Widgets are one of the many overlooked features of WordPress, that bloggers forget about, or simply don’t know enough about.
First, let’s start off by explaining what a Widget even is. A WordPress Widget is an added functionality, that you’re often able to add to your chosen theme/design. Of course, not every theme has a widget area built into it, but probably 99% of all themes do.
To use Widgets, go to “Appearance > Widgets” of your WordPress WP-Admin area.
It should look similar to this:
A widget doesn’t do anything until you drag it into a widget-area of your site.
The most popular widget area is of course – The sidebar. If you look at our blog as an example, you will see the sidebar in the right-side area of our site. It currently shows a little bit about us, a follow section, our social media and a small menu to browse our different post categories.
Each of the different features, is a widget. So for an example, the first “About us”-part is just a simple “text-widget” we used to introduce the reader to our site and what they can expect to find on our blog.
Our social media icons are appearing from dragging the widget “Social Icons” over and adding URL’s to our social media profiles. The widget then automatically generates the right icons with links, so visitors can go check those out.
The categories widget automatically shows all the blog categories we have. So if we create a new category, it automatically puts that in there.
The design we’re currently using has a few more widget-areas that include a Full-width footer area (This is where we’ve put our Instagram feed), and than a Footer 1, 2 & 3 area. We again have a text widget in Footer 1, a Follow Widget in Footer 2 and finally our social links once again in Footer 3.
Which Widgets should you use?
Depending on the theme you are using, you may have some custom widgets available that have been made specifically to use with that theme. I know that this is often the case, if you’re using a theme you’ve purchased online (like PipDig).
As a rule of thumb, if you’re a blogger, I would suggest you to at least have a very basic widget-structure like this for your sidebar:
- A little personal info about you or your blog
- Links to your social profiles, so people can find them easily
- A subscribe or follow button for your blog
- A list of your most recent or popular posts
There are of course no rules to dictate what you should put in the sidebar, but if you currently don’t have any widgets, then using the above as a guideline should do you well!
The main goal should only to put things in there, that are useful to your visitors and most importantly to your blog. Very often we see bloggers put an array of banners from other websites that have no place being there. This could for an example be a big “Toplist Mommy-Bloggers” banner (I’ve seen these often), or something else along those lines.
The reason why I would never put it there, is that you have nothing to gain from having it displayed, the only function it could possibly have, is to lead your visitors away from your site and that’s the last thing you want. Much better would be to list your most popular posts, so that people can enjoy other content from your blog, which they may haven’t read yet.
Specially if a new visitor finds your site, why not give them an easy way for them to read what your other readers have enjoyed the most.
Don’t over-do it!
I understand that widgets are exciting, specially once you find new ones with sparkly colours and features that look really cool, but you should always keep in mind that widgets can also serve as a distraction from your main content, that should never be the case.
Try to limit your widget-use to a maximum of 4-5 widgets, anything beyond that will mostly only do more damage than good.
If your theme has the option to use Footer widgets, then remember that this area is rarely seen and mostly just viewed if people are looking for pages that haven’t found on other areas of your blog. (Like a contact-page, social links etc.) When it comes to the footer area, keep it very light!
I hope you’ve learned a bit more about widgets, how to use them and which to use. Remember this was a very basic approach to widgets and depending on your site + theme used, you often have some special features that are unique to your design. It’s always good to read the documentation of your theme to see which special features/options you have with it.
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