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Widgets 101

Earlier this week, Krista talked about ways to get widgety on your blog. You’ll find an assortment of widgets in your…

Earlier this week, Krista talked about ways to get widgety on your blog. You’ll find an assortment of widgets in your dashboard (by going to Appearance » Widgets), waiting patiently for you to activate them! So, now what? Let’s zoom in on several ways to transform your sidebar and enhance your site with different widgets.

Personalize widget titles

Scrawny Girl Twitter Widget

Twitter Widget

You can create custom titles for many of the widgets in your dashboard. For example, if you like having lively discussions on your blog, title the Recent Comments Widget with “Join the Conversation.” Or if you’re looking for an interesting title for your Twitter Widget, get inspired by Shawna at Scrawny Girl, who titled this widget with “Thinking Out Loud.”

Also, consider being consistent with your blog’s theme. Got a food blog focused on desserts? Create widget titles related to baking and cooking. How about “Sweet Tweets” for your Twitter Widget? Or “What’s Cooking?” for your Calendar or Upcoming Events widgets? You can even spice up the seemingly mundane Search Widget with “Search the Cupboard.”

Get creative with text widgets

about me displayWith a Text Widget, you can easily insert text into your sidebar. An “About Me” section at the top of a sidebar is common: a welcome message, a short version of your bio, or an elevator pitch of your site.

A clear and simple example of a Text Widget is on the left. But did you know you can do so much more with a Text Widget? You can display a combination of text, links, images, and HTML to make your sidebar colorful and more graphic.

Wild Wonton Text Widget

Wild Wonton Text Widget

Let’s take a peek at the travel blog Wild WontonIts background is clean and white, with splashes of sage green in the header, tagline, and sidebar. Krissy and Gideon spruce up the top right side with a text widget: they use an image — a small, green “Say What?” banner — in place of a widget title; place some of the text in bold for emphasis; and end with a friendly sign-off with their names.

The copy itself is also clever: a definition of “wonton,” which playfully refers to the name of the blog as well as its focus on travel and living abroad in China.

So, how did they create this Text Widget? They located the Text Widget from the “Available Widgets” area on the left in the dashboard, and dragged it to the right to where they wanted to display it in the sidebar. Then, they inserted text, a link to an image, a link to their About page, and a bit of HTML to create the effect:

HTML

If you know basic HTML, play around with the text widget — it’s a simple but flexible and powerful feature. For those who want a primer, poke around on an HTML tutorial.

Use the “image grid” option

Top Posts

Top Posts & Pages Widget

Some widgets in the dashboard, including the Top Posts & Pages and Blogs I Follow widgets, add nice visual touches to your sidebar. The Top Posts & Pages Widget showcases your most viewed posts and pages. You can see it in action on the art and design blog eggwhite, at the bottom right of the site.

To display the Top Posts & Pages Widget:

  • In your dashboard, drag the widget from the “Available Widgets” section to the right side, where you’d like to display it in the sidebar.
  •  Specify the number of posts to show (for example, eggwhite shows six).
  • Order the posts by likes or views.
  • Under “Display as,” be sure to choose “Image Grid,” which activates the display of square images, as seen on the right.
Blogs I Follow Widget

Blogs I Follow Widget

The Blogs I Follow Widget works similarly and displays linked images for the blogs you follow:

  • Drag the widget to the right side to enable it.
  • Give it a fun title (“Reading Material,” “Stuff I Like,”  “My Favorites,” “Fellow WordPressers,” etc.).
  • Select the number of blogs to display (up to 50).
  • Choose “Grid” under “Display as.”

Once saved, you’ll see an image grid of gravatars from the blogs you follow, similar to the one on the left. The widget not only enhances your blog visually but offers a glimpse into the community you’ve built on WordPress.com.

Edit your images for a different effect

When activated, the Image Widget displays an image in your sidebar. If you’d like to spruce up the look of your images but don’t have much Photoshop experience, consider editing an image by simply changing its shape or adding a border. Here’s how:

Circular Image Widget

Image Widget

Change an image’s shape: Take a look at the blog Careful Confessions — the blogger displays a circular photograph at the top of her sidebar. The circle shape creates a unique look, and it’s pretty simple to do with a free photo editor like PicMonkey (use the “Rounded Corners” option under the “Frames” tool). Then, follow the steps on our Support site to upload the image and create the Image Widget.

Add a border: Another way to easily transform an image is by adding a border. PicMonkey, as well as Pixlr, offer the option to add a border to an image, as well as other effects (a vintage Polaroid frame, frayed or burnt edges, a film strip effect, etc.). Depending on the look and feel of your blog, there may be a particular visual effect that’s appropriate.

On a general note, if you’re not sure what kind of images to use, be sure to read this week’s post on visual identity, and look out for Pick’s next posts in the series.

We hope these tips get you started on sprucing up your sidebar. If you’re interested in other widget tutorials, let us know in the comments. For support, feel free to post your questions in the widgets section of the Community Support Forum.

