How to Widget-Enable WordPress Themes in 3 Easy Steps

By 22-11-2007   BloggingTutorialsWordPress

WordPress Widgets are an amazing way to customize your blog besides wordpress plugins. How to widgetize your wordpress theme? I use a heavily modified version of the Blix wordpress theme, which does not support widgets…

First thing to know is that Widgets are part of WordPress core since WordPress 2.2 and you do not need to install any Widgets plugin to add widgets on your blog.

Step 1: Create functions.php

No such file existed in our theme, so we simply create a new functions.php and FTP it to the theme folder. Here is what exactly you need to put in the file

if ( function_exists('register_sidebar') )

This will work only if you use the default markup of wordpress with h2 as sidebar titles and an unordered list like this

<h2>Sidebar Title</h2>
    <li><a href="link1.html">Link 1</a></li>
    <li><a href="link2.html">Link 2</a></li>

Customize functions.php
But we do not use the default markup of wordpress. For SEO benefits, we use h4 for sidebar titles and do not use the ul and li unordered lists in this way. So instead of the above code, we change the function.php file in this way to suit our custom wordpress template.

<?php if ( function_exists('register_sidebar') ) 
'before_widget' => '', 
'after_widget' => '', 
'before_title' => '<h4>', 
'after_title' => '</h4>', 
)); ?>

The code titles are self explanatory. before_widget and after_widget – we need no special code , so we leave it empty. before_title and after_title we use the h4. This modification overrides the default markup and now supports our custom template. You can modify it as per your own site web design css.

Step 2: Add Widgets to Dynamic Sidebar

This functions.php code will help widgetize your wordpress theme and support a single dynamic sidebar. Now when you go to your wordpress dashboard under Presentation, you will see a new item called Widgets.

Wordpress Widgets

In the Sidebar Arrangement, You can drag and drop widgets onto your sidebar from the list of preinstalled widgets like Tag Cloud, Recent posts, RSS feeds, Recent comments, Calendar, Archives, Categories, Search, Links easily.

Wordpress Widget Types

Do not forget to save your changes and the widget will be updated. You can drag and drop as many widgets as you like. Clicking on the widget will pop up a set of options which you can modify to further customize the widget.

Step3: Add Dynamic Sidebar to Template

Now you need to place a php code in the sidebar to enable a dynamic sidebar that that will function to display the saved widgets. Paste this code anywhere while editing sidebar.php.

<?php if ( !function_exists('dynamic_sidebar')
|| !dynamic_sidebar() ) : ?>
<?php endif; ?>

Save the changes and the new sidebar will now display your widgets! That all there is to it.

See the sidebar at work on our tumblelog (that is a recent posts and RSS widget!). Now go and find new widgets to add to your blog.

Update: Here is a tutorial on how to add multiple dynamic sidebars to wordpress template and support multiple combinations of widgets.

Updated Code for WP3

The latest versions of WordPress already have widgetized sidebars enabled in the core. So you just need to call the dynamic sidebars.

In functions.php, add this code

function quickchic_widgets_init() {
'name' => __( 'Sidebar 1', 'quickchic' ),
'id' => 'sidebar-1',
'before_widget' => '',
'after_widget' => '',
'before_title' => '<h4>',
'after_title' => '</h4>',
add_action( 'init', 'quickchic_widgets_init' );

In sidebar.php you need to add this code to call it

<?php if ( is_active_sidebar( 'sidebar-1' ) ) : ?>
<?php dynamic_sidebar( 'sidebar-1' ); ?>
<?php endif; ?>

41 comments on “How to Widget-Enable WordPress Themes in 3 Easy Steps

  1. Interweb Millionaire says:

    It’s also really easy to add multiple sidebars to a theme. You can simply add the following line after “register_sidebar(array(“:

    'name'=>'Sidebar 1',

    You can add multiple sidebar sections to functions.php, for example, “Sidebar 1”, “Sidebar 2” and so on. You then need to call specific sidebar in your template file like so:


  2. QuickOnlineTips says:

    JP – I have been using lots of multiple sidebars and its a great feature. The multiple sidebars tutorial is coming soon…

  3. Nirmal says:

    This is a simple method everyone can follow, I too had added the third sidebar to my blog previously using this method.

  4. Nathaniel Buck says:

    Thanks for this simple and clear tutorial. It was just what I was looking for.

  5. allenooi says:

    I’m using the theme called Iridium. When I click the widget, the below message appear: No Sidebars Defined You are seeing this message because the theme you are currently using isnt widget-aware, meaning that it has no sidebars that you are able to change. For information on making your theme widget-aware, please follow these instructions. Is your steps will fix this? I actually tried to create a function.php like you mention. But when I clicked on the widget, the above message still appear. Do you know how to fix this? Thanks.

  6. QuickOnlineTips says:

    It is functions.php and not function.php
    Also you need to place it in the theme folder you are currently using.

    • Rick says:

      This was a major problem for me, I had been trying to make sidebars work. Then I read this.

      function.php <- I had this… :)

      functions.php <- Changed to this and it worked like a charm.

  7. Jonathan Lumb says:

    Thanks! Great little guide – my theme is now completely widgetized…

  8. aivan monceller says:

    I have a widget ready template. But whenever I activate my widgets, It overrides my sidebar.php and removes the background. What should I do to preserve the background of sidebar.php and append the widgets added?

    • Ryan says:

      I have the same problem. I’ve added a bunch of widgets to my sidebar by editing the code, but can’t drag and drop widgets from the Widget section of my dashboard. When I do, everything else on my sidebar gets wiped out.

      Any ideas how to get around this?

      I’m using the monochrome theme by monolab …

  9. Fun Free Games says:

    This tutorial really helps me, now my blog is widget enabled!

  10. BGdula says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!

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