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Widgets for your website … yes really!



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Widgets are cool!

Matthew Miller

Widgets are cool; they are like apps on your smartphone, some of them can even communicate with phone apps. Widgets do things that would be hard to set up from scratch, such as embedded calendars and feeds.
Widgets are plugins for your WordPress website, but not all plugins are widgets. Plugins add functionality, many of which work in the background. Widgets are concerned with the front end, what the visitor sees and in some cases interact with, Some plug-ins come with widget components which visitors can use, an example might be a slide show of images, The slider plugin manages the images and settings while the widget displays them.

 

Widgets can be found in the menu of your control panel under “Appearance”, the widget screen is split in half: On the left you have your available widgets, and on the right you have the locations where you can place them.
The widget locations available to you will depend on the theme you have installed. In general premium themes will give you more areas to place widgets or even the ability to set custom areas. However, you will nearly always, as a bare minimum, get the option of a left or a right sidebar and often the footer area as well.
The widgets you have available to place are dependent on the theme you are using; the plugins you have installed and a few blogging related widgets that display things like latest post and recent comments. These default to all themes. You can always find the ubiquitous “text” widget. This is extremely handy as you can use it to add shortcodes to other site functions such as embedding contact forms or just adding a block of text to your sidebar. The text widget allows you to ‘widgetise’ any task you can think of.

 

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To place a widget all you have to do is drag it to the area you want it in, drag the widgets around to change the order in which they appear you can also drag widgets directly from one widget area to another, for example, the left-hand sidebar to the right. If you no longer want to use a widget just drag it left over the available widget area, and it will be gone. If you want to keep the settings of more complex widgets, there is also an area at the bottom of the left-hand side in which you can store unused widgets.

 

Newer versions of WordPress now allow you to place widgets using a drop down menu; this speeds up time for developers who are used to it. However if you are constructing your site, visually it’s easier and more intuitive to move everything around by dragging it to where you want it.

 

The types of widgets available to you are only really limited by your imagination. I have yet to think of something I couldn’t find or make (using the “text” widget). I don’t have the figure for the number of different types of widget available but to use a technical term it’s ‘bucketloads’!

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A few widgets I use regularly include: live Twitter feeds, social media links, contact forms, image slide shows, search boxes, testimonials, company information, custom navigation menus, shopping cart (if you have a store), news feeds, availability calendars and featured posts, products and articles.

 

To find new widgets use to go to the plugins page and click “add new” then search for plugins that are or include widgets. Adding the word “widget” to your search query will narrow your search however it may miss some good candidates because some plugins include widgets as an additional feature to the plugin.

A list of my top ten widgets will be the subject of a future article.

More to come soon, if you are interested in the hows and whats of WordPress, and you would like to know about anything  leave a comment, and I will address it in future blogs.

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