A WordPress Widget is a small block that performs a specific function. You can add these widgets in sidebars also known as widget-ready areas on your web page.
WordPress widgets were originally created to provide a simple and easy-to-use way of giving design and structure control of the WordPress theme to the user. Widgets can be easily dragged and dropped into a specific widget area. You can find the list of available widgets and widget areas in any template on WordPress dashboard.
Widgets in WordPress allow you to add content and features in the widgetized areas of your theme which is mostly the sidebar. However these widget-ready areas can be in the header, footer, sidebar, below content, and basically any other area in your theme. The available widget areas that you have in your theme will vary from theme to theme.
Most WordPress themes are widget ready and have multiple widget areas. However themes are NOT required to have widget areas. If you do not see any widget areas, then it means that your theme does not support widgets.
There are many different types of widgets. WordPress by default comes with several widgets including categories, tag cloud, navigation menu, calendar, search, recent posts etc. If you drag the recent posts widget in a widget area, then it will contain a list of recent posts.
Widgets are mostly standalone areas of code that perform a certain function. Plugins often add their own widgets to give users more control over the display of plugin functions. An example of a plugin widget would be OIO Publisher which allows you to add a specific banner ad zone in your widget areas by using the widget.
A plugin is a piece of software containing a group of functions that can be added to a WordPress website. They can extend functionality or add new features to your WordPress websites. WordPress plugins are written in the PHP programming language and integrate seamlessly with WordPress. In the WordPress community, there is a saying that goes around: “there’s a plugin for that”. They makes it easy for administrators to add features to their website. There are thousands available for free or premium to download at the official WordPress plugin directory. Aside from free plugins, there are tons of amazing commercial ones available from third-party companies and developers.
As a site administrator, you we can install/uninstall plugins from the admin area. We can also download and manually install them using an FTP client.
WordPress plugins are bits of software that can be uploaded to to extend and expand the functionality of your WordPress site.
Free vs Premium WordPress Plugins
There are tons, literally tons, of WordPress plugins available for free download from the WordPress.org Plugin Directory. There are also premium or paid WordPress plugins.
Why would you want to pay for a plugin? Well, there are several reasons:
- While there are thousands of plugins available for free from the plugin directory, paid plugins usually offer a full time support staff and developers that work on maintaining the security and compatibility of plugins with the latest version of WordPress as well as with other themes and plugins.
- Most of the time, plugins play nicely with the core of WordPress and with other plugins, but sometimes a plugin’s code will get in the way of another plugin, causing compatibility issues. With a paid plugin, it’s just nice to know you have support staff that can help you out if anything goes wrong.
You might be asking what types of things plugins can do. Well, if you can imagine it, there’s probably a plugin for that. All you need to do is take a stroll through the WordPress plugin directory to see all of the possible ways plugins can extend or enhance your WordPress site.