If you can name it, there’s a WordPress widget for it.
What started as a way to customize your sidebar has become an unimaginable wealth of usefulness. Widgets allow you to easily add complex functions to your site that can have a huge impact on the user experience.
Whether you want an eye-catching display of your best Instagram posts, Google Maps so customers can find you, or a simple but eye-catching contact form to gather more email addresses, there are innumerable options waiting for you to explore.
But what makes a widget a good widget?
Four things to look for in a WordPress widget
It should go without saying, but unfortunately, it doesn’t always. A widget is there to serve a specific purpose. If it fails to do this, it’s useless.
Checking reviews or the number of active installations gives you a good idea of whether the widget does a good job or not.
2. Tested with the latest version of WordPress.
Any WordPress plugin you use should be up-to-date and tested by other users. The last thing you want is to put work into customizing a widget only to find out it has a fatal bug that crashes your entire site. You can check the status on the plugin’s page on WordPress.org.
3. Good technical support.
When things go wrong (and they always do, right?) you want to be sure someone will help you out. Look out for widgets from trusted developers who are known to give great support and who provide detailed troubleshooting videos and articles.
You want to be able to customize your widgets to fit with the branding of your site. With some widgets, you’ll need to upgrade to the premium version of the plugin to fully customize, while others offer all the options you need right out of the box.
If the widget ticks these four boxes, you’re good to go.
With that in mind, here’s a rundown of the 15 best, most useful widgets for your website.
Why have one widget when you can have many? HubSpot offers a whole box of tricks via its widget bundle. The bundle is brimming with slide-in boxes, banners, overlay pop-ups and much more, which work right out of the box. It works well with other tools you may use as well, such as meeting schedulers or landing page builders.
One of the most innovative widgets is the live chat widget, which allows you to have real-time conversations with your visitors, or even install a chatbot to cover the times when you’re not around.
This is one of the most useful bundles out there, putting the awesome power of HubSpot’s CRM, marketing, sales, and customer service software right into your WordPress dashboard.
Relevanssi upgrades the notoriously basic WordPress search bar with a smart search more akin to what we’re used to with search engines. Settings can be configured to your liking with features to search within PDFs, run searches across multiple sites, or add custom fields.
On top of that, search results can be displayed by relevance rather than just by date. However, by the team’s own admission, Relevanssi takes up a lot of memory. Apparently, it will triple your database size, so be warned if you lack storage.
The free version offers all the features you could want, but there is also a premium version, which provides the use of the widget on an unlimited number of sites, along with upgrades and support.
This popular plugin lets you easily add a multitude of social icons to your WordPress site via a widget. Encourage sharing, likes, and follows at the click of a button. All the major social networks are supported and you can choose from a range of button designs. It also supports quirky features like sticky floating buttons, animations, follower counters, pop-ups and more.
The free version will do nicely for most uses but the premium version supports far more button designs and more obscure social sharing sites.
Price: Free | Premium from $39 for the first year of updates and support
WordPress.org rating: 4.9/5 | 2200 reviews
Instagram Feed is a handy widget that displays one or multiple Instagram feeds in the format of your choosing. Adding a colorful grid is a good way to attract more followers to your Instagram feed and grow your audience. This simple widget makes it incredibly easy to put a mobile-responsive Instagram feed in a strategic location on your WordPress site.
Displaying a beautiful feed is all covered in the free version. Premium offers more advanced features like a pop-up light box feed, the option to display feeds for specific hashtags, the ability to show likes and comments for each post, and much more.
Siteorigin Widgets Bundle is packed full of useful widgets that you can insert into any page or sidebar, or into the Siteorigin Page Builder tool. It’s a good option if you want to commit to this bundle over all others -- in fact, the ever-growing list of widgets for Siteorigin currently sits at 22. Highlights include widgets for Google Maps, sliders, contact forms, a price table, buttons, images, and more.
This is a useful bundle if you were going to grab a ton of these widgets anyway, but it’s important to note the large bundle will take up a fair bit of space, so there’s a trade-off.
Best of all, the widgets can be easily turned on and off via the settings page and the whole thing won’t cost you a dime.
If you post recipes on your food blog, WP Recipe Maker simplifies the process of formatting, and makes the results look better than a table or bullet points of ingredients.
Simply input your recipe information into a form and this widget creates a professional recipe box, including helpful details like serving count, cooking time, measurements, and anything else you might want in a recipe.
It is lightweight, easy-to-use and has become the most popular recipe widget on WordPress, with 20,000+ active installations. Premium features add ingredient links (so you can make some money from affiliate links), recipe taxonomies, user ratings, nutritional information, and more.
