Making Your WordPress Widgets Do More

There are approximately four levels (very basically speaking) of zen you can achieve via your widgets panel on WordPress. What you can do with your widgets depends on what you want, your skill level with xhtml and CSS and, oddly enough, a really cool plug-in (more on that when I discuss Widget Zen, Level 4).

Widget Zen, Level 1: For someone very new to WordPress, it is a world of wonder when they realize they can control what appears on their sidebars! Just go to your widgets panel on your dashboard (Design -> Widgets), choose to “show” the sidebar you want to work with and ta-da! You can add and remove elements from your sidebar and even change their order. Just add what you’d like to see on your sidebar and remove what you don’t want, then save your changes. View your blog in all it’s newly widgetized glory and voila! Widget Zen, Level 1 has been achieved!

Widget Zen, Level 2: The next level of Widget Zen comes when you notice those widgets over on the left that simply say “Text” on them. Oh my gosh – it is now time to create your very own widget! Just click to add then click to “save changes.” Then click on “Edit.” (You do have to “save changes” before editing the text widget, believe it or not). Then you can add virtually whatever you like. In the header field you could put “Currently Reading” and in the field put, “Anything Considered by Peter Mayle.” Click “Save Changes” again, visit your site and voila! Widge Zen, Level 2 has been achieved!

Widget Zen, Level 3: The next level of Widget Zen comes when you look at your newly created widget and think, “Hmmm, I would really like it if the “Currently Reading” was centered and in bold. And while I”m on it, I would like the title of the book to be in italics.” So you go back to the widgets area in your sidebar, click to Edit the widget, and have at it with your xhtml and CSS skilss! Save the changes, view your site and Voila! Widget Zen, Level 3 has now been achieved.

Widget Zen, Level 4: This next level of Widget Zen comes when you start hankering for a bit of functionality in your widget. You want PHP in your widget. But no matter how many times you add the bit PHP for what you want to work with into the widget, it just won’t function. That is because text widgets cannot execute PHP. Unless you install a very special Plug-In! It’s called Exec-PHP . Install it. Activate it. Go back and do your PHP widget thang, and Voila! Widget Zen, Level 4 has been achieved! This is such an awesome plug-in, and there is so much you can do with it. It’s also THE best-documented plug-in I’ve ever seen. See the Exec-PHP Plug-In Page .

So what are you waiting for? Go make yourself a widget! Just do what I do – Back up everything you work on before you start when you’re doing something for the first time or that you are unsure of. Seems like it takes unnecessary time, and I know you want to get right to it. But backing up has saved me hours and hours of time over the years. I tend to mess things up the first few times I do them.

Just a little note: is not affiliated with WordPress or the maker of the Exec-PHP Plug_In in any way. I just love the platform and plug-in, respectively, and have used both with much success and enjoyment.