WordPress Tutorial

How to Create a WordPress Custom Widget: A Step-by-Step Guide

How to create custom widget in WordPress

Did you know that you can create your own WordPress custom widget? While there are tons of additional widgets that come alongside themes and plugins, WordPress offers its users the option to code custom widgets manually.

It’s not a complicated process as you only need basic knowledge of WordPress and PHP. So, without further ado, let’s get started!

What Are WordPress Widgets?

WordPress widgets make it easy for you to add additional functions to your website through a simple drag-and-drop interface. By default, WordPress ships with several widgets. They provide you with basic utility features and are compatible with every WordPress theme.

However, sometimes, those standard widgets can’t perform the tasks you want. Your best option is to look for plugins offering you the desired function. Unfortunately, you might find that even third-party plugins can’t fulfill your requirements.

Thankfully, you have the power to create a WordPress custom widget. Just keep in mind that it has to be built from the ground-up so you can personally fine-tune your custom widget based on your needs.

Where to Begin When Creating a Custom Widget?

First, you need to choose whether you want to create the widget using a plugin or via editing the functions.php file. A plugin will enable the custom widget to work on any site while adding code to functions.php. This way, it makes the widget work alongside a specific theme.

Secondly, you have the option to add the widget on a live site or in a local environment. However, we highly recommend you to implement the widget in a local environment first, to test it out. You can easily do this by following our guide on how to run WordPress on Docker.

Once the tool is working correctly, it is time to move it to your website.

How Do WordPress Custom Widgets Work?

In WordPress, you have to create a custom widget using the standard WP Widget class from the Widgets API. There are around 20 functions that you can play around with. Out of these, four is the minimum requirement for any widget to work:

  • __construct() – constructor function where you can define your widget’s parameters.
  • widget() – contains the output of the widget.
  • form() – determines widget settings in the WordPress dashboard.
  • update() – updates widget settings.

Of course, you’ve got plenty of other options that provide additional functions. For more on the WP_Widget class, take a look at the WordPress developer page.

Creating a WordPress Custom Widget

IMPORTANT: It’s strongly recommended to create a full backup of your WordPress site before proceeding further. In addition, you should also use a WordPress child theme to prevent any issues from affecting your main theme.

For this tutorial, we’ll be creating a simple “Greetings from Hostinger.com!” custom widget so you can learn the basics of widget creation in WordPress. Once that is done, you can move on to creating more complex widgets on your own.

One more thing to note is that we’re writing this code in the functions.php file for the currently loaded theme. That being said, you can use the same code for any custom plugin.

1. Extending the WP_Widget class

The first thing you need to do is to open any text editor on your computer and create a new class that extends the base WP_Widget class, like this:

class hstngr_widget extends WP_Widget {

//Insert functions here

}

2. Adding __construct()

Next, we start implementing the four standard functions one by one. The first one is the constructor method, which will determine the custom widget’s ID, name, and description.

function __construct() {
parent::__construct(
// widget ID
‘hstngr_widget’,
// widget name
__(‘Hostinger Sample Widget’, ‘hstngr_widget_domain’),
// widget description
array ( ‘description’ => __( ‘Hostinger Widget Tutorial’, ‘hstngr_widget_domain’ ), )
);
}

3. Adding widget()

Now, let’s focus on the widget() function. It defines the look of your WordPress custom widget on the front-end.

public function widget( $args, $instance ) {
$title = apply_filters( ‘widget_title’, $instance[‘title’] );
echo $args[‘before widget’];
//if title is present
If ( ! empty ( $title ) )
Echo $args[‘before_title’] . $title . $args[‘after_title’];
//output
echo __( ‘Greetings from Hostinger.com!’, ‘hstngr_widget_domain’ );
echo $args[‘after_widget’];
}

With this, we have configured the output of our widget so that it displays the phrase “Greetings from Hostinger.com!” and widget’s title as specified by the user.

4. Adding form()

Now, we have to program the back-end of the widget using the form() method. You can see the result when you want to add the widget from the WordPress Dashboard.

public function form( $instance ) {

if ( isset( $instance[ 'title' ] ) )

$title = $instance[ 'title' ];

else

$title = __( 'Default Title', 'hstngr_widget_domain' );

?>

<p>

<label for="<?php echo $this->get_field_id( 'title' ); ?>"><?php _e( 'Title:' ); ?></label>

<input class="widefat" id="<?php echo $this->get_field_id( 'title' ); ?>" name="<?php echo $this->get_field_name( 'title' ); ?>" type="text" value="<?php echo esc_attr( $title ); ?>" />

</p>

<?php

}

Here you can see how a custom widget has been set up. If a user applies a title, then that title will be inserted in the HTML form we created. In this example, we will set the name of the title to Default Title.

