by Kevin on May 15, 2009
WordPress widgets are generally not used properly. When you think about the content within your sidebar, how much of it do you have to customize more than once a month? Likely, not much. Perhaps you have to add a sidebar link, change the sponsors, or rearrange content, but other than that, widgets are over-used.
The main reasons that widgets were added was to make it possible for people to add different areas of content to their sidebars without having to enter the “code” view all the time, and having to try to figure out where everything went, what code to use, and so on. The problem is still somewhat here – you have to know basic code, as many widget editors only support raw HTML coding. With widgets, it became easy to move your blogroll from beneath your advertisements to the footer area of your site, and back, without seeing any code.
The Wrong Way to Use Widgets
Even though everyone may have their different uses of WordPress, there are some that over-use them, for every area of their site, when it could be easier to just insert code into the theme template or not insert the widget at all.
- Using them to replace basic functionality, like an “about” statement, links that don’t change often, or other elements that you don’t have to frequently edit.
- Making widgets the premier place for everything, from countdown clocks to music widgets, and anything else that has an embed code. The sidebars should be kept as clean as possible. If you want to place that “stuff” on your site, place it on a separate page or use abridged posts that don’t display them on the main page.
- Placing widgets where they really don’t belong, such as in the footer, which makes the average page much slower-loading and more likely that you’ll lose visitors because they don’t know nor want to use what is loading.
The Right Way to Use Widgets
Widgets were created for a few select reasons, which are being abused more and more often as of recently. These are some of the best reasons to use widgets and use them properly.
- Use a widget, rather than hard-coding into your site anything that you need to have “instant” access to or need to update in the future (like ads or link lists). For everything else, just use the “sidebar” coding area.
- Use only a few select widgets, modules, or “gadgets,” depending on which content management system you happen to be using. They are all designed for nearly the same purpose, and that is to add extra functionality without adding dozens of lines of code for something basic.
- Optimize the code within your widgets to ensure that your sidebar doesn’t load first or take an extremely long time to load after the main content area – you need them to load nearly at once or your visitors won’t be subjected to the additional sidebar ads.
Designing your widget area can be a critical step in your blog’s design process. Making sure that it is both balanced and customized to set your blog apart from the rest can be difficult, to say the least. Widgets, when used properly, can be a great addition to your blog, and that is the reason why nearly all themes now have them built-in to some degree.
In the end, it just makes sense that not all blogs need them, while some will use dozens of them before they can say that their theme is complete.
How do you use widgets on your blog?