Widgets are one of the most simple yet effective features of WordPress. Being able to simply drag and drop useful and dynamic elements into designated parts of your site allows you to present almost any kind of information easily to your readers.
However, where widgets can be displayed on your site is defined by the WordPress theme in use. Most themes allow widgets to be displayed in sidebars, while some themes also include areas for widgets in the footer of a page, and some more advanced themes have even more designated areas for accommodating widgets.
While this is great for adding widgets into areas prescribed by your chosen theme, it seems a shame to be limited to how and where widget information can be displayed on your site. However, did you know that it was possible to add widgets to WordPress posts and pages? This is a really useful feature to have at your disposal as you can easily begin creating posts and pages with dynamic content.
You could use the standard WordPress widgets to quickly add a list of recent posts to one of your pages or a list of categories for showcasing your content. Another option would be to use the widgets from some of the plugins you are using. By using a plugin like Flickr Photostream you could use the included sidebar widget to show the latest photos you’ve uploaded, directly on a post or page. By combing the ability to widgetise post with the widgets provided by other WordPress plugins you can build dynamic pages with lots of content that wouldn’t otherwise be available to you, apart from in your sidebar.
Plugins for Displaying Widgets in Posts
As usual the easiest and most user friendly way to do this is by using a WordPress plugin, and with a few available to help you add this functionality to your site, here are our thoughts on the most popular options.
Widgets on Pages
This is the most popular free plugin for adding widgets to your posts and pages. This plugin actually works by allowing you to insert sidebars into your posts or pages. So in order to use it, you first need to add your desired widget to a specific sidebar and then insert that sidebar into a post. Thankfully this is very easy to manage as the plugin creates a new set of new widgets which you can use just for this purpose. You can rename these new sidebars to make them easier to identify and also add more if the standard four aren’t enough. Simply go to Settings > Widgets on Pages.
As you can see you can change the number of additional sidebars this plugin adds to your site as well as change the names. Now if you go to the widgets page (Appearance > Widget), you should be able to see these sidebars, waiting to be populated with your widgets of choice.
Once you’ve add one or more widget to your sidebar, you can then insert it into your post or page using a shortcode:
When you insert your first sidebar into a post or page, you might notice an unwanted bullet icon displayed before or next to your in-post sidebar. If this is the case, go back to the plugin settings (Settings > Widgets on Pages) and then check the box marked ‘Enable styling (remove bullets etc)’ and the issue should be resolved.
The above example shows how easy it is to add the calendar widget into your posts or pages, however, you can just as easily add your own widgets of choice to a post. You can of course also add more than one sidebar to a post for displaying lots of different dynamic content in one place. This could include a feed of your latest tweets, photos from your Instagram account and a list of your most recent posts. All that information will be automatically updated each time the page is loaded as the data is pulled in dynamically using the functionality of widgets.
This is a very easy to use plugin that makes adding standard widgets and those that come with other plugins to your posts and pages (and theme files) a very straightforward process. There are literally unlimited uses for this type of functionality and it’s a great option to have up your sleeve when creating new posts and pages and building sites for clients.
Pros: free and easy to use while getting the job done without any fuss.
Cons: an easier way to insert the sidebars into your posts would be helpful, such as a button on the post editor menu.
Widgetize Pages Light
While the above plugin has everything you need to get started, there are other options out there. Widgetize Pages Light is another free plugin that enables you to add widget functionality into your posts and pages.
This plugin ways in a familiar way and requires you to create new sidebars, which you then add widgets to before inserting them into your posts and pages using a shortcode. The menu pages for this plugin are more user-friendly than the aforementioned Widgets on Pages plugin and make it a little bit easier to keep track of your sidebars.
By using the new Sidebars submenu item, you can view all the custom sidebars you’ve created and easily see the corresponding shortcode. The plugin also aids usability by adding a button to the WordPress post editor so you can simply insert sidebars by clicking on the icon then selecting from the available options.
While allows you to achieve the same results as the Widgets on Pages plugin, it does with an easier to use approach which might make it a better option.
Pro: very similar results to an existing plugin, but adds some additional helpful features, such as a button for inserting the shortcodes to the menu while also being free.
Cons: if you want more features you will need to pay for the premium version (see below).
Sidebar & Widget Manager for WordPress
You might have noticed the word ‘light’ in the title of the previous plugin. Where there is light, there is usually a premium option not far away. In this case the Sidebar & Widget Manager for WordPress is the premium version of Widgetize Plages Light, both by OTW Themes.
This plugin combines the features of the light version with a powerful responsive layout builder. This means you can easily add layouts to your pages, such as columns and rows, and then insert content or sidebar widgets into those areas. The grid layout builder comes with a big selection of layouts to allow you to get the look you want for your posts and pages.
The layouts are all fully responsive, so they resize and reposition in order to best suit the size of the screen they are being viewed on, including tablet and smartphone mobile devices. The plugin is also fully compatible with WooCommerce so you can use it with your eCommerce store’s widgets to show products and other related tools.
If you don’t mind spending a bit of money, the additional layout features of this plugin, combined with the widgets on posts functionality make this a great choice. You can off course use a free plugin such as WP Easy Columns to get a similar effect if you don’t mind adding another plugin into the mix.
Pros: the page layout tool allows you to not only add widgets but also determine how they look, and can be used for presenting all post content. Very easy to use and good value for money.
Cons: it’s not free.
So there you have it, a few free and a premium options for displaying widgets and sidebars in WordPress posts. While Widgets on Posts is the most popular option, Widgetize Pages Light is doing a good job of offering similar functionality but doing it in a slightly more user friendly way.
If you want to add multiple sidebars and widgets to a single post or page, then using a layout plugin is a good idea and the Sidebar & Widget Manager for WordPress is a good option that combines both features to great effect.
Whether you use the widgets in post approach now or not, it’s a useful feature to know about that can help you easily create interesting and content rich pages on your WordPress site.
What widgets do you think would be a good choice for being including in a post?How To: Easily Make Your Posts Dynamic by Inserting Widgets by Joe Fylan