How to Add Widgets to WordPress to Customize Your Website and Improve User Experience
17 min.

A website that resonates with its audience through tailored content, layout, and functionality can significantly improve visitor interaction and satisfaction. This is where you need to learn how to add widgets to WordPress and use these powerful tools to customize your site.

Let us guide you through the process of WP site customization!

What Are WordPress Widgets?

They are small blocks that perform specific functions. They allow users to add content and features to suitable areas of their WordPress theme, such as sidebars, footers, headers, or anywhere else as specified by the theme, such as in-between blog post content.

These tools can range from simple text blocks, calendars, and search bars to more complex features like custom menus, tag clouds, shop filters, search fields, and social media feeds. They are designed to provide a user-friendly way to control and customize the functionality of a WP site without the need for extensive coding.

They are typically managed in the WP dashboard under the “Appearance” section. Here, users can simply drag and drop widgets into designated areas, making it easy to incorporate various elements into their site.

WordPress Widgets

Their Role in Website Customization

  • Enhancing User Experience: They can significantly enhance the user experience on a website by adding useful elements like search bars, recent posts, or contact information, making the site more navigable and interactive.
  • Personalization: They offer a way to personalize a website, allowing site owners to tailor their content and features to better suit their audience and their brand’s identity.
  • Content Management Flexibility: They provide flexibility in content management, allowing users to easily update and change the content displayed on their website without altering the core pages.
  • Dynamic Content Display: Many items are designed to automatically update content, such as showing the latest posts, upcoming events, or the most recent comments, keeping the site’s content dynamic and fresh.
  • SEO Enhancement: Some widget options can contribute to SEO by improving site structure, navigation, and providing valuable content, all of which can help with search engine rankings.

These instruments allow site owners, even those with limited technical skills, to enhance their site’s functionality, improve user engagement, and contribute to a more effective online presence.

How to Access and Manage WordPress Widgets

Whether you’re looking to add simple features like a search bar or more complex elements like custom menus, understanding how to access and manage widgets is key.

Navigating to the Widgets Section in the WordPress Dashboard

One of the questions we’re asked often is, “How to use WordPress widgets to add more features to my dashboard”? Let’s see how to navigate these additional elements:

  • Accessing the Dashboard: First, log in to your WP dashboard, which is the backend of your WordPress site.
  • Locating Needed Elements: Once logged in, navigate to the “Appearance” section on the left-hand sidebar of the dashboard. Here, you will find the “Widgets” option. Clicking on this will take you to the management area.
  • Areas: In the section, you’ll see different areas where you can place the add-ons. These areas are determined by your WordPress theme and can include sidebars, footers, and other ready areas.
  • Adding: To add one, simply drag and drop the desired item from the available widgets list into your chosen area. Alternatively, you can click on the tool, select the destination area, and click the ‘Add Widget’ button.
  • Configuring: Once you add the add-on to an area, you can configure it by clicking on it. Most tools offer customization options like titles, text, or specific settings relevant to their functionality.
WordPress  theme

Using the Theme Customizer to Manage Add-Ons

You can also manage add-ons through the WordPress Theme Customizer, which provides a live preview of your site. To access it, go to “Appearance” and then click on “Customize.”

In the Theme Customizer, look for the “Widgets” section. This will show you the same areas as in the section of the dashboard. Add and edit elements directly from the Customizer. As you make changes or add new items, you can see a live preview of how they will appear on your site. This is particularly useful for ensuring that your additional elements fit well with your overall site design.

Once you are satisfied with the arrangement and settings of your widgets, click the “Publish” button in the Customizer to make your changes live.

Both the Widget section in the dashboard and the Theme Customizer offer effective ways to manage your WordPress add-ons, with the Customizer providing the added benefit of seeing your changes in real time. 

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Adding Widgets to Your WordPress Site

Here’s a step-by-step guide to adding items to sidebars and other ready areas, along with tips for choosing the most suitable additions for your site.

Step-by-Step Guide on Adding Widgets

Access the Area:

  • Go to your WordPress dashboard.
  • Navigate to “Appearance” > “Widgets” to access the area.

Choose a Widget:

  • You’ll see a list of available widgets. WordPress comes with several default ones, and additional ones can be added via plugins.

