A quick tutorial on enhancing your site with widgets.
Getting Started: When logged into your account, click on My Site → Customize → Widgets. Here, you can select the section of your site where you’d like to add a widget, click on Add a Widget, and search for and activate an assortment of widgets.
The widgets on WordPress.com can help you personalize your blog or website. Let’s zoom in on several ways to enhance your site’s sidebar or footer with some of the most popular ones.
Personalize widget titles
You can create custom titles for many widgets. If you have lively discussions on your blog, for example, title the Recent Comments Widget with “Join the Conversation.” Or if you want a more playful title for your Twitter Widget, consider something like “What the Birds are Chirping,” “Thinking Out Loud,” or “Momentary Musings.”
Also, be consistent with your blog’s theme. If you have 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
Text Widgets are simple but versatile. With a Text Widget, you can 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 you can do so much more with a Text Widget: display a combination of text, links, images, and HTML to make your sidebar colorful and more graphic.
Let’s take a peek at the travel blog Wild Wonton. Its background is clean and white, with splashes of sage green in the header, tagline, and sidebar. Krissy and Gideon spruce up their sidebar 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 and italics 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? In the Customizer (My Site → Customize → Widgets), they selected the section of their site where they wanted to place the widget (sidebar), clicked on Add a Widget, and searched for and selected the Text Widget (“Text”). Then, they inserted an image at the top, some text about wontons, a link to their About page, and a bit of HTML to create the effect:
If you know basic HTML, play around with the Text Widget — it’s a flexible and powerful feature. For those who want a primer, poke around on an HTML tutorial.
Use the “image grid” option
Some widgets, 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 display it as a simple text list, an image list (post titles with images, as seen on Vincent Mars’ blog, Boy with a Hat), or an image grid, as shown to the right.
To display the Top Posts & Pages Widget:
- In your Customizer (My Site → Customize → Widgets), select the section of your site where you’d like to add the widget, click on Add a Widget, and search for and select “Top Posts & Pages.”
- Specify the number of posts to show (for example, “6”).
- 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.
The Blogs I Follow Widget works similarly and displays linked images for the blogs you follow:
- In your Customizer (My Site → Customize → Widgets), select the section of your site where you’d like to add the widget, click on Add a Widget, and search for and select “Blogs I Follow.”
- 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, edit an image by changing its shape or adding a border. Here’s how:
Change an image’s shape: A circular image, which you’ll see built into themes like Spun, is a playful alternative to square or rectangle-shaped images. It’s pretty simple to create a custom circle image with a photo editor like PicMonkey (use the “Rounded Corners” option under the “Frames” tool). Then, follow the steps to upload the image and create the Image Widget.
Add a border: Another way to transform an image is by adding a border. PicMonkey and 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.
If you’re not sure what kind of images to use, read this post on visual identity. If you’d like, continue on with “Widgets 201,” “Widgets 301,” and a more in-depth tutorial on creating a custom Image Widget for non-designers.