Embed a mobile-responsive YouTube video or entire video gallery anywhere on your WordPress site with this widget. Filter by playlist channel or username, and customize the size and layout of your widget display. This is the simplest YouTube widget available and is now moving ahead of its older rivals in terms of ratings and active installations.
This is a phenomenal way to add video content to your site while also driving more followers to your YouTube channel. Try the Premium version for additional layouts, adding video metadata, custom text for buttons and more -- although the free version is excellent for most needs.
Envira Gallery is the most popular gallery widget on WordPress and allows you to create a professional photo or video gallery with zero coding. It’s designed to be clean, simple, and easy-to-use. Best of all, it’s responsive, SEO-friendly, and social sharing-ready.
The drag-and-drop gallery creator is intuitive and takes the hassle out of creating a gallery from scratch. The free version supports watermarking, slideshows, pagination, Instagram feed imports, and password protection, among many other features. It’s a no-brainer if you need a beautiful gallery widget.
The best thing about this calendar widget is the versatility in its placement and design options. The widget allows you to easily customize your view -- including options for daily, weekly, or monthly -- and lets you incorporate sidebar widgets or Google Maps.
You can filter by tag or category and share to Google Calendar, Apple iCal, and Microsoft Outlook. In my opinion, it’s the best calendar widget you’ll find for your WordPress site.
Add-ons are available for a fee, including more view options, or auto-sharing of events on Twitter and SuperWidget, which allows you to put your calendar on any website.
This handy widget allows you to insert rich text and media elements into your WordPress sidebar. The WYSIWYG interface was originally introduced to replace the basic text editor that comes with WordPress, but it still does a better job than even the current default editor.
The widget supports switching between visual mode and HTML, although coding is not necessary to use it. It’s a useful addition to your widget arsenal.
This powerful plugin offers a suite of lead generation tools, including the ability to create highly-customizable forms in the form of pop-ups or sidebar widgets to collect information. The drag-and-drop builder makes it easy to quickly build customizable forms -- alternatively, you can choose from one of their templates.
OptinMonster also allows integration with email marketing services like HubSpot and MailChimp, so you can easily export contacts to your existing lists along with all their data. This is a useful tool for collecting email addresses and syncing with other services, but you want to be careful that your pop-ups aren’t too intrusive. You don’t want to negatively impact the user experience.
Live chat is popping up in the corners of screens everywhere, and WP Live Chat Support has emerged as the best widget to add live chat to your WordPress site. The simple interface has made it the most popular WordPress live chat widget, with over 60,000 active installations.
There are six chat box designs to choose from, which can be placed wherever you like on your pages, with optional animations thrown in for good measure. Other handy features allow you to disable the chat box for mobile users, or have it pop up automatically for other users. A chat box is a great way to capture email addresses to build your list, and this widget allows you to turn this feature on or off.
A simple and effective live chat widget -- best of all, it’s absolutely free.
The difficulty of adding a good tabbed widget into WordPress has long been a frustration for users. Whistles is billed as a brand-new approach to tab plugins. It involves adding some short code, but allows you to add a tabbed widget anywhere on your WordPress site. Additionally, it performs much more reliably than previous tabbed widgets have.
The formatting options are somewhat limited, but the widget does support tabs, toggles, and accordion designs so you can customize to a certain degree.
If you have a ton of blog content and you want to give some love to older or less-appreciated posts, a random posts widget is a good solution. It will display random posts from your content library to entice readers to click on something they didn’t even know they wanted to read.
This clean and simple plugin allows you to add an attractive random posts thumbnail widget to any sidebar or page. You can sort by taxonomy and display the post title, excerpt, and post date. You’ll need to add a little bit of short code to the relevant page, but the plugin walks you through how to do this with ease. Additionally, the simple tabbed settings page makes customizing your widget a breeze.
Including a functional Google Maps widget on your website is critical for helping your customers find you -- additionally, it’s also a major Google ranking factor. This widget adds a custom-fitted and designed Google Map to your site, which pinpoints your location.
Plus, the Premium version allows users to open a larger map as a light box and interact with it by zooming in and out, or switching between satellite and road views.
As we have seen, there is a widget for just about everything. Whatever functionality you need to add to your site, this list gives you the best option for each specific purpose.
If you’re looking for a great bundle of widgets that come from a trusted provider of market-leading software, HubSpot All-in-One Marketing is an incredibly helpful choice, providing a multitude of fully-customizable options and plenty of support if necessary.
Originally published May 21, 2019 7:00:00 AM, updated February 19 2020