Along with plugins, widgets are one of the coolest things you can find on the WordPress platform. They are part of the reason WordPress is so much like a digital Swiss Army Knife, or even an iPhone where you can turn an off-the-shelf product into something customized and cool with apps.
Some of the must-have widgets for every WordPress site are actually plugins that you can install from the WordPress plugin directory, while others are developed by third-party companies, so you can purchase them or download them for free and just upload them to your site.
Once installed, all of the widgets are accessible for use by going to Appearance > Widgets on the left hand side of the dashboard. Widgets typically go in your header, footer and sidebars, and you can find options for anything ranging from social media buttons to email sign up forms.
Let’s take a look at the must-have widgets for every WordPress site.
Polldaddy is more than a widget, but it really excels since this powerful WordPress plugin comes with a polling widget that you can throw in your sidebar.
The widget fits nicely in your sidebar, which makes sense since you probably want to get some feedback from your customers without making it look too obnoxious. The widget handles dozens of languages, and it responds quite well for mobile devices. Simply create a poll, drop the widget in your sidebar and you can always have a fun quiz or feedback option for your customers and readers.
Every blog needs an area in the sidebar that shows popular and recent posts. Why? Because the goal on your blog is to keep people reading and sharing your content. There are tons of widgets that feature other content on your site, but none of them are as comprehensive as this one.
You get multiple tabs, of which you can customize and change the order. Throw a Recent Articles tab in there or show the most popular content on your site. The links and images are rather sleek, and you can always go in there and remove or add a different tab to test it out.
I’m not always a huge fan of sharing a Twitter feed on your site, because most of the time you just see a list of shared blog posts which people can find on your site. That, or the company doesn’t manage their Twitter feed well, which just adds clutter to your website.
However, if you have a nicely run Twitter then you should always share it in your sidebar to push people to your social presence. This is your best option since it’s easy to install and you don’t have to copy and paste any code or even think about how the tweets are going to get to your site.
My Social Counter ($11)
My Social Counter is the perfect way to show your social proof on a website. Quickly display how many people are following you on sites like Facebook and Twitter. The true power of this premium widget is the design aspect. You can choose from various designs to fit your your current brand.
This is another way to show your social presence, but it’s completely free and you don’t have to worry about grabbing a third-party plugin. The social icons are pretty sleek and easy to use, and you just drop it in your sidebar so more people start following you on social sites.
The basis behind this widget is simplicity, so you don’t have to think about the extra frills that come with other social widgets. There’s no reason to clutter your site with super fancy social buttons. As long as you get them on your site, people are either going to click them or not.
This widget doesn’t require much explaining, but it’s worth a mention since so many sites need a simple way to login from the frontend. If you run a membership site or you simply need contributors to login from the frontend then this will do the job.
The cool thing about this widget is that you get a few tabs. You can have people register for an account, login, or even go to the Forgot Password tab. It’s simple, easy and leaves out anything that causes clutter.
Testimonials often get pushed deep in your site. Some companies forget how much power testimonials can have on customer purchase decisions. At the same time, other companies tend to slam customers with huge testimonials on the homepage, but this just distracts from the more important sales buttons.
Why not just put your testimonials in the sidebar so people can see them at all times? The widget lets you moderate the way your testimonials are displayed with options like carousels, fade aways, and sliders.
Similar to testimonials, your business hours can’t get cluttered deep in your website. With the Opening Hours widget you can always show them in a footer or sidebar so customers don’t get ticked off when they are trying to figure out if your shop is open or not.
You can also incorporate holiday hours and special openings to keep your customers up to date.
When someone lands on your website they often want to learn who is selling them information or products. This is particularly relevant for those who run expert blogs. Why should readers listen to you over other folks?
That’s where the biography comes in. This widget allows you to tell people who you are, and you can incorporate it on your posts, pages, RSS feeds, and of course your sidebar. It also has an interesting feature that lets you hide the biography based on certain criteria like which users are viewing your website.
The Image Widget is perfect for putting, you guessed it, an image in your sidebar. This is great for testimonials or links to people or companies who use your product. I’ve seen bloggers use this to display logos of the websites they have written on in the past.
Add a title, alt text, caption, and link. Then, go in and modify the size of your images to fit your website.
This is a unique take on the traditional popular posts widget. Instead of just having a link to your most popular posts you can see a meter and view count for each and every post. This gives a visual representation to show viewers which are the most viewed items.
It’s a premium widget, but worth the rate for a nice way to promote your old posts and keep people reading on your site.
You always see rating systems for products, but what about giving people a chance to rate your posts, pages, comments, users, and more. This helps bring together a community and really show why other people should move onto other content.
Frankly, this could actually hurt your website if everyone rates things poorly, but it’s certainly worth a try if you can get folks to mark down some ratings and mark them well. Imagine how many more people would read a popular blog post if it had a four or five star rating next to it?
It even has a nice rating system for authors, so if you run a multi-author site, you can see which contributors people really enjoy and maybe pay those people more or get rid of the ones that don’t fit well with your strategy.