Giving your WordPress custom widget a title

5. Adding update()

Once that’s done, we have to implement update(), which will refresh the widget every time you change the settings.

public function update( $new_instance, $old_instance ) {

$instance = array();

$instance['title'] = ( ! empty( $new_instance['title'] ) ) ? strip_tags( $new_instance['title'] ) : '';

return $instance;

}

We’re taking the current title of the newly created instance, removing any HTML/PHP tags. Then, we’re passing the title to the instance and returning it.

6. Registering WordPress Custom Widget

Finally, we have to register the new custom widget using add_action() function. Keep in mind that you should place the following code at the top, before extending the WP_Widget class.

function hstngr_register_widget() {

register_widget( 'hstngr_widget' );

}

add_action( 'widgets_init', 'hstngr_register_widget' );

Adding the Code to functions.php File

So, we’ve defined a new function called hstngr_register_widget(). It registers our widget using the widget ID, which is specified in the __construct() function.

Then, we have tied this function using widgets_init, which loads the widget into WordPress through the built-in add_action() method. Your final WordPress custom widget code should look like this:

function hstngr_register_widget() {

register_widget( 'hstngr_widget' );

}

add_action( 'widgets_init', 'hstngr_register_widget' );

class hstngr_widget extends WP_Widget {

function __construct() {

parent::__construct(

// widget ID

'hstngr_widget',

// widget name

__('Hostinger Sample Widget', ' hstngr_widget_domain'),

// widget description

array( 'description' => __( 'Hostinger Widget Tutorial', 'hstngr_widget_domain' ), )

);

}

public function widget( $args, $instance ) {

$title = apply_filters( 'widget_title', $instance['title'] );

echo $args['before_widget'];

//if title is present

if ( ! empty( $title ) )

echo $args['before_title'] . $title . $args['after_title'];

//output

echo __( 'Greetings from Hostinger.com!', 'hstngr_widget_domain' );

echo $args['after_widget'];

}

public function form( $instance ) {

if ( isset( $instance[ 'title' ] ) )

$title = $instance[ 'title' ];

else

$title = __( 'Default Title', 'hstngr_widget_domain' );

?>

<p>

<label for="<?php echo $this->get_field_id( 'title' ); ?>"><?php _e( 'Title:' ); ?></label>

<input class="widefat" id="<?php echo $this->get_field_id( 'title' ); ?>" name="<?php echo $this->get_field_name( 'title' ); ?>" type="text" value="<?php echo esc_attr( $title ); ?>" />

</p>

<?php

}

public function update( $new_instance, $old_instance ) {

$instance = array();

$instance['title'] = ( ! empty( $new_instance['title'] ) ) ? strip_tags( $new_instance['title'] ) : '';

return $instance;

}

}

Finally, it is time to insert the code to your functions.php file.

  1. Log in to your WordPress admin area. Then, navigate to Appearance -> Theme Editor -> Theme Functions.
  2. Paste the code from your text editor to the bottom of functions.php file. Click Update File to save the changes.

Adding custom widget code to functions.php file in WordPress

Using WordPress Custom Widget

You can finally use your newly-installed widget.

  1. Go to the Appearance menu, and select Widgets. You should see a widget named Hostinger Sample Widget in the Available Widgets list.
  2. Next, drag the widget and drop it in the Sidebar section on the right side of the page.
    Dragging and dropping a custom widget to the sidebar in WordPress
  3. Save your changes and visit your website. You will be welcomed with a custom widget with the words “Greetings from Hostinger.com” inside.

WordPress custom widget final result

Congratulations, you have successfully created your first custom WordPress widget!

Conclusion

WordPress custom widget allows you to add a specific function to your website based on your needs. It’s a great solution whenever you can’t find anything in particular that would meet your specific requirements.

To summarize, let’s take a look at the steps once again on how to create your own custom WordPress widget:

  1. Create a new class that extends WP_Widget.
  2. Begin with __construct() to determine widget’s parameters.
  3. Use widget() to define the appearance of the widget on the front-end.
  4. Add form() to configure how the widget will look.
  5. Don’t forget to add update() to refresh the widget every time you modify it.
  6. Register the new WordPress custom widget using add_action() function.
  7. Copy and paste the entire code to the bottom of functions.php file and click Update File.
  8. Go to the Widgets menu and move the widget to the desired place.

Good luck and be sure to check out our other WordPress guides!

About the author

Domantas G.

Domantas leads the content and SEO teams forward with fresh ideas and out of the box approaches. Armed with extensive SEO and marketing knowledge, he aims to spread the word of Hostinger to every corner of the world. During his free time, Domantas likes to hone his web development skills and travel to exotic places.

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