Widgets may well be the unsung heroes of the WordPress world. Sure, WordPress themes make our websites beautiful, and plugins give us every piece of functionality our hearts can possibly desire, but widgets bridge the gaps. Of course, lately as sidebars have fallen a bit out of design favor and as web design trends have moved towards full-width displays, widgets have lost a little bit of cachet.
But there's no doubt: Widgets help us display specific, discrete bites of information and content in just the right way on WordPress websites. While WordPress natively supports widgets (assuming your theme supports them, too), you'll usually find your options somewhat limited.
If you know how to code, of course, the sky is pretty much your limit. But what if you're not a professional coder or WordPress developer? What if you're an average WordPress user, a business owner with a site to update and maintain, who also has a company to run and actual work to do?
For non-coding users who want to go beyond the basic recent posts, recent comments, straight text box, or search box widget, you'll need to explore the wonderful world of WordPress themes and widget plugins. And there's no doubt that you have several to choose from. Just look at the first several results from a super-basic Google search like “best widget plugins”. In this post, we're going to look at one WordPress widget plugin in particular: the newly updated Extended Widget Options plugin for WordPress. We'll be exploring the plugin's features, options and pricing.
What the Extended Widget Options plugin does
With over 20,000 downloads, Widget Options has certainly earned a substantial slice of the widget optimization and display market. And those users seem pretty happy. The free version enjoys a current rating of 4.9 out of 5 stars on the WordPress plugin repository (with over 200 ratings).
The Extended Widget Options plugin also boasts an impressively responsive support team, with seven out of nine support request threads labeled as resolved within the last two months on the plugin's repository page. And you can submit a support ticket request straight from your own WordPress dashboard, by the way. The developer has also created and made available a video look at the plugin that you can access on Vimeo and through your dashboard as well.
Features of the Extended Widget Options plugin
The Extended Widget Options plugin offers you a deep level of control over the appearance and display of your widgets through several features. All of these features are unlocked and ready to use through the Widget Options menu, once you validate your license.
You can also access the plugin's controls and main menu page through the Appearance/Widgets main menu in your WordPress dashboard, as shown in the screenshot below:
Chief among the plugin's features is the ability to choose which widgets you want to display on specific devices. For instance, if you want a specific widget to show only on desktop or laptop displays, you can configure the plugin settings for that widget to hide it from the sidebar on mobile / tablet devices. It also allows to configure the alignment of each widget for specific device displays.
Let's say your mobile theme would just look better on mobile devices if the widget is centered, but it would look better with a justified alignment in larger desktop displays. Extended Widget Options allows you to provide individualized alignment settings for optimized display on each kind of device.
The Extended Widget Options plugin also gives you a number of options to customize the style and look of both your sidebar (or sidebars) and the individual widgets. You can create up to four widget columns for your sidebar and assign widgets accordingly based on the type of display. Or style your widgets with background images, form style rules, and color schemes. You can even add ids and classes to your widgets directly from the plugin's menu page.
You can also set separate and distinct visibility rules for your widgets according to the user's role – guests can see one set of widgets, for example, while others may only be visible to those with administrator status who are currently logged into their accounts. If you'd like to fix the position of the widget display on the page, you can create fixed on scroll widgets. That way, as users scan down a long page, the widgets stay in the same area of the screenspace.
One thing that's striking about this plugin is that it's not made exclusively for coders. For example, you can easily hide titles for some or all widgets straight from that widget's control box, and there's no need to go tinkering with the PHP. But if you are a coder and you're familiar with WordPress conditional tags, you can access and use them for widget display via Widget Logic options. So regardless of your technical skill level or expertise, you'll most likely find this plugin user-friendly.
What's new in version 4.0
Just a few weeks ago, the developer released version 4.0 of the Extended Widget Options plugin. The new iteration saw the addition of a number of new features that will make the plugin even more powerful and customizable. It's worth to check this out in detail.
One of the biggest new features is the ability to create and configure animation effects for widgets. Animations help draw and maintain user focus on widget content that you want to emphasize. The plugin gives you control over the duration, speed, offset and delay for the effect, so that you can tailor the user experience effectively. You can also now preview changes to your widgets straight from the WordPress customizer interface.
The new release also introduced the ability to link your featured widget to your main page, and to redirect users when they click inside the widget area. You can make the link open in the same or a new tab for external URLs and add a nofollow attribute for SEO purposes if you like.
Moreover, with the inclusion of shortcodes, you can now control display of your sidebar and your widgets over the whole of your site, simply by using that shortcode identifier in your code. The shortcode and widget identifier are provided in each widget's control menu. Finally, the Extended Widget Options plugin integrates now with the SiteOrigin's Page Builder plugin, giving you an even greater ability to control and configure your widgets as you prefer and require.
All the Manage Widget Options features apply to your existing SiteOrigin widgets created with the Pagebuilder, from restricted visibility on the basis of user roles to enhanced styling and animations. However, custom id functions have been removed from this integration in order to avoid potential conflicts. Also the page visibility options are disabled due to the Pagebuilder controls which would render the controls moot.
Pricing and plans
While the basic Widget Options plugin offers valuable enhanced control over your WordPress widgets and is freely available, you'll get the most benefit from the premium version, Extended Widget Options. Here you can learn more about the available pricing and plans:
The developer has created three plan levels at different price points so you can get the access that's best for you, without paying extra for the license terms you don't necessarily need. Each plan offers one year of support and automatic updates. The entry level Personal plan costs $19 and covers one site. There's also a Business level plan for $49 and five sites.
If you're a professional developer, or have more than five websites you would like to install this plugin on, you might want to further explore the Developer plan that costs $199 for unlimited sites.
Conclusion: Extended Widget Options plugin
Bottom line? If you need more finely-tuned control over your widgets than you otherwise get out of the box with your WordPress theme of choice, the Extended Widget Options plugin is definitely worth a closer look. Have you ever used this plugin? If so, please share your experience in the comments.