The Widgets Panel

As the name implies, a widget can be almost anything. Typically these come from one of three sources: WordPress itself, a plugin, or the theme author.

Does my theme have “widget-ready areas”?

To use a widget, the theme author has to provide you with some “widgetized areas” (AKA “sidebars”, though they can be anywhere on the screen). These are basically places into which you can place your widgets, and WordPress will calculate and insert the proper code to implement the desired feature in that part of the page. In some cases, the theme author will have set a default for a widget-ready area, so that there will be something there if no widgets are used at all. Otherwise, the widget-ready area may not show up at all if no widgets are placed into it.

For instance, the WF College One Pro theme has several widget-ready areas, including Primary (used on the left side), Secondary (used on the right side), Subsidiary (in the footer) and Header (located just above the main header image). (There are a few more wich are ready to be implemented in custom designs based on WF College One Pro, but aren’t included in any of the standard templates.)

Screenshot showing the main widget-ready areas in the WF College One Pro theme.
The main widget-ready areas in WF College One Pro

Drag those widgets where you want them!

You may have found that there are already some widgets in your Primary widget area. A new feature of WordPress which was introduced a couple of versions ago is actually a bit of a nuisance here. Now, when one switches themes, all of the widgets which were present in the previous theme are carried over to the new theme. To get rid of the widgets currently in your Primary area, simply drag each widget from the primary area and drop it into either the Available Widgets area or the Inactive Widgets area. (If you want to save the settings entered into the widget to use it later, drag it to the Inactive Widgets area. This will save its settings, where dragging it into the Available Widgets area will reset the widget.) Note that the Inactive Widgets area might be off the bottom of your screen. Just keep dragging the widget towards the bottom of the screen, and it should scroll to show you the Inactive Widgets area.

The Widgets panel from the WordPress Training site
The Widgets panel

Playing with the Text widget

One of the simplest and easiest to use widgets is the Text widget. This allows you to add simple chunks of text in the same place on each page, like the footer text at the bottom of every page in the WordPress Training site. (Often this is where basic contact information for the department or unit is displayed.)

Let’s try this out together…

Get to your personal training site, by clicking the My Sites menu at the top left once you’re logged into the site. Once you get to the Dashboard of your training site, click (or hover your mouse over) the Appearance menu, then choose Widgets.

  1. Click the word “Subsidiary” to open up the Subsidiary (footer) widget area
  2. Find the Text widget in the Available Widgets and drag it just below the word Subsidiary
  3. When you see a dotted outline under the word Subsidiary, WordPress is ready for you to drop the widget
  4. Type some text into the widget then visit your page to see the changes.

If you create a widget with lots of customized settings or content you don’t want to have type again, but decide you don’t need right now, remember to drag it to the Inactive Widgets area at teh bottom of the Widgets panel. Dropping a widget here will remove it from your site, but save all the settings you typed into it, so you can easily use it later.

Let’s look at another great way to customize your site: Custom Menus!