Creating Dynamic Sidebars for Your WordPress Blog

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Widgets are an important part of WordPress that we cannot do without. As a WordPress user yourself, you are familiar with how much functionality widgets add to an otherwise boring blog. But did you know you can take the standard widgets in most themes and make them more exciting by adding dynamic content? The easiest way to do this is to create dynamic sidebars that can be placed on any pages or posts you wish.

As with everything else in WordPress, you can create dynamic sidebars manually or with a plugin. Manual creation gives you maximum control over your sidebars, but it does require learning a basic amount of coding. Using a dynamic sidebar plugin means you do not need to know any coding, but it also means that your sidebars will be limited in the kinds of dynamic content you can include.

Creating Dynamic Sidebars Manually

For the purposes of definition, a dynamic sidebar is one in which the content can change based on certain parameters. These kinds of sidebars are helpful if the actual content on your site changes frequently. They can also be used to bring in outside content as well.

Manual creation does require at least a basic understanding of the coding necessary to assign functions to widgets. You can get a full list of the functions you will need to employ by taking a look at the WordPress Codex.  WP Beginner offers an excellent tutorial on its website if you’re interested in learning the details. At any rate, manual coding is essentially a two-step process as follows:

  1. Adding the function code to your functions.php file – this serves the purpose of registering your new sidebars.
  2. Adding your newly created widgets to your theme – this serves the purpose of making sure your theme does not reject them as unrecognizable. The code would be placed in a sidebar.php file.

If learning the necessary coding is too much for you, you can always generate your dynamic sidebars with a plugin.

Dynamic Sidebar Plugins

We like to say that in WordPress there is a plugin for everything. That may be true, but the plugins for dynamic sidebar creation are wanting. There are only about half-a-dozen we could recommend even looking at. These are as follows:

  • Custom Sidebars by WPMU DEV (200,000+ active installs)
  • Content Aware Sidebars by Intax Studio (30,000+ active installs)
  • Stage Custom Sidebars by Codestag (8,000+ active installs)
  • Sidebar Manager Light by OTWthemes (4,000+ active installs)
  • WordPress Widgets Short Code by BuddyDev (3,000+ active installs)
  • WP Dynamic Sidebar by P. Sapkota (2,000+ active installs).

Each of the plugins listed above has its own features and limitations. This is one case in which you might need to experiment with multiple plugins to find the one that works for you. Once you hit on the right one, you will be well on your way to creating dynamic sidebars that offer fresh new content on every page of your site.

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