Creating Smart Sidebars Using Widget Visibility

For years, I’ve been telling WordPress users that the day we can control when and where widgets are displayed is the day WordPress takes a huge leap forward. I always thought instead of having a WordPress theme with sidebars of widgets displayed on specific posts or pages that it would be better if we could control the display of widgets instead. This way, we could use one sidebar but manipulate the widgets to take full advantage of it.

Widget Visibility
Now Available In Jetpack

These days, we have multiple plugins that can control when and where a widget is displayed. My favorite is Widget Visibility located within Jetpack.

Displaying Related Posts In The Sidebar Showed Results

I’ve toyed with this idea before. I used to display certain widgets on the WPTavern front page while hiding them on the rest of the site. On single post views, I’d have the right sidebar filled with widgets such as related posts, the author, and tags. I noticed from the stats that having the related posts in the sidebar worked. However, it was unclear as to how successful the position really was since I didn’t perform any split testing.

The widgets displayed on the single posts view would not be seen on any other portion of the site since it didn’t make sense. The only logical argument where it does make sense are those visitors who are coming across the site for the first time via search engines or some other referral. In this instance, you could argue that you want all visitors no matter which page they land on to see the information presented within the sidebar.

One of the negatives behind using widgets in this way is the extra level of administration that’s involved. Instead of letting widgets be displayed on every page and post, this method may require frequent trips to the widget administration page. Depending on how many sidebars and widgets are used, the additional effort may not be worth it.

What’s Your Experience Been Like Controlling Widgets?

I am wondering how many of you are using widgets and sidebars in a similar fashion. I’m also curious to know whether you’ve found controlling widgets to be an unnecessary burden or if you love the granular control something like Widget Visibility offers. Another question I’d like to have answered is: when does it make sense to have multiple sidebars with predefined widgets show up for a particular page versus having one sidebar and controlling the widgets that are hidden or displayed within it?

13 Comments


  1. I have tried all kind of plugins to solve this issue. Currently I am using Content Aware Sidebars plugin, which work great. Having widgets depending on content is far more complex. I think there is room for a new approach to deal with that issue.

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  2. Dynamic Widgets works great. Not as “techy” as dynamic widgets or visual dyamic widgets, or whatever it’s called, but for the majority of users – yep, you developer types are clearly a minority – it’s intuitive and user friendly. JetPack’s tie back to the mother-ship is still an issue for me. I use it on some, but avoid it on most.

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  3. I’ve used the Conditional Widgets plugin for some projects. I find it particularly useful when working on a site where contextually-relevant calls to action need to be easily updated by the site admin.

    For example, say you’re running a site for a bookstore. You have categories for different genres of books (fantasy, sci-fi, drama, horror, etc…). We could have a special promotions widget that only shows on posts in X categories.

    Really rough example there, but you get the idea. :) Conditional widgets are a useful tool.

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  4. I’m a fan of WooSidebars.

    I creates a whole new Widget Area to replace an existing one under certain conditions. A much better option if you have multiple sidebars with entirely different collections of widgets. That way you can just look at the widget area and see the widgets that will appear and in what order without having them mixed in with other unrelated widgets.

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  5. I like to use WooSidebar but there are a number of different plugins. I found that Jetpack did not offer enough options. It is also useful for multilingual sites or having a different sidebar for the contact page.

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  6. I also using this widget visibility control to show more relevant ads based on post category, mixed with ads injection plugin that will display several ads on the same spot. That way, I can save my blog space and keep the content first.

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  7. Widget Visibility in Jetpack is good, but they miss a major opportunity by not including visibility based on user Role. This would increase functionality, only display relevant information, and even tailor sales pitches and registration calls to guests (etc).

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  8. Personally I’ve found that all of the conditinal widget plugins add way too much overhead to be useful. They slow down the editing process in the widget screen and they add page load on the front end.

    Some seem to be worse than others. Widget Logic in partiuclar has always been horrible in my experience. I haven’t tested the one in Jetpack yet. Has anyone done any performance comparisons?

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  9. I prefer having one sidebar and control which widgets to show on it or not. Until now, I have used Display Widgets for this without problems and also a bit of Widget Logic.

    This has worked well for me for the sites I’ve created until now.

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  10. For quick loading, I use less wp plugin to customize my theme appearance. And I found that Widget Visibility offer enough option for my need and I’m happy with it.

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  11. I’ve used Widget Logic and I’ve found that does what I need without too much extra features in the plugin. I know that Jetpack released its version, but haven’t had a need to use it.

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  12. Jetpack WIdget Visibility could probably be a bit more flexible in its conditional logic. But it’s working really well for me ATM. I have a multi-author site and am using Widget Visibility to show the author’s “About.me” on posts they write. Once it’s set up you don’t have to do any per post fussing. The right About.me just shows up for each author.

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  13. I find controlling all widgets from one sidebar far too confusing, especially when you have a lot of widgets. And, as someone else pointed out, you can’t control the order of widgets with just one sidebar, which can be important… Still, I do find Widget Visibility useful, but it doesn’t do everything I want. I’ve tried Dynamic Widgets but it’s too glitchy… Still looking for the perfect solution!

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