Custom Sidebar Per Page & Varying WordPress Widget Areas

As you’ve probably figured out I use plugins for preference mainly to save my time, as coding is very time consuming. I also have a lot of sites. This however isn’t the only way, and if you only have one site and don’t mind learning code then read the codex. It has great and simple explanations for how to make effective improvements for your website. This codex article on the sidebar talks about different ways to display navigation and links in your sidebar. They also have a long codex list of widgets you can add.

As always, check ratings, download stats, user comments, version compatibility and last updated info before installing widgets and plugins. The CMS is updated often and if the widget shows it was created in 2008 and has never been updated it may not work and could even damage your database and make a big clean up job for you. But if it is still being downloaded often and is highly rated and there are no negative comments, it may just be a simple widget that does still work. So just check – is all.

Custom Sidebars & Widgets

A small site with only a few posts does not need to change the sidebar but a large website owner will soon become frustrated that they need to slow the page load for every page by having a sidebar overblown with links. Although it takes time to adjust and work out a better sidebar system, it’s worth it.

There are several custom sidebar & widget plugins that will do the job – you could try

Dynamic Widgets

Dynamic Widgets gives you full control on which pages your widgets will appear. It lets you place the widgets on WordPress pages by setting conditional rules by role, date, browser, language (WPML), for the homepage, single posts, attachments, pages, authors, categories, archives, error page, search page, custom post types, custom post type archives, WPEC/WPS.

This has 40 ratings for an impressive 5 stars

Widget Logic

Widget logic plugin gives every widget an extra control field called “Widget logic” that lets you control the pages that the widget will appear on.The text field lets you use WP’s Conditional Tags, or any general PHP code. It also adds a widget_content filter that lets you tweak standard widgets to suit your theme without editing plugins and core code.

This has 322 ratings for a total of 4 stars

But I chose to use custom sidebars on this website. It is the first time I have used it, and it will now be the plugin that I use by choice for making a custom sidebar for each page.  This plugin has 26 ratings in the plugin repository that were all 5 stars.

Custom sidebars

Themes give you plenty of areas to put widgets, some may have eight or more widgetised areas, but then those areas are common for all the posts that are using the same template.

Having the option to show different elements within specific widget areas in the sidebars for some posts or pages makes your website more interesting and versatile and far better organized with some creative use of navigation widgets.

Custom Sidebars allows you to create all the widgetized areas you need, with your own custom sidebars and configure them by adding the normal widgets you want to use. You can then choose to replace the default sidebars on the posts or pages with these new custom widget areas wherever you want to. It also enables you to select these custom widget areas as a default display for a category, or group of pages.

You can see this happen on this website. When you read the articles under the page parent of Basic, a specific picture menu appears on the right side with links to the pages in this series. The same is true for the 29 step series. If you view different post categories you will see different groups of related posts appear in the mid sidebar.

For those of you wanting to show targeted advertising – for example a block of 4 squares with different hosts aside an article on hosting – this is the plugin to make it happen.

Make sure to read through the instructions before using it, it does take a few brain stretching exercises to “get” this plugin. Once you’ve got one widget area created and working the penny drops and it will all fall into place. I found it easier at first to start with only one widget area, and create only 2 alternatives and set these up as defaults for categories. Once I could see what the plugin does, it was easier to decide how to use it.

However at post and page level, the option is also there to select your alternative sidebar for just one article if that is something you want. The only downside to this is that your widget area can become “full” pretty quickly and a bit harder to manage. Apparently the author is working on a fix for this, so we’ll probably see improvement in the future.

The only downside is this plugin can’t handle display of full page width templates. When pages appear in tag feeds (eg if you use simple tags to include pages), the sidebars overlap the page.

Other custom sidebar widget plugins to consider include

Conditional Widgets

Graceful Sidebar

Section Widgets


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Filed under: PluginThemeTutorials

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