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  1. I love using widgets and put one up on my blog today linking the Go Red for Women icon to another site I set up for donations.
    Picmonkey rocks, but I have never used the rounded corners feature. So cool!
    Thanks for all the info!

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  2. Out of all the widgets I use I find top posts, twitter feed, and recent comments really useful. However, that said, it’s amazing how many blogs I look at and they don’t have a subscribe by email option as well as RSS.

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  3. I use image grid. But recently one image quit appearing in the grid. It used to be there but no longer shows. If I switch to image list, it shows up again.

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  4. I’d like to see a tutorial on the new widget that uses iCalendars for marking events. I did some research & couldn’t find a detailed explanation. Do I need a Mac? Could I simply use an iPhone + iCloud?
    Anyway, that’s my only request. Great post. :)

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  5. Perfect tips, thanks. I just created some logo_images for my blog and I have them at widgets, but I am not able to give away the white frame from it – how can I do it? and also I would prefer to have them as image grid. Is there any chance how to make it? thanks

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    1. Are you referring to your “Prague Towers” and “Prague Christmas” images at the bottom? I’m not positive, but I think the white border is specific to your theme, Koi. As for an image grid, do you mean you’d like the images side by side?

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      1. Yes, exactly, I would love to have them side by side. When there willl be more – maybe – I would love them like a grid, let’s say three in one row… is it possible?
        About the white frame, it is sometimes there (if caption is used) and sometimes not (withouf caption or alignment), but in the widget it is always there …
        thanks for help

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    2. Hi again, @Praguebykaty — I’ll email you. Yes, it’s possible; you can insert HTML into a Text Widget to create this effect. As for the white frame, it could be that your theme, Koi, includes the white frame around an image in an Image Widget. I’ll send you a suggestion you can use for a Text Widget to create the grid you’re envisioning. (Another option, too, is creating a collage of images in a photo editor first and uploading that into an Image Widget.)

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  6. I like this very well. I’ve revamped my blog recently and was looking for ways to get a little more creative. I think this will help greatly!

    Thank you!

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  7. I just tried a picmonkey and it was very easy to use. I created an example image and posted it on my blog. Thought it looked rather large, but it resized well. (Check the sample image at this link:

    http://shadozablog.wordpress.com/2013/01/31/picmonkey-collage-jpg/

    There was several options that would have made great headers for a blog. The images came be grabbed off your PC by pick and click method. Rearranging the images after choosing a frame setting is as simple as sliding one image to a new spot.

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    1. Yep, that’s the default — blogs are listed in reverse order, so when you follow something new, it will appear at the top of the list. Currently, there isn’t a way to randomize.

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  8. HI–Since changing my theme I have been unable to get the Facebook widget to come over correctly. I paste the URL as previously but on my blog home page it looks like a big empty rectangle. I have tried multiple times over multiple days but no luck. Thoughts?

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    1. I’m having trouble with my Facebook widget too. It works fine, but there is extra white space beneath it that I can’t get rid of. The only support forum thread I could find about this was over a year old (http://en.forums.wordpress.com/topic/white-space-beneath-facebook-widget?replies=10). The trick posted there didn’t work for me. For now I’m just living with the white space because I really want that Facebook button!

      Thanks for a great article and sidebar ideas!

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  9. Though I been reading this site for months, this is the first post that got me excited enough to post a comment. Great article – it highlighted several things I didn’t even know WordPress could do! The Image Grid especially was very cool. My one wish now was for WordPress.com to create an Instagram widget. I’ve seen people say you can do this on WordPress.org but not on .com … :(

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    1. While there currently isn’t an Instagram widget in your dashboard, one alternative is embedding an image from Instagram. The post I linked to describes posting the URL of an Instagram image to a post/page, but you can specify the width of an image and make it smaller (you’ll see this if you scroll down the post). In other words, you could insert this in a Text Widget and display a smaller version of an image in your sidebar.

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      1. Thanks for your reply, I didn’t know about embedding Instagram photos! I tried it out here for my valentine’s post (http://jelliefishie.wordpress.com/2013/02/03/happy-valentines-day-at-palo-santo-restaurant-review/), but there’s definitely some features lacking that WordPress.com is normally able to do with regular photos…for instance, being able to change alignment on the pictures, and controlling the size. There seems to be either just really small or really big, even with futzing around with the pixel sizes, and I can’t caption it.

        However, in my original comment I was thinking more of an Instagram widget that’s exactly like the Flickr one – pictures I post on Instagram immediately show up on the “feed” automatically. With embedding, it’s definitely nice that I can use the photos from instagram.com … but I have to do it manually in my posts, and it’s better to just take the URL of it from something like statigr.am and use the “add media” button…this way I can control size more easily, plus add caption and change the alignment of the photo. Embedding in this case is not an alternative to have an auto-updating feed like the Flickr widget, and at the moment is not as good as simply adding the image URL like normal.

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  10. Thanks for the link to the HTML tutorial. I really like what you’re doing here. Thanks for your hard work putting all this together; it’s extremely helpful.

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