Select an Area:

  • Your theme determines the ready areas. Common areas include the sidebar and sometimes the header. Also, don’t forget to add widgets to footer WordPress.
  • Click on an element, then select a destination from the dropdown and click ‘Add Widget’, or simply drag and drop it into your chosen area.

Configure the Widget Settings:

  • After adding an item to a sidebar or other area, configure it as needed. Most widgets have options like titles, display settings, and content customization.
  • Click “Save” to preserve your changes.

Preview and Adjust:

  • Visit your site to see how the widget appears. Adjust settings if necessary.
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Tips for Choosing the Right Widgets

Choose add-ons that align with the goals of your site. For a blog, consider “Recent Posts” or “Categories” elements. For a business site, “Contact Info” or “Business Hours” might be more appropriate.

Ensure the widgets complement your overall site design. Avoid cluttering your sidebar or other areas with too many elements, which can be overwhelming for visitors. Think about the people visiting your site.

Widgets should enhance, not detract from, the user experience. For instance, a search bar feature can improve navigation, while a recent comments one can encourage community interaction.

Prioritize functional widgets that add value. It’s better to have a few useful add-ons than many that don’t contribute meaningfully to your site. And ensure they look good and function well on mobile devices. Some might need to be disabled on mobile for a better user experience.

Last but not least, periodically review your additional elements to ensure they are still relevant and functioning correctly.

By carefully selecting add-ons that align with your site’s objectives and maintaining a clean and functional layout, you can create an engaging and user-friendly experience for your audience.

Choosing the Right Widgets

Best Practices for Placement and Usage

Effective placement and usage on your site can have a profound impact on both user experience and website aesthetics.

Strategic Placement of Widgets to Enhance User Experience

Understand User Behavior:

  • Place add-ons based on how users interact with your site. Use heatmaps or analytics to determine high-engagement areas.

Sidebar Utilization:

  • The sidebar is a prime location for widgets. Use it for important but non-intrusive elements like search bars, recent posts, or contact info.

Footer for Additional Information:

  • The footer can house widgets with supplementary information like sitemaps, privacy policies, or social media links.

Avoid Overcrowding:

  • Too many elements can overwhelm users. Limit the number to keep the page clean and easy to navigate.

Contextual Widget Placement:

  • Place widgets where they make the most sense. For example, a related posts element is best positioned at the end of a blog post.
  • Use plugins like Widget Options. It extends the limited control of widgets offered natively by WordPress, by adding:
    • post control (which posts / pages widget should be visible in)
    • device visibility (visible on desktop, mobile, etc)
    • class / ID (ability to target widget for style customization), etc.

Balancing Functionality with Website Aesthetics

Consistent Design:

  • Ensure add-on styles are consistent with your overall website design. Mismatched styles can disrupt visual harmony.

Responsive Design:

  • The elements should be responsive, ensuring they look good and function well on all devices.

Prioritize Loading Speed:

  • Be mindful of widgets that may slow down your site. Optimize images and use lightweight items to maintain fast loading times.

Regular Updates and Maintenance:

  • Keep them updated to ensure they work correctly and are secure. Regularly check for any issues or updates.
  • Be mindful of outdated widgets. The WordPress plugin market is extensive, and sometimes developers no longer support their old plugins.

Always check that a plugin has been regularly updated to support the latest version release of WordPress to avoid any risk of malicious attacks on your site resulting from the use of outdated plugins.

Use Widgets to Complement Content:

  • Widgets should complement, not distract from, your main content. Use them to enhance user engagement without taking away from the primary message.

Testing and Feedback:

  • Regularly test different placements and types to see what works best for your audience. User feedback can be invaluable in this process.

Accessibility Considerations:

  • Ensure that the elements are accessible to all users, including those with disabilities. This includes proper contrast, keyboard navigation, and screen reader compatibility.

Remember, the goal is to use any additional materials on your pages as tools to complement and enhance your content and site structure, not to overshadow them.

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Customizing Widgets for Optimal Performance

To ensure that widgets not only serve their intended purpose but also contribute to the overall effectiveness and appeal of your WordPress site, it’s important to customize them for optimal performance. This includes adjusting their settings and styling them to match your website’s theme and branding.

