WHAT ARE WIDGETS?
Widgets are small, pre-styled content blocks that perform specific functions.
WordPress has a number of native widgets that are available on the platform, no matter what theme you are running. However, many themes—ours included!—create special widgets specific to a theme that provide extra functionality, and/or layout options.
Curious what different widgets look like? View visual examples in our library of theme widgets, here.
WHAT ARE WIDGET AREAS?
Widgets can be added into any widget area. In our themes, that usually includes sidebars, footers, and interstitial content blocks. However, using the WordPress block editor, you can also install some widgets directly into blog post content, and/or page content.
When most users think of widgets, they're thinking of widgets added to sidebars, footers, and interstitial content blocks. Widget areas for these sections can be found by navigating to Appearance > Customize > Widgets, or by going to Appearance > Widgets from your WordPress dashboard.
Here's an example of what widget areas look like within the theme Customizer environment:
BLOCK VS. CLASSIC WIDGET EDITING
In the September of 2021, WordPress released updates to its Customizer widget editor. Mirroring the use and functionality of the post and page Gutenberg blocks system, WordPress users now have the option of using a blocks-based widget editor directly in the Customizer. Here's a visual example of how the two systems differ:
If you're a longtime WordPress user, this change may feel confusing. Luckily, if you don't want to use the new blocks system, WordPress has released the Classic Widgets plugin, which restores the previous widgets settings screens and disables the block editor from managing widgets.
Developers may opt to manually restore the Classic widgets editor within the site PHP. If you are a developer or an advanced WordPress user capable of writing and editing PHP, you may find instructions on how to disable the new widget block editor default here.
HOW TO ADD WIDGETS TO AN EMPRESS THEME
You're in luck—we've written an article about exactly that!