How to Use the WordPress Akismet Widget and Twitter Widget Pro

By Lisa Sabin-Wilson

Widgets offer a very powerful and flexible way of adding specific kinds of content to your site’s sidebars. WordPress comes with a number of built-in widgets, such as a calendar, a listing of pages on the site, a listing of recent comments, and a tool to search the site. Plugins can expand this set of default widgets by adding their own.

You manage your widget management on the Widgets page on the Dashboard. After logging in to your site’s Dashboard, hover your mouse over the Appearance menu and click the Widgets link to access the Widgets page.

Akismet Widget for WordPress

After activating and setting up a valid API key for the Akismet widget, a new widget named Akismet Widget appears on your Widgets page.

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To make use of the Akismet Widget, simply drag it from the Available Widgets section and drop it into one of the sidebars listed on the right of the Widgets page. After dropping the widget into a sidebar, the settings for the widget become available.

The settings are quite simple because only the title of the widget can be modified. At a minimum, most widgets offer a title setting. Although there are some exceptions, most widgets treat the title as optional and simply don’t show a title if the setting is empty.

Now the Akismet Widget appears on your site, displaying a counter that shows how many spam comments the Akismet plugin has blocked on the site.

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Twitter Widget Pro for WordPress

The Twitter Widget Pro plugin serves a single purpose: Make it easy to add a Twitter stream to your site. This feature takes the form of a widget, meaning that you can add the Twitter stream to any sidebar on your site.

The Twitter Widget Pro widget provides a large number of settings to control the widget’s output.

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The most important setting is Twitter Username. Without a valid Twitter username, the widget won’t produce any output. If the widget fails to render anything on your site, double-check the username to ensure that it is a valid Twitter username.

The What to Display When Twitter Is Shown setting is interesting because it allows you to show a message when the Twitter stream can’t be accessed. If this setting is left blank, nothing is shown when data from Twitter cannot be retrieved. If visitors to the site expect to see the Twitter feed, adding a simple message indicating that the feed is temporarily unavailable could help reduce visitor confusion.

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If you’re active on Twitter, using the Twitter Widget Pro plugin is an easy way to inform or remind your visitors that you can be found on Twitter.

Additional WordPress widgets to try

Akismet and Twitter Widget Pro just scratch the surface of what is possible with widgets offered by plugins. The following list shows additional plugin examples that help fill in your sidebars:

  • Facebook: Facebook offers an official plugin in the Plugin Directory. The Facebook plugin provides a variety of features for integrating Facebook into your WordPress site, including a number of widgets. Some of the new widgets allow visitors to your site to subscribe to future updates, give a Like to a specific page on your site, or send the page’s content to a Facebook friend.

    The other widgets focus on integrating your Facebook account with the site by displaying recent activity or recommendations.

  • Image Widget: Sometimes you just want to add an image to a sidebar. Although the built-in Text widget and some HTML can provide this functionality, some users don’t know how to create the HTML for the image or want a simpler solution for adding images.

    The Image Widget plugin provides a widget that allows you to easily upload an image and have it show on the site without requiring any involvement with writing or copying and pasting of HTML markup.

  • Yet Another Related Posts Plugin: This plugin, also known as YARPP, provides a variety of methods to show links to content on the site that is similar to the current page, post, or other type of content that is being viewed. One of these methods is by using the provided widget. Thus, you can easily see a listing of links to similar content in your site’s sidebar.

    Because these lists are automatically generated and updated, the site’s related content starts to cross-link with other related content without requiring any manual management of those lists.

With more than 3,000 plugins currently listed with the widget tag on the Plugin Directory, a wealth of new widgets for use in your sidebars is at your fingertips. One of those plugins may offer the perfect widget for adding value to your sidebar areas.