Adjusting Widget Settings and Options for Best Results

Each add-on in WordPress typically comes with its own set of options and settings. Take the time to explore these settings to maximize the widget’s functionality. For example, in a “Recent Posts” one, you can often specify the number of posts to display, include post dates, or even show post thumbnails.

Consider the impact of add-ons on your site’s performance. Widgets that load external content or require complex queries can slow down your site. Optimize or use them sparingly.

Place items in contextually relevant areas. For instance, a “Subscribe” widget is more effective on a blog page than on a checkout page.

Also, ensure that the widgets are optimized for mobile devices. Some might need different settings or even to be hidden on smaller screens for better performance and user experience.

And make sure to use caching solutions for widget options that display dynamic content, such as recent posts or recent comments, to improve load times.

Styling Widgets to Match Your Website’s Theme and Branding

Widgets should visually align with your website’s overall design and branding. This includes matching colors, fonts, and style elements. For further customization, many WordPress themes and plugins allow you to add custom CSS. This can be used to modify the appearance of widgets to better fit your site’s design.

Pro tip: Use the WordPress Customizer, which often provides options to adjust the styling of widgets to match your theme.

After styling, review your site to ensure that everything blends seamlessly with your content and overall layout. Anything you add to your pages should enhance, not disrupt, the user experience. Also, ensure that they reflect your brand’s aesthetics. This includes using your brand’s color scheme, typeface, and other design elements.

Properly configured and styled add-ons can significantly enhance your site’s functionality and aesthetic appeal, contributing positively to your site’s overall effectiveness.

Styling Widgets

Enhancing Widgets with Plugins

WordPress widgets offer a great deal of functionality out of the box, but their capabilities can be significantly expanded with the use of specialized plugins. These plugins can introduce new widgets with enhanced features or improve the functionality of existing ones, allowing for a more dynamic and interactive user experience on your website.

Some plugins add entirely new functionalities like social media feeds, SEO tools, or interactive sliders, while others focus on enhancing the aesthetic appeal of add-ons with additional styling options.

Recommendations for Widget-Enhancing Plugins

SiteOrigin Bundle:

  • Offers a collection of all-purpose elements, including buttons, image grids, and sliders. It’s known for its versatility and integration with the SiteOrigin Page Builder.

Widget Options:

  • Provides enhanced control over visibility and appearance. It allows you to display or hide widgets on specific pages and offers styling options to match your site’s design.

Black Studio TinyMCE Widget:

  • Adds a new type of text widget that uses the WordPress visual editor, enabling a richer and more intuitive text editing experience.

Recent Posts Widget Extended:

  • Enhances the default WordPress recent posts widget by adding thumbnails, excerpts, and customizable display options.


  • While primarily a form-building plugin, WPForms offers a widget to easily integrate forms into your site’s areas, such as contact forms or newsletter sign-ups.

Elementor Website Builder:

  • Not just a page builder, Elementor also provides a wide range of additional widgets that can be used throughout your site, from image carousels to social media icons.

Q2W3 Fixed Widget (Sticky Widget):

  • Allows you to make any widget “sticky,” meaning it stays in the visible screen area when a user scrolls, which is useful for important call-to-action elements.

Social Media (Various):

  • There are multiple plugins that offer social media widgets, allowing you to integrate feeds, share buttons, or follow buttons for various social media platforms.

WooCommerce (for eCommerce Sites):

  • If you’re running a WooCommerce store, there are widgets available for product display, cart information, and recent reviews which can enhance the shopping experience on your site.

By incorporating these widget-enhancing plugins, you can significantly upgrade the functionality and appearance of your website, leading to a more engaging and user-friendly experience. 

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Using Widgets

The misuse of additional tools can lead to various issues, impacting both user experience and site performance. Being aware of common pitfalls can help you make the most out of widgets without compromising your website’s effectiveness.

Overloading Pages with Too Many Widgets

  • Cluttered Layout: Adding too many elements can lead to a cluttered and overwhelming layout, which can confuse visitors and detract from the main content.
  • User Experience: Overloading can distract users from the primary message or action you want them to take. It’s essential to maintain a balance between content and supplementary widgets.
  • Strategic Placement: Be strategic about where you place the add-ons. Prioritize them based on their importance and relevance to the page content.
  • Minimalistic Approach: Adopt a minimalistic approach. Less can often be more when it comes to widgets, especially in maintaining a clean and user-friendly interface.

