Welcome back! This is my 4th installment of #TechTip Thursdays, and I’m so glad that many have you have found my advice useful. I am not strictly a technophile, so I do my best to explain things without using too much jargon. Which leads me to today’s topic: widgets.
Problem: You have no idea what a widget is or how to use them.
When I first heard the word “widget,” I was like, “Nope, not for me.” Mainly, it was because I didn’t know what a widget is! Wikipedia defines a Widget as “a small application with limited functionality that can be installed and executed within a web page by an end user.” Okay, that’s not too scary, but how do you install a widget? What is its function? Who is the end user?
The end users are the people who visit your blog and click buttons. That’s about the long and short of it.
The function of a Widget is often to get people to do or see something: follow your blog, sign up for e-mail notifications, showcase which bloggers you follow, or let people know which social media you’re on. There are a lot of widgets, and they can get complicated, especially when people get fancy and using coding. I am not a coder. The only coding I do is to make hyperlinks on Goodreads, so this #TechTip is only about the widgets WordPress offers to you.
Where to Find the Widgets:
- Sign in to your WordPress account
- Click “My Site” in the upper right
- Scroll all the way to the bottom to “WP Admin” and click
- Hold your mouse over “Appearance”
- Click “Widgets” from the list that appears
- The left side of the page tells you what widgets are available. If you are not familiar with one, you probably don’t want it anyway. Look around and see what’s there.
Which Widgets Should You Choose? This all depends on what you want your readers to see. For me, the important things I want readers to see are the follow my blog button, my social media icons, a button to get my posts by email, a blogroll, a search box, and the categories I use to distinguish the types of posts I create (I have book reviews, meet the writer features, book blog tours, tech tips, and misc.).
There are some widgets I know people have that I don’t find terribly useful as a reader. Examples: a Goodreads update, a Twitter feed, “Topics” (that block of words that represent tags you’ve used, and the more often you use a tag, the bigger the word), or a list of comments other people have made on your blog.
I’m not going to click your most popular topic and hope it suits me wonderfully.
In terms of you include feeds of your social media — like Goodreads, Twitter, and Facebook — I’ll follow you if that’s what I want. If I’m following you on social media, I don’t need your feed reiterated on the side of your blog. The “Topics” thing never helped me because I don’t go to blogs looking for one tag. As for other people’s comments? Without context, they mean nothing, so I don’t even read them.
Whichever widgets you choose, you can drag and drop them to the “Default Sidebar” category. This puts the widget on the side of your blog. If you’re on your computer, you can see my widgets over on the right.
My widgets look like this.
There is also the “First Supplementary Widget Area” and the “Second Supplementary Widget Area.” Whatever widgets you drag and drop into these two will appear at the bottom of your blog post.
Available widgets on the left, default sidebar near the middle, the the supplementary widgets listed.
Which Widgets Should You Choose? This is totally up to you and what you what to include for your readers. Here are some of mine:
To Archive or Search:
I’ve seen many people include an archive, which lists the months and years during which they’ve published blog posts. I used to have such a list, but I don’t like it anymore. After 3+ years of blogging, it’s too long and takes up too much space. Besides, how often do readers think, “Ah, I really want something from June 2012”? But how will readers find my old posts? I opted for a “search” widget instead. It’s the first thing in my “Default Sidebar” list and is a basic search box. Type in a key word or author’s name — something relatively close to my post — and you’ll find it.
Follow Me in Various Ways:
Next, I chose the “Follow Blog” button, which lets readers sign up to get Grab the Lapels in their e-mail. Under that is the “Follow Button.” This is important for my fellow WordPress users who want to get more from Grab the Lapels in their reader feed.
Next, I’ve got the social media icons. The theme I chose for my blog (that colorful painted-looking background) makes the icons small. I’ll deal with it, because I love the background. WordPress prompts you to easily set up your social media if you choose that widget.
Categories for Easy Navigation:
If readers are coming for one thing, they can click a category and skip everything else. Some readers come to Grab the Lapels just for the #TechTips. They don’t want book reviews, and that’s fine — they can click the Tech Tip category. I wish people would use categories more with the reader in mind. For instance, if you like to do Top-Ten Tuesday or Salon Sunday or Bookish And Not So Bookish Thoughts, you could have a category for each of those. Book reviews would be its own category, making it easier for readers to navigate your site if they don’t want to read lists, thoughts, recipes, see vacation photos, or whatever else you’ve included on your blog that doesn’t fit the theme (such as being primarily a book review blogger but including pictures of your kids).
Giving a Shout Out to Bloggy Buddies:
After the follow buttons, I have what is called a blogroll. This allows you to share which blogs you follow. You can split them into categories or just have one big blogroll. I have “Bookish Blogs” (book reviewers, writers, people who interview writers, etc.) and “Bravely Blogging.”
I change my blogroll a lot to keep it up-to-date. An outdated blogroll is useless to your readers and suggests you don’t really follow those blogs (if a blog you follow hasn’t been updated since 2011, you would know that).
I also change my blogroll to reflect bloggers I respect and whom I feel respect the blogging community — they follow you back, and they comment on your posts. If someone sort of disappears on me, I take their name off the blogroll. For me, the “Bravely Blogging” category includes folks who don’t write about books and typically don’t follow me back, but I’m interested in their content. Here’s a simple image to show you how to add/delete blogs on a blogroll:
“All links” takes you to all of the blog links you’ve added. “Add New” is where you go to add a new blog to the blogroll, and “Link Categories” is where you can create categories (give them a name and description). Not everyone uses “Link Categories,” and it’s not necessary!
When you add a new blog, include the name of the blog, the URL (I always go to the blog’s home page and copy/paste), choose a category (if you’re doing that), and click “Add Link” over on the right. There is an option to keep a link private; I’m not sure why you would want to do that. There’s also an option to describe what the blog is about. I don’t do that, as it’s extra work and I feel readers should just take a chance and click the link!
The Order of Widgets: The order in which your widgets appear is actually pretty important. You want the most necessary stuff up top of your blog page and the extra stuff near the bottom. You also want the widgets to look aesthetically pleasing. There were two widgets I had next to each other, but when I looked at my site, they looked awful together — cramped and hard to separate. Play around with the order of your widgets, and always double check by opening a new tab to look at your site as readers would see it. Do you like the appearance? If you don’t, go back to the widget page and drag and drop the widgets within the “Default Sidebar” list. If you feel like a certain widget just doesn’t look right on the side of your page, drag and drop it to one of those “Supplementary” lists to include it at the bottom of blog posts.
Your Opinions: If you have set up some widgets, which do you use? If you didn’t know what a widget was, but you knew blogs had stuff on the sides of their pages, which stuff do you find most useful? Media icons? Search boxes? Calendars? Most recent posts? Let me hear what you think! I don’t claim to know the best widgets for you and your blog. I can only say what works for me as a reader and try to mimic that on Grab the Lapels.