation, help visitors find information, and prompt them to take action.

Get Creative with Widgets

With thousands of WordPress plugins available, the possibilities are endless when it comes to the types of widgets you can add to your site.

Things you can do with widgets:

  • Feature specific products/services.
  • Embed videos.
  • Display social media feeds.
  • Rotate banner ads.
  • Show visitor maps and feedback.
  • Highlight testimonials.
  • And much more.

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