If you can imagine a feature for your website the chances are that some has already made a plugin for it, that's the beauty of the WordPress ecosystem. If your theme lacks some particular feature, you can always install a widget (or two) to make up for the missing bits of functionality.
WordPress widgets enable users to add functionality to their website without making any changes to their theme. And since most themes have widgetized sidebars, all you have to do is drag and drop the widget into place and it’ll be ready to use.
In this post, we’ll round up five must-have widgets that you can use to add useful functionality to your WordPress website, increase its visual appeal, and improve your website’s user experience.
A Brief Overview of WordPress Widgets
WordPress widgets enable users to add content and functionality to their website’s widgetized areas. Although widgetized areas depend on the theme you’re using, they generally include the sidebars, header, and footer.
Here’s why you might want to add a few widgets to your website:
- Dynamic content. With WordPress widgets, you can add dynamic content to your site’s sidebars. This feature is incredibly useful if you’d like to display trending posts, rating systems, or recent social media activity.
- Increases your site’s visual appeal and usability. Widgets appear on your site’s frontend and can make your site more usable. For instance, a widget for social sharing buttons would allow your site’s visitors to share your content with their network easily.
- Widgets are easy to configure. Since a widget allows you to add a specific feature to your site, customizing its settings is very intuitive.
Now that you have a better understanding of what WordPress widgets are and why you might want to use them, let’s take a look at some of the best, free widgets you can (and should) use on your website.
5 Best Free Widgets for Your WordPress Website
In this section, we’ll roundup five of the best WordPress widgets that you should use on your website and highlight their standout features.
AddToAny Share Buttons
AddToAny Share Buttons allows you to add customizable social share buttons to your website that enable visitors to share your content with their following on all major social media networks. This lightweight widget comes with both share buttons and follow buttons right out of the box. The best part is that you don’t have to worry about configuring lots of settings or running into compatibility issues. It supports native theme features such as infinite scroll and HTML5-based functionality.
- Share and follow buttons enable you to display the number of shares next to the button.
- Offers out of the box integration with Google Analytics.
- Lightweight design and neat code is optimized for WordPress.
- Offers customizable sharing options to users and its code can be extended.
AddToAny Share Buttons is one of the most powerful solutions for adding social share buttons to your WordPress website that’s mobile-optimized from the get-go.
MyThemeShop’s WP Subscribe is a neat and clean subscription plugin that makes it easy for users to start building their email lists. The fast loading widget ensures that you don’t miss out on a single conversion opportunity. The subscription form widget itself is visually appealing and will fit in with your site’s existing design.
- Makes it easy to create popup forms, footer forms, custom forms, and much more.
- Allows you to integrate top email marketing services like AWeber, MailChimp, and FeedBurner.
- Allows users to add the widget more than once to different sidebars.
- Lightweight, fully responsive design.
WP Subscribe is arguable the best all-in-one plugin for adding a fully functional subscription module to your WordPress website.
WordPress Popular Posts
With WordPress Popular Posts you can add a stream of your most popular posts to your site’s sidebar. The standout feature on offer here is that it is multi-widget capable which means that you can add multiple instances of the widget (each with their own settings) anywhere on your website.
- Allows you to pick out the most popular posts over a specified period of time.
- Displays statistics of the most popular posts on the WordPress backend.
- Allows you to order popular posts by number of total views, average views, or comments.
- Compatible with WordPress multisite and WPML.
WordPress Popular Posts’ multisite compatibility helps ensure that your layout and design remains consistent across sub-sites. And if you get tired of managing widgets later on, you can always embed the functionality in your theme using its template tags.
Google Maps Widget
If you’re running an online store or are thinking about creating a web presence for your business then having a map on your website is crucial – even more so if your visitors need to find you. Its configuration options allow you to add a title for your map and input an address. In addition to this, you can leverage its advanced customization options to define a map size, select a map type, set the zoom level, and much more.
- Comes with tons of customization options right out of the box.
- Offers a wide range of interactive map options.
- Allows you to customize your pin’s color, size, and label.
- Can be translated into 12 different languages.
The Google Maps Widget allows users to bring Google Maps functionality to WordPress.
WordPress Ad Widget
WordPress Ad Widget takes all the heavy lifting out of managing ads in WordPress. All you have to do is drag the widget to the sidebar, upload the ad, and hit the Save button. It’s really that simple!
The widget’s configuration settings allow you to upload the ad’s image from your Media Library or insert a URL for the image in a text box. In addition to this, you can also add an ad click destination. When your visitors click on the ad, you can redirect them to a landing page, a different website, or another with more information.
- Offers an intuitive interface.
- Allows you to place image/banner ads, Google ads, and different ad codes.
- Add ad images from the WordPress Media Library or a custom URL.
- Offers ad click destination functionality to redirect visitors to a custom URL.
WordPress Ad Widget is a simple solution for managing ads on your website – it’s neat and clean and fits right in with your site’s layout.
WordPress widgets make it easy for non-techy users to add functional, lightweight page elements into their site. By doing so, you can increase your site’s visual appeal and usability. Since all of the plugins we listed are free, we encourage you to try them out on your own and share your experience with us.
Which widgets have you