September 3, 2020

How to Add Widgets in WordPress: A Step-By-Step Guide

Did you know that widgets have been around since the 80s? True, they looked very different than the WordPress widgets we know today—but from there, widgets have grown in function to become an indispensable website component.

In fact, without widgets, there’s only so much you can do with your WordPress site. Widgets give you the chance to add functionality and design elements that can increase leads, dwell time, and more.

If you are a new site owner, then learning how to add widgets in WordPress is essential. Fortunately, it’s not all that hard once you know where to go.

If you want to start building better-designed pages that convert and retain your visitors, then continue reading as we unpack how WordPress widgets work.

What Are Widgets in WordPress and Why Are They Important?

Before we get into how to add widgets in WordPress, let’s quickly recap what widgets are and why they are so important.

Widgets are blocks of content you can use to display elements in your sidebars, footer, or any other widget-friendly area of your site.

If you’re struggling to visualize the answer to what are widgets in WordPress, think of any content that you have seen in a site’s sidebar or footer area. This was very likely a widget.

For example, if you scroll down to the bottom of this post, you’ll see a number of widgets. Currently, one of them is the subscribe option that you see first. Then just above the footer area, we also have a related posts widget to give you more relevant content from our blog.

Lastly, we have a contact widget in the far bottom of the footer.

As you can see, without these widgets, our page wouldn’t be nearly as functional or as finished-off.

What Do Widgets Do in WordPress?

Widgets serve very important roles on your site. From driving customers to try out free demos, to displaying media and display ads, widgets are an integral part of building an effective website.

Without widgets, you will be hard-pressed to guide customers around your WordPress site and direct them to take the actions you want.

So, without further ado, let’s dive into how to go about WordPress widgets.

How to Add Pre-Installed Widgets In WordPress

With every WordPress installation comes a default set of widgets. These are provided by WordPress and cover some of the most common widget needs.

The default widgets include:

  • Recent posts
  • Search
  • Categories
  • Navigation menu
  • Tag Cloud

If you find that the widget you want is not included in the default list, then you can head on over to your plugins page to search for and install a new one. We’ll get to more on that later, but for now, let’s tackle how to add one of the default widgets to a widget area on your site.

Step 1: Find and Insert the Widget Into Your Sidebar, Footer, or Other Widget-Friendly Area

The first thing you need to do when adding widgets to WordPress is to find your widget.

Once there, you will see your pre-installed widgets displayed. From here, you can select the one you want to add to your sidebar, footer, or another widget-friendly area.

To make things easier (or more complicated if you are a beginner), WordPress offers three different ways for you to add widgets to your site.

Here are the two primary ways you can use to add WordPress widgets.

Using: Appearance > Widgets

To navigate to the widgets page in WordPress, simply click “Appearance” on the left-hand side menu, then select “Widgets.”


adding WordPress widgets from appearance menu


Here you will see the list of installed widgets displayed. To add a widget to an area of your site, you can drag and drop the desired widget to an area on the right.

Depending on where you want the widget to display, you can drop it under any of the area bars, such as “Main Sidebar” or one of the footer columns.

Once here, you can re-arrange the order of different widgets by dragging them up or down.

Using: Appearance > Customize

Another way to add WordPress widgets is to use the customize function. To do so, click on “Appearance” and then “Customize.” This will take you to the customize site builder page.

Once here, scroll down almost to the bottom of the side menu until you reach “Widgets.” Once in “Widgets,” you can add a new widget by clicking the “Add Widget” button.add widgets through customizer

In this view, you will also be able to edit already added widgets and re-arrange their orders.

Step 2: Edit the Widget Settings

The final step to adding widgets to WordPress is adjusting the settings. Once you have selected a new widget to add (via any of the above paths), all you need to do is click on it, and the settings fields will appear in a drop-down box.

Go through the fields and customize them to suit your needs.

And voilà! You have now added a widget to WordPress.

How to Install New Widgets

Now that you know how how to add widgets in WordPress let’s take a look at how to install a new widget into your theme.

If you are looking for a specific widget that is not included in the WordPress default list, then you will have to install it. This is done by first installing a plugin.

This sounds much more complicated than it is, so stay with us.

To get an idea of why one does this, think of it like this. Widgets are like the icons and interface for the apps on your phone. They are what you see. Plugins, on the other hand, are the apps and their coding.

Therefore, to display a new widget on your site, you’ll need the coding behind it, or in other words, the plugin.

Here are the steps to install the plugin that will power the new widget you want to display.

Step 1: Plugins > Add New

Go to the right-hand side menu in WordPress and select “Plugins” then “Add New.”

This will take you to a page where you can add and search new plugins.

Step 2: Search Your Plugin

Navigate to the search bar at the upper left-hand side of the page. Type in the name and function of the plugin you would like to install.

For example, if you want to install a plugin that displays client testimonials, you could type in “testimonials,” and a list of plugins will appear for you to choose from.

add new plugin

On the other hand, you might have a specific testimonials plugin in mind, such as Strong Testimonials. If so, simply type the name into the search bar, and it should come right up.

Step 3: Install the Plugin

To install the plugin you want, all you have to do is click “Install Now” at the top left-hand side of the plugin.

Once the installation is done, you will then need to click “Activate.” Depending on the plugin, there might be different activation steps you will need to take. However, the plugin will guide you through them.

Step 4: Go to Your Widgets

Once you have successfully activated the new plug, all you have to do is navigate to your widgets. The new widget should then display along with your existing default widgets.

new widget in widgets area

You can then add the widget to any widget-friendly area of your site. In the case of this Testimonials plugin, you will first need to go the new plugin’s settings page and add a bunch of testimonials.  Now, when you add the testimonials widget to your sidebar or footer area, the testimonials will show up accordingly.

How to Delete Widgets

Besides knowing how to add widgets in WordPress, you’ll also want to know how to delete them for ongoing functionality and page speed optimization.

This is very important because having a lot of redundant widgets and plugins on your site can contribute to slow page speeds. According to stats from Google, even a 1-second delay in mobile page load speed can slash conversion by as much as 20%. Therefore it’s essential to do everything you can to keep page speeds high.

You will likely find that some widgets you install do not perform as well as you intended. For instance, social share buttons used to be considered imperative; however, reports are now stating that only 1.2% of users ever utilize them.

If a plugin on your site only sees this kind of utilization rate—it’s not worth the bandwidth.

Disabling a Widget on Your Site

If you wish to merely remove a widget from displaying on your site, then head over to your widgets. Once there, click the drop-down arrow on the unwanted widget and select “Delete.”

You can also choose to drag and drop the widget, either to your “Available Widgets” area, or “Inactive Widgets” area at the bottom of the page.

Deleting a Widget and It’s Plugin

If you want to delete a widget entirely from your theme, you will need to go to “Plugins,” then “Installed Plugins.”

Navigate to the one you want, then click “Deactivate” and then “Delete.”

Now That You Know How to Add Widgets in WordPress, It’s Time to Edit Your Site

All that’s left to do now that you know how to add widgets in WordPress is to start editing your site and adding widgets.

Speaking of which, did you know that regular website edits are crucial for the speed, optimization, and functionality of your site?

If regular site changes sound daunting, we offer unlimited website edits in our WordPress maintenance service that also includes plugin and theme updates, as well as speed optimization and security. Subscribe to one of our maintenance plans to keep your site running at peak performance.

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