ISSUE: Widget editor suddenly looks different

If you updated your version of WordPress in September of 2021 or later, you may have noticed that the widget editor suddenly looks different in your theme Customizer. This is due to an update WordPress has released platform wide as of version 5.8, and is not related to your theme code.

More background

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

Does the format I choose to edit widgets in change how the widgets look on my site?

No, it should not. Because the block-based editor is fairly new though, it is possible that some block widgets—even ones native to WordPress—might be a little difficult to edit within the Customizer. Or, EmPress widgets may look different in the Customizer than they do in our sample screenshots around the site. If you're concerned, you can simply install the Classic Widgets plugin from WordPress.