Widgets in WordPress 5.8 and Beyond

Widgets in WordPress 5.8 and Beyond

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Copy and Design by @critterverse

WordPress 5.8 brings the power of Gutenberg blocks to widget areas — which means the highly customizable layout and styling options bring you closer to a WYSIWYG editing experience. I made a test site based on the oldie-but-goodie Twenty Sixteen theme, with three separate widget areas. In this post, I’ll highlight a few cool things that are now possible to do with your widgets and where things may be heading next.

Create Interesting Visual Effects With Overlapping Layouts and Duotone Images

Appearance-wise, users have a lot more control over widget areas than ever before — especially through the use of blocks with customization options like the Cover and Image block. Here’s what I can create in the classic widgets editor (above) versus what I can create in the new block-based widget editor (below).

Intersperse Widgets and Custom Code Throughout Your Visual Designs

Container blocks like Cover and Columns make it easy to weave dynamic or interactive elements into your designs. While this is a given for many widgets, the block versions of widgets can be easily wrapped and layered within container blocks to integrate them into your layout more fully.

In the example below, I tried placing a Search block in front of a Cover block, which creates a nice layered effect. I also inserted Custom HTML blocks within a Columns block to display different messaging depending on the time of day. (jQuery script)

Use Traditional Widget Layouts (Or Not) With Lots of Flexibility Over Title and Structure

Classic widgets have always had a lockup that includes a widget title. One cool thing about having blocks in widget areas is that you have complete flexibility over how titles appear. For example, you might choose to have a title over every widget, you might only want one title at the top of each widget area, or your design might not need titles at all.

Note: Some themes, like Twenty Twenty-One, are designed to flow content horizontally within widget areas. If you’re having trouble with a theme splitting your layout into columns, you could try keeping the lockup together by containing it within a Group block.

Side-by-side comparison of List View of a Sidebar widget area with and without grouped/nested lockups.

Copy & Paste Existing Layouts From the WordPress Pattern Directory

While patterns haven’t been fully integrated into the widget editors yet, one thing you can do is copy and paste patterns from the game-changing new WordPress Pattern Directory into your site’s widget areas. I used this horizontal call to action pattern from the directory almost exactly as is, with minor color and copy adjustments:

Footer widget area with a black box that reads, “Become a monthly patron” with paragraph text and a “Join now” button in a separate column. A painted image of waves hitting rocks is directly below with no space between them.

FYI: Patterns have not been curated for or integrated into widget areas yet, so you may run into some unexpected behavior — consider this feature to be a preview of what’s coming next for widget editing!

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