Choosing Widgets That Negatively Impact Site Performance

  • Heavy Elements: Some, especially those that load external content or involve complex functionalities, can significantly slow down your site.
  • Performance Testing: Regularly test your site’s performance using tools like Google PageSpeed Insights. Monitor the impact of each element and adjust as necessary.
  • Optimization: Look for ways to optimize widgets. For example, if using an image gallery element, ensure the images are properly sized and compressed.
  • Quality Over Quantity: Choose high-quality add-ons that add value to your site. It’s better to have a few well-performing widgets than many that decrease site performance.
  • Updates and Maintenance: Keep your add-ons and any associated plugins updated. Outdated elements can lead to performance issues and security vulnerabilities.
  • Loading on Demand: For widgets that aren’t essential to every user, consider loading them only when needed (on-demand), such as using a ‘load more’ button for comments or social media feeds.

Avoiding these common mistakes can significantly enhance the effectiveness of your website, ensuring each add-on contributes positively to both the user experience and the overall performance of your site. 

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Types of Widgets Available in WordPress

Default WordPress Options

  • Text: Allows you to add text or HTML to your sidebar or other widget areas.
  • Recent Posts: Displays a list of your most recent blog posts.
  • Categories: Shows a list or dropdown of post categories.
  • Search: Adds a search bar to help visitors search your site.
  • Calendar: Displays a calendar of your site’s posts.
  • Tag Cloud: Shows a cloud of your most used tags.
  • Custom Menu: Lets you display a custom menu that you’ve created in your site’s widget areas.
  • RSS: Fetches and displays recent posts from an RSS feed.
  • Archives: A monthly archive of your site’s posts.

The list was extended greatly with the new Gutenberg Blocks. There are not a lot of Gutenberg Blocks that are made available as Widgets.

Default WordPress Options

Popular Third-Party Options

  • Social Media Feeds: Elements that display recent posts or images from social media platforms like Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook.
  • Contact Form: From plugins like Contact Form 7 or WPForms, allowing you to easily add forms to your site.
  • E-commerce: For sites using WooCommerce, widgets related to products, like recent products, featured products, or product categories.
  • SEO: From plugins like Yoast SEO, offering features like recent posts with SEO-friendly titles.
  • Google Maps: Display interactive maps with locations.

Custom Widgets and How They Can Be Created or Obtained

Creating Custom Widgets:

  • Custom elements can be created by writing PHP code. This requires coding knowledge and involves adding functions to your theme’s functions.php file or develop a plugin in wordpress. To finish the task, you may want to learn How to add code to WordPress website then if you don’t know already
  • For those who can’t code, there are “widget builder” plugins available that allow you to create custom widgets without coding.

Obtaining Custom Widgets:

  • There are many third-party plugins available that offer unique widgets. These can be found in the WordPress plugin repository or from premium plugin providers.
  • Some theme developers also provide custom widget versions designed specifically for their projects. A plus is when they also provide an easy step by step add widgets WordPress theme development.

Whether you opt for default, third-party, or custom widgets, the key is to choose those that enhance your website’s user experience and complement your site’s content and style.

Benefits of Using Widgets on Your WordPress Site

Here are some of the key advantages of using add-ons on your WordPress site:

Improving Navigation and Usability

Widgets like search bars, navigation menus, or category lists make it easier for visitors to find what they are looking for, improving the overall navigability of your site.

Strategically placed widgets can create a more user-friendly interface, guiding visitors through your site and helping them access important sections or information easily.

By utilizing sidebars and footers effectively with widgets, you can offer additional navigation options without cluttering the main content area.

Enhancing Website Functionality

Widget options such as recent posts, calendar, or latest comments keep your site dynamic by automatically updating with new content, which can encourage visitors to spend more time on your site.

Social media elements can link your site with your social media profiles, enhancing cross-platform engagement and making it easy for visitors to connect with you on social networks.

Specialized items can add functionalities like contact forms, maps, or even shopping carts, directly contributing to the site’s capabilities.

Website Functionality

Personalizing the User Experience

Add-ons allow you to display content that is relevant to specific pages or sections of your site, thereby tailoring the user experience. For example, displaying related posts on blog articles.

Customizable elements can be styled to match your brand’s aesthetics, contributing to a consistent and visually appealing website.

