The ability to utilize 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 your 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 10 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.
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Widget and Sidebar Enhancements
One of the most common needs for WordPress site owners is the ability to display different sidebars (each with their 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.
Widgets are limited to use in sidebars by default. But 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 occasionally display a widget within a page’s content.
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 further customize the look. 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.
Perfect for sites with a lot of nested content, BE Subpages Widget will display a list of all subpages of the current page a user is visiting. There are several filters available to customize the output and CSS classes are included to allow you to tweak the look.
Widgets Users Will Love
A lot of the Widgets included with a standard WordPress install are pretty basic. Adding Recent Posts Widget with Thumbnails provides a boost to the standard text listing by creating a visually appealing list of posts based on a variety of criteria. Advanced options like setting the order, excerpt length, honoring sticky posts and thumbnail sizing allow you to customize things to your liking.
Easily display your contact and social media profile links with Contact Widgets. Just fill out the widget fields and your contact information (complete with a Google map) will display in your sidebar. Social profile links from all the big services are displayed via attractive icons. It’s a simple enough widget, but something just about every site can use.
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.
For many websites, adding local weather can prove to be quite useful to visitors (especially those coming from afar). Awesome Weather Widget will display the current weather and, optionally, several days of forecasts in a clean and colorful widget. The widget can be customized to match your color scheme and a Shortcode lets you easily add it to any page or post.
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 4.8 has included some new enhancements for widgets. Image, Audio and Video widgets will be available inside a standard WordPress installation – greatly improving usability. And, the good old Text widget will finally include the TinyMCE editor – allowing for rich text content.
As such, this is a great time to get reacquainted with WordPress Widgets.