How to Create Your Own WordPress Widgets with Widget Builder - ManageWP

How to Create Your Own WordPress Widgets with Widget Builder

How to Create Your Own WordPress Widgets with Widget Builder

For those who use WordPress primarily for its remarkable ease of use and intuitive interface, digging below the surface in order to achieve more can be rather intimidating.

But more often than not, you simply don’t need to get your hands dirty. Either advanced customization can be achieved with the default GUI options, or you can find a plugin that does the hard work for you.

Today I want to take a close look at one such plugin – Widget Builder. It does exactly what you would expect – it helps you to build more advanced widgets than WordPress affords you by default, without the need to touch a line of code.

The Problem with WordPress Widgets

WordPress comes packaged with a generous selection of widgets, with everything from recent posts, to a calendar, to a search box (even though WordPress’ default search functionality is awful).

but despite this choice, one widget in particular lets WordPress users down – and it is typically the most used. I am talking about the text widget:

WordPress Text Widget
“Feature packed” is not the phrase I would use.

What you see above is actually a pretty functional tool in the right hands. If you have a good understanding of HTML and CSS, you can use the text widget to achieve most things. But at the risk of sounding lazy, I believe that we should only have to resort to coding by hand as a last resort.

With that in mind, given that WordPress has a capable WYSIWYG editor available elsewhere on the backend, surely it only makes sense that we should be able to utilize it for widgets?

With Widget Builder, we can do just that.

Check out our list of best rated WordPress widgets

Using Widget Builder

Once you have installed Widget Builder on your WordPress site, you can create new widgets by clicking on the “Widget Builder” option under the Appearances section on your admin sidebar, then clicking “Add New Widget” on the subsequent page:

Widget Builder

You will then be presented with a screen that looks much like the New Post/Page screens:

Widget Builder

There are four areas that you need to concern yourself, in order of where they appear in any widget you create:

  1. The widget title – this will appear at the very top of the widget
  2. The featured image – this will appear directly below the widget title
  3. The content – this will appear directly below the featured image
  4. The widget link – this will appear at the bottom of the widget

All of the fields are completely optional, so you have a high level of flexibility in terms of what you show, and where. Here’s a sample widget that I put together:

Widget Builder

And here’s how it looks when I add the widget to my sidebar:

Widget Builder

Whilst you could have achieved the same effect with the standard text widget and HTML, using Widget Builder is a lot quicker and easier.

Besides, we are only scratching the surface in the above example. Another plus that Widget Builder offers above the normal text widget (beyond all of the WYSIWYG capabilities) is the fact that you can include any shortcodes that you might typically use in a post or page.

For instance, let’s say that I wanted to use the Twitter Hashtag Shortcode plugin to display recent tweets relating to ManageWP in a widget. Using Widget Builder, I just paste the shortcode into a new widget and add it to my sidebar. Then I get this:

Widget Builder

The same shortcode entered into a standard text widget produces this:

Widget Builder

Not quite the effect I intended.

Again – whilst you can use shortcodes anywhere if you know the right hacks, I like a simple life.

At the end of the day, using Widget Builder rather than the standard text widget is much like using the visual editor rather than the HTML editor. Sure – there will always be people who swear by the bare bones manual approach, but I’ll always go for the least path of resistance.

So what do you think? Will Widget Builder take pride of place amongst your WordPress plugins? Let us know in the comments section!

Tom Ewer

Tom Ewer is the founder of WordCandy.co. He has been a huge fan of WordPress since he first laid eyes on it, and has been writing educational and informative content for WordPress users since 2011. When he's not working, you're likely to find him outdoors somewhere – as far away from a screen as possible!

10 Comments

  1. David

    Hi, my newly created widget is attributed to my other admin at the bottom and I am not logged in as this admin so why is that attribution there? How do I remove it? I do not see it anywhere in the builder when I try to edit it? It is as of this is a posting by my other admin and it isn’t? Ideas?

    1. Tom Ewer

      Hi David,

      I’d recommend that you contact the developer with this issue — I’m not sure what the problem is.

      Cheers,

      Tom

    2. Tim Wood

      Hi David, can you post a more detailed request in our support forum for the plugin http://wordpress.org/support/plugin/widget-builder. I am not sure what you mean by attribution? A screenshot showing your issue when you post would be extremely helpful to narrowing down what is causing this.

      Cheers,
      Tim

  2. Alex

    Great plugin, I’m trying to get a custom widget I built with Widget Builder inside the template files… I found this –

    http://codex.wordpress.org/Function_Reference/the_widget

    which works for standard WP widgets, but doesn’t work for Widget Builder widgets because they don’t have a specific class, could this be done do you think?

    Thanks

    1. Tim Wood

      I can add that to the roadmap for next version, I will explore what it would take to extend or create a custom function for hooking the widget via a tag.

  3. Tim Wood

    I just released version 1.4 this morning of Widget Builder which includes support for admin dashboard widgets now and a few other enhancements since your review! Would love to know your thoughts of the changes.

  4. Maor

    There’s a very similar one I’ve been using for a while called Spots. Works pretty good!

    1. Tom Ewer

      Thanks for alternative suggestion!

    2. Tim Wood

      Spots is a great plugin – there is a little difference in that this plugin arose out of desire to give ability for custom widgets quickly by a site admin but lock down the edit ability on a MU install for general users. Since then it has grown to accomodate a more general audience and feature set.

  5. nMaNetworks Support

    Brilliant. Personally I don’t envision using it for my own sites, but so far during my testing (8 widgets in and counting :) – it’s great for cutting down support time for clients.

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