Widget options like comment boxes, polls, or newsletter sign-ups can actively engage visitors and encourage interaction, fostering a community around your site.

Incorporating add-ons into your WordPress site can transform it from a static web presence into a dynamic, interactive, and user-friendly platform. 

Case Studies: Successful Widget Implementations

Exploring real-world examples of successful implementations on WordPress sites can provide valuable insights into how widgets can enhance user experience and site functionality. Below are case studies that highlight effective widget use and the benefits gained.

1. Career Page and Job Listing Integration via Comeet

  • Challenge: Several partners over the span of ProCoders 9-year experience needed a solution to integrate third-party service widgets for career pages and job listings on multiple websites.
  • Solution: ProCoders developed a specialized widget that seamlessly integrated Comeet’s service into various websites, allowing for real-time job listings and application functionalities.
  • Outcome: The integration enhanced the user experience for job seekers and streamlined the recruitment process for employers, boosting the efficiency of career-related services.

2. HubSpot Form Integration

  • Challenge: Our trusty partner needed to integrate HubSpot forms into their WordPress site for enhanced lead generation and management.
  • Solution: ProCoders created a widget that allowed easy integration of HubSpot’s form functionality into WordPress sites, ensuring a smooth data flow between the two platforms.
  • Outcome: This integration resulted in an improved lead capture process, better user engagement, and streamlined data management for businesses using HubSpot.

3. Custom Popup Integration with OptinMonster

  • Challenge: A business required a custom popup integration for marketing purposes using OptinMonster on WordPress sites.
  • Solution: ProCoders developed a solution to seamlessly integrate OptinMonster’s custom popups, enhancing marketing strategies and user engagement.
  • Outcome: The integration led to increased conversion rates and more effective marketing campaigns, leveraging the advanced features of OptinMonster.

4. Article View Analysis and Likes using WP ULike

  • Challenge: A company came to us with a requirement for analyzing article views and user engagement through likes on their WordPress sites.
  • Solution: ProCoders integrated the WP ULike plugin, enabling a robust system for tracking user interaction and preferences.
  • Outcome: This provided valuable insights into user behavior and content popularity, aiding in content strategy optimization.

5. Custom Event Calendar Integration

  • Challenge: Our client needed a custom event calendar on their WordPress site for managing and displaying events efficiently.
  • Solution: ProCoders integrated ‘The Events Calendar’ plugin, offering a tailored solution for event management and display.
  • Outcome: The integration resulted in an enhanced user experience for event discovery and participation, benefiting various organizations in effectively showcasing their events.

Insights into How Websites Can Benefit from Widgets

These elements offer a way to present information and features in an organized and accessible manner, which can lead to increased user engagement, improved navigation, and, in the case of e-commerce sites, higher conversion rates. Diverse websites – from blogs and online stores to corporate sites – can utilize these add-ons to achieve specific goals, tailor user experiences, and reinforce their brand presence online.

Why Can’t I See the Widgets Option in WordPress?

The absence of the ‘Widgets’ option in WordPress can be due to several reasons such as theme compatibility, insufficient user permissions, using an outdated WordPress version, or plugin conflicts.

How Do I Add a Widget Area to My WordPress Theme?

To add a widget area to your WordPress theme, edit your theme’s files to register a new widget area using the register_sidebar() function in functions.php, then insert the dynamic_sidebar() function in the desired template files. Remember to back up your site before making changes.

How Do I Get Widgets in the Sidebar in WordPress?

To add the elements to your WordPress sidebar, go to “Appearance” > “Widgets” in your dashboard, choose a widget, add it to the sidebar, configure its settings, and save.


Whether it’s through adding basic elements like search bars and calendars, or more complex functionalities with third-party plugins, widgets allow you to customize your site to suit your specific needs and preferences.

The ability to easily manage and place widgets in various areas of your site, from sidebars to footers, provides a user-friendly way to enrich your website’s content and navigation. However, it’s essential to use add-ons strategically – balancing functionality with aesthetics and ensuring that they contribute positively to your site’s performance and user engagement.

By understanding how to effectively utilize widgets, avoiding common pitfalls, and staying informed about the latest widget-related tools and trends, you can create a WordPress site that is not only visually appealing but also highly functional and user-centric.

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