In discussions with readers and clients recently, I’ve realized there’s a lot of confusion about WordPress widgets — what they are, and even more importantly, where they are.
I admit, widgets can be confusing little beasts at times. Here’s some basic information about what a widget is. Read this first, then come on back and we’ll talk about the most common widgets, and where you’ll find them.
Where are the Widgets?
The two places you’ll find widgets most often on a web page are in the sidebar and the footer. These two widgetized areas are part of nearly every WordPress theme.
The sidebar runs along the side of the page. It can be on the right, on the left, or on both sides. On this site, the sidebar is on the right.
Here are some examples of sidebar widgets.
Here are the footer widgets:
While the sidebar and footer are the most common places to find widgets, those are not the only spots for widgets on a WordPress page.
Here are some examples of widgets in other locations:
This is a slider (a special plugin that creates a slideshow) at the top of a homepage. It’s created within a custom widgetized area — in other words, not a widget that’s provided by the theme.
These three columns on the homepage are created within three widgetized areas. In this case, they are built into the Streamline Pro theme from StudioPress.
This homepage layout includes both a slider (see the arrow) and a two-column widgetized area next to the sidebar. So in this small area you’re actually looking at four separate widgets. They are built into the Serenity theme by StudioPress.
Another spot where you may see a widget or two is at the end of a blog post.
Now that you know where to look for widgets, let’s talk about what sort of content you’re likely to find inside a widget.
Most Common Widgets
If you’re collecting names for your mailing list, you’ll want an opt-in box somewhere on your site. Since you want readers to be able to sign up from any page, the sidebar is a good place for it. On this site, the opt-in is at the very top of the sidebar.
Some sites make the opt-in even more prominent, by placing it just below the header, like the Generate Pro theme.
You’ll often find a brief About Me widget in either the sidebar or the footer. If in the sidebar, it should be near the top of the page.
Whether you place it in the sidebar or the footer depends on what the site is about. If it an individual or organization, for example, if you’ve created your site to help you land speaking or coaching engagements, or if you’re a travel blogger who writes extensively about your personal travel experiences, you’ll want your About Me near the top of every page.
If your site is less personality driven, adding it to the footer is fine.
Additional Site Navigation
Besides your menus, you may want to add some navigation to your sidebar. On this site you’ll see links to Tutorials and Reviews. Recent Articles, Most Popular Articles and Categories are also popular sidebar widgets.
The sidebar is a good place for social media links. In addition to the “follow me” links, you can show your most recent Tweets, Pins, or Facebook followers.
Recent Posts or Comments
If your homepage doesn’t include a blog, you might want to feature your most recent blog posts and/or comments in your sidebar or footer.
Don’t put every testimonial you’ve ever received in your sidebar. One or two, with links to more, is fine. Use a plugin like HMS Testimonials to show your readers a rotating list.
Use widgets to display advertising on your site. Common spots are the sidebar, the footer, and just below an article or blog post. Some themes are set up to show ads in the header area as well.
Instead of a promotional video only on the homepage, consider placing a smaller version of it in your sidebar.
These are just a few of the uses for widgets. What do you use your widgets for?