What’s a Widget and Why Do I Want Them on My WordPress Blog?

Part 4 in the continuing series on using WordPress for blogging: a platform-building, book-selling tool.

Last week we talked about WordPress themes. Today, the subject is widgets. If a theme is analogous to a cover or skin for a cell phone, then a widget corresponds to an app. Just as our smartphones don’t need apps, our websites and blogs don’t need widgets, but for both they increase functionality and usability.

On  the main blog page of this website, the widgets appear on the right side of the page. There are presently six widgets:

Text: In a text box you can put any text (or html code, such as a link). I use this text box for a mini “about me” section.

Subscribe: Many people, myself included, like to receive an email each time a post is added. This is an essential element for every blog.

RSS Feed: Other people use a blog reader, which requires a RSS feed. After email, it’s the second most common way people read blogs. If you don’t have one, you will lose audience. (You don’t need to understand how RSS works, just add the widget and WordPress does the rest.)

Topics: This lists categories of posts. Clicking one of the links will list posts on the subject.

Recent Posts: Shows my last five posts.

Post Archive: This pull down menu lists each month I posted something, along with the number of posts for that month.

There are, of course, many more widgets to choose from. Some come standard with WordPress and others are included with the JetPack plugin (more on plugins next week). Plus there are many, many more. But start with some basic ones and go from there.

There are a couple warnings about widgets. First, less is more, so don’t clutter your site with every possible widget. Second, certain widgets can slow down your site or conflict with other widgets or certain themes, so add widgets one at a time to evaluate the impact on your site.

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