Blogs are as different from each other as bloggers interests are, but widgets are commonly used to add content and features to sidebars and or footer areas on any blog. They can also provide navigation to content located deeper than the front page in any blog.
The placement of sidebars or footer areas for widgets varies from theme to theme. And, which widgets each blogger designates as essential will vary from blog to blog and from lay out to lay out. But first let’s establish what a widget is.
In computing, a web widget is a small application with limited functionality that can be installed and executed within a web page by an end user.
WordPress.com Widgets & Sidebars support documentation:
Widget is a fancy word for tools or content that you can add, arrange, and remove from the sidebar(s) [or footer areas] of your blog.
Prior to the mobile explosion, implementation of infinite scroll and introduction of responsive width themes I considered the Recent Posts Widget to be essential. Now I no longer use it as infinite scroll has been implemented on this blog and because I’m using a responsive width theme.
Responsive width means the layout adapts depending on the size of the device being used to view your site. When responsive width themes are viewed on mobiles sidebars appear below the posts in order to provide as much space as possible for reading.
I use a text widget with a welcome, brief blog description, links to my Translations and About pages, and a subscriptions link at the top of the sidebar. I also use text widgets further down the sidebar to display (non-essential) social networking icons, a flag counter and my copyright notice.
The Text Widget allows you to add text or HTML to your sidebar. It’s the most popular widget because of its power and flexibility. You can use a text widget to display text, links, images, HTML, or a combination of these.
The RSS Links Widget is an easy way to provide RSS feed links for readers to be updated when you publish posts or approve new comments.
I use Feedburner for email subscriptions but you can set up email subscriptions for followers of your WordPress.com blog by enabling the Follow Blog Widget so they can be updated when you publish your posts. If you would like a follow button to appear on the bottom right hand corner of your site for those who do not have WordPress.com accounts like mine does then you can enable the Follow Blog Button.
I consider the Recent Comments Widget to be essential for two reasons. Firstly, I value comments want to acknowledge the commenters who submitted them. Secondly, I want my other readers to know who commented and on which posts as that may encourage them to join the discussion.
The Top Posts and Pages Widget isn’t essential, however, it’s a great way to showcase the most viewed and most liked posts and pages appearing in search engine results. Those posts and pages frequently have the highest number of comments and tend to continue to attract more comments.
Links displayed by the Pages Widget point to important pages on a blog like the About and Contact pages. Some readers search your About page to determine what to expect to find in the blog content before they even consider reading your posts. If you have a custom menu as I do, the Pages Widget may not be an essential.
A Links widget is optional. Blogroll or Links page? There are two approaches for displaying a list of sites your regularly visit and wish to recommend to your readers. I eliminated my Blogroll in 2009 as I prefer to use a Links page.
When it comes to widgets less is more. My test for deciding whether or not to add a widget or any sidebar link to my blog is to answer these questions:
1. Will adding this widget or link to my sidebar enhance my visitor’s reading experience?
2. Will adding this widget or link to my sidebar provide my visitor’s access to blog content that’s not found on the front page?
3. Will adding this widget or link to my sidebar provide my visitor’s access to additional related resources beyond my blog?
My rule of thumb is that if it does not accomplish the foregoing, then I do not add it.
Okay readers, now it’s your turn to tell me which widgets you consider to be essential on your blog.
- Widgets 101 (dailypost.wordpress.com)