What exactly is a widget-ready WordPress theme?

It seems wherever you see a WordPress theme promoted nowadays, you see it described as being widget-ready. The free WordPress themes available here are no exception. In this tutorial available exclusively at Theme Lab, you will learn:

  1. What exactly a widget-ready WordPress theme is
  2. Why you would even want to use widgets anyway
  3. How to use widgets to customize WordPress site

As usual, complete with screenshots so it’s easy for a beginner to follow along.

What exactly is a widget-ready WordPress theme?
This means a WordPress theme has widgetized areas which allow you to dynamically manipulate these areas in an easy to use drag-and-drop fashion. Most of the time widgets are used in the sidebars of themes, which is why you may frequently see the term “widgetized sidebar” in conjunction with widget-ready. Since WordPress 2.2, widgets are a part of the “core” and bundled with all new WordPress installations.

Why would you want to use widgets?
You might want to use widgets because they make changing up the sidebar (or other widgetized areas) of your WordPress site much easier. Moving around sidebar items such as category/archive listings and blogroll links can be done with ease through a widget-ready theme.

Now you know what widgets are and why you would want to use them. Next up is how to use widgets to customize your WordPress site.

Step 1: Check if the theme is widget-ready
You can’t use widgets if the theme you’re using isn’t widget-ready in the first place. Navigate to your Presentation menu and proceed to the Widgets sub-menu of your administration panel. If you see something like this, you’re out of luck:

No Sidebars Defined

Step 2: Use available widgets
For the rest of the tutorial, we’ll be working with one of our widget-ready themes called Moonlit Sky. You’ll notice this particular free WordPress theme has two sidebars on the right side. Both of these sidebars are widgetized.

Moonlit Sky Widgets

Go ahead and drag some of the available widgets into the sidebar of your choice and save the changes. These changes will be reflected on your main site automatically. Some widgets have a little icon next to them where you can set things like the title of the widget to be displayed on the site. Here’s what the settings for the Categories widget looks like:

Categories Widget

Step 3: More widgets
If you scroll further down the page you’ll see how to add additional widgets to the pool of available widgets. This is especially useful for the text widgets, since you can put pretty much any text or HTML-based item in them and display them where you want on the sidebar, just like any other widget. Simply select the number you want on the dropdown box, and save.

More Text Widgets

For one final example, we’ll arrange the widgets like so, with two text widgets:

Moonlit Sky Widgets Example

Here’s what it will look like on the site after the changes are saved:

Congratulations!  Widgets understood

Widgets are pretty cool, eh? Remember, there are countless other third-party widget plugins you can use to spice-up your sidebar. You can find a huge listing over at the official WordPress plugin repository. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask in our general support forum for help. Feel free to leave a comment or subscribe to our feed. Hope you liked the tutorial!

Comments  Leave a Reply

  1. David Goorevitch April 12, 2012 at 12:01 pm

    Hi Leland. Thanks for this. I’m a bit confused. Where you say “presentation area”, I have “appearance”. Where others suggest I go to “design -> Theme Editor” under Appearance, I have only Themes Widgets Menu Header etc. If you’ll look at my site you can see that I’ve tried to instal a booking calendar on the right sidebar but ended up with text only. Could you help? I don’t have a big budget but could figure something out… Thanks

  2. The expanding effect is probably caused by “Lightbox” or some similar plugin.

  3. Hello,

    I would also like to know which effect you are using. I have seen these on a number of sites. Very cool features. Please e-mail me the source code. GREAT article, Thanks!


  4. Hi,

    Great info – Thanks!

    P.S. Can you tell me what you’re using
    to get the effect of expanding/magnifying
    the graphics when I click on it?

    Thanks again.


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