WordPress Widgets: Good for Designers and Clients

Written by Hirsch Fishman

One of the reasons I use WordPress for all my clients is that it gives them the ability to update almost everything on their website for themselves. But I’ve realized that until recently, when I delivered a WordPress website to a client, I had only been giving them the ability to update the content. I wasn’t taking advantage of something that would allow them to update aspects of the design as well.

I’m talking about WordPress widgets.

Now, I try to get my clients to do as much work as possible on their websites, from editing their content to adding images. Most people I work with love the fact that they can update and manage their content in this way. But shouldn’t they also be able to move element blocks around and decide what content goes in the sidebars, footer, on the homepage, etc? They should – and that’s where widgets come in.

What are widgets?

So what exactly are WordPress widgets? It helps to understand the two key terms that are used when talking about them:

  1. Widget areas are the predefined blocks where you place widgets.
  2. Widgets are functional elements that are dropped into those areas.

What using widgets does is let you easily rearrange certain elements on your website, using a simple drag and drop interface under the “Appearance” section of the dashboard. They used to be solely for sidebars, but now are used in any area of a well-designed WordPress website. The most common areas you’ll see widgets located in include:

  • The header
  • The footer
  • The sidebar(s)
  • The homepage

As long as an area is widgetized in the theme template, you can drop widgets into it. Most free and premium themes already come widgetized; if you have a custom theme, whether an area is widgetized is something your designer can answer for you.

From my own perspective, when I design a new website for a client, I’ll make my recommendations about what should go in various areas of each template. What I then do is make each of those areas widgetized and add the content I’ve recommended through the widget interface.

I try to make as many areas widgetized as possible – the more that are, the greater flexibility the client ultimately has in determining what goes where.

Benefits for clients

Aside from the ease of use in managing the design of the website that widgets allow for, there are some other obvious benefits for clients. These can include:

  • Room for growth – As websites mature, owners may want to put more elements into the template than what were there originally. If the most likely areas are widgetized, this is easy to do.
  • More possible combinations – The more widget areas there are in a WordPress theme, the more ways for clients to combine different widgets and different content in those areas.
  • Rearrange/Re-prioritize content – Sometimes clients will have new content that they need to display in a certain area that takes precedence over the “default” content. Widgets let them do that quite easily, as well as restore what was there previously should they want to.
  • No code experience or expertise needed – The best part is that most widgets require no knowledge of HTML or prior experience to use them. It’s simply drag, drop, and configure.

Benefits for designers

  • Use the dashboard, not Dreamweaver – Whether you’re maintaining your own WordPress website, or working on a project for a client, it’s easier to make changes to the site through the dashboard, rather than using FTP and Dreamweaver.
  • Lots of plugins available – You can find a widget plugin to meet almost any need you’ll have. There are lots of versatile plugins out there that are just for widgets, and many plugins also come with their own widgets as well.
  • Step into your clients shoes – Once you’ve coded the WordPress theme and activated it, managing everything  else through the dashboard lets you see things as your clients will. This may help you in terms of making the dashboard as easy as possible for them to use.
  • Just define the widget area – If all you have to do is create the widget area instead of coding everything in the template files instead, it’s less coding that you have to do in the end.


So now that I’ve seen the error of my ways in not using widgets, I’ve come to embrace them. To paraphrase Kenny Chesney, I ain’t ever going back to doing things the way I was before – both for my clients sake and for my own.

Now that I’ve given you the run-down on widgets, let’s hear your thoughts. As a WordPress designer or WordPress user, what do you think about widgets – love them or leave them? o you have any favorite widget plugins that you would like others to know about? Share your thoughts with everyone by leaving a comment below!

About Hirsch Fishman

Hirsch Fishman is a professional web designer who has worked with synagogues and organizations in the Jewish community since 2006. Originally from Albany, NY, he has previously lived in New York City and Chicago, and currently resides in Raleigh, NC.

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