Utilizing sidebar Widgets brings an added layer of convenience and functionality to WordPress. They can provide a wide range of functions that help users find their way around, share their content and gain useful information.
Beyond that, there are now more ways than ever to expand the way you use and implement widgets on your site.
Here are ten free widget plugins you can install on your WordPress website that will improve the flexibility of widgets and sidebars, along with a selection of individual widgets that your users will find quite helpful.
Widget and Sidebar Enhancements
Widget Options allows you to take full control over each widget on your WordPress website. Its tabbed options panel lets you conditionally display widgets based on a variety of criteria.
Display or hide widgets based on page, post, device, and more. You can also set custom alignments, along with CSS classes and IDs.
One of the most common needs for WordPress site owners is the ability to display different sidebars (each with its own independent set of widgets) depending on which page/post/category the user is viewing.
Content Aware Sidebars allows you to create as many sidebars as you’d like and use them wherever needed. You can even schedule sidebars to show during specific dates.
If you’ve ever needed to move widgets from one site to another – it can be an incredible pain to sit there and recreate them all. Widget Importer & Exporter will help you easily move widgets or simply back them up.
The plugin also uses some smart logic to avoid duplicating existing widgets upon import and, if a particular sidebar doesn’t exist in the new location, its widgets are still imported but marked as inactive. This one just makes life easier.
Using AMR Shortcode Any Widget provides you with an easy way to add a widget to any page or post on your site. Just set up your widget as you normally would, then drag that new widget over to a special sidebar created by the plugin.
This is great for sites that either don’t use sidebars or just need to display a widget within a page’s content occasionally.
Styling widgets isn’t always the easiest thing – especially if you want to target only specific ones. Widget CSS Classes helps by enabling you to add custom CSS classes or IDs to individual widgets in your sidebar.
It also adds classes for first, last, odd, and even-numbered widgets. That allows you to customize the look further. For example, you might want a different background color for each even-numbered widget or make the first widget in the list stand out a bit more.
Widgets Users Will Love
Sidebars are a great place to add quick contact and social media information. Astra Widgets provides three widgets that can help: Address, List Icons, and Social Profiles. It’s a simple solution for creating a more user-friendly website.
Maps Widget for Google Maps makes it easy to add custom maps to your sidebar. Choose from multiple color schemes and map pins to create a unique look. It’s a perfect compliment to directory listings or event pages.
A lot of the Widgets included with a standard WordPress install are pretty basic. Adding Recent Posts Widget with Thumbnails boosts the standard text listing by creating a visually appealing list of posts based on various criteria.
Advanced options like setting the order, excerpt length, honoring sticky posts, and thumbnail sizing allow you to customize things to your liking.
While WordPress has its own native RSS Widget, FEEDZY RSS Feeds Lite is a more robust option. It offers aggregation of multiple feeds, the ability to display images and also includes a powerful Shortcode. Feeds can also be categorized to bring together relevant sources.
Instead of the old-fashioned vertical or horizontal display, WP Tab Widget provides a clean, tabbed navigation via AJAX. Choose from Popular, Recent, Comment, and Tag widgets. Content is loaded on demand and subsequently cached, so it won’t slow down your site.
The Wonderful World of Widgets
Both widgets themselves and the ability to utilize them have improved drastically when compared to their humble beginnings. Even so, it sometimes feels like they’ve become a bit of an overlooked feature. However, that may be changing.
WordPress 5.8 has included some new enhancements for widgets and has integrated them with the Gutenberg block editor. This opens up a whole new world possibilities.
As such, this is a great time to get reacquainted with WordPress Widgets.