1. Weston Ruter

    It has been extremely rewarding to work on contributing the Widget Customizer to WordPress Core and to collaborate with the widgets team to mature the plugin for merging. I’m still shocked at how quickly the Widget Customizer materialized: the core pieces came together in just a couple days of late night hackathons. It started out as a feature for one of our partner’s sites at X-Team, but turned into something which really belongs in Core.

    For the past few months, I’ve been enamored with the Customizer and have wanted to move as much site management as possible into it. I’ve been convinced that if something cannot be previewed, it is not suitable for high-profile (enterprise) sites. I really have enjoyed building on Paul Clark’s Styles plugin, and adding new Customizer controls to do things like managing galleries by opening the Media Manager lightbox while in the Customizer.

    In addition to the Customizer, I’ve been increasingly focusing on using widgets as building blocks for as much as possible. Widgets are great little units of MVC, encapsulating the model, presentation, and logic for modules of site functionality. But I wanted to be able to edit widgets in the Customizer.

    I realized that since widget instances are just stored in WordPress options, you can register a Customizer setting for each widget instance, and the widget form control can be rendered inside of a Customizer control. After a bit of wiring, submitting the widget control then updates the Customizer setting which then causes the preview window to show the changes, all without saving anything to the database, until you hit Save & Publish.

    For Widget Customizer, the key pieces were already there in Core: they just had to be connected together.

    Development of the plugin is done on GitHub. See the issues reported there for what is being worked on. Pull requests are welcome!


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  3. Chip Bennett

    This is really cool, but I would *much* prefer to see Widget areas treated like custom nav menus, with widgets assigned to widget areas like menu items added to nav menus – and then have widget areas assigned to dynamic sidebars like custom nav menus are assigned to menu theme locations.


  4. jdailey

    @Chip Bennett – +1 to that. I believe what you are saying would open up the ability to add custom sidebars to whatever page or post you would like. That would be nice :). I do enjoy the new interface and direction 3.8 is going but I think somthing like this would be a big leap forward.


  5. Chip Bennett

    @jdailey – true, but mainly, it would be more intuitive and would take away much of the pain of re-configuring Widgets every time the Theme is switched. It would also greatly simplify the conditional output of Widgets.

    (I can’t take credit for the idea, though; IIRC, it was originally Mika’s (Ipstenu’s) idea.)


  6. Justin Tadlock

    @Chip Bennett – +1

    I’ve been saying the same thing since the nav menu system was introduced. Now, we’re talking about adding this old system to the theme customizer instead of fixing some of the fundamental issues with widgets that exist now.


  7. Shaun Andrews

    @Chip Bennett – We’ve discussed that a idea a lot as part of our Widgets team. Justin Sternberg has been thinking about this for a while, and there’s even a blog post outlining some of his ideas at: http://webdevstudios.com/2013/08/14/webdevstudios-take-on-a-wordpress-core-widget-ui-refresh/

    Its something we’re working on, but its not ready for 3.8. We’d love to have you help us out — our next team chat is Monday at 20:00 UTC.


  8. Donna Fontenot

    Love the idea of widget previews, but why limit it to the theme customizer area? When a client adds a text widget to a sidebar in the Widgets area, it would be great for her to be able to press a Preview button, and have it pop up in an overlay, for instance. My clients already look at me like I’m insane when I mention that they have to use HTML in text widgets. At the very least, let them preview their experiments with it. (Even better would be a wp editor with tinymce experience for creating text widgets, but I’ll take previews any day).


  9. Henk van den Bor

    Its good to see progress in the widgets management. The new mp6 page is most useful when using it on a large screen. It seems a bit random the way the sidebars/widget areas are arranged in the 2 columns now.
    I miss a level in the way they could be arranged, if there would be a way to create containers and then assign the widget areas to them things could be much clearer.
    Being able to have like: Frontpage, Footer and Sidebars as container elements might simplify the page. (ideally with the ability to create them like menus)

    Alas I am afraid that implementing them in previews is adding clutter/confusion


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  11. Jochen Taeubrich

    @jdailey – If you search for an option to individually customize sidebars on pages and posts in a comfortable way try plugin ‘Widget Wrangler’. On the edit page it displays drop zones for each sidebar and a list of all available widgets. Simply drag a widget on a drop zone and save the post. With the words of @Chip Bennett this is like configuring the widget areas directly on the edit page. Currently the biggest disadvantage is the necessity to clone the widgets from the WP widget system, what may fail in some cases. I would very much appreciate to see WP widgets going in such a direction. Meanwhile I don’t use the WP widget system any more.

    @Donna Fontenot – A replacement for the text widget with the tinymce editor already exists. See plugin ‘Spots’.


  12. Jeffro

    @Donna Fontenot

    Love the idea of widget previews, but why limit it to the theme customizer area?

    This is the same question I have. Wouldn’t we have to explain to users that if they want to see live previews of widgets, use the customizer. For everything else, use the regular Widget administration page. Seems like a layer of confusion. Wouldn’t it be better to have live previews on the widget admin page versus the customizer?


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  14. Shaun Andrews

    @Jeffro – We’ve explored this option a bit. The tabbed prototype we built actually has a “Preview” button that would open your site with the idea of showing you a preview of your widget in place, but it never worked. The problem is that there’s currently no way for WordPress to know which page on your site contains the sidebar that you’re editing.

    We’ve been working with the following idea: The customizer is great for previewing and quick updates; The wp-admin widgets screen is great for power users looking to manage lots of widgets and sidebars.

    The customizer makes it super easy to add and update widgets with a live preview, but its limited to editing the widgets and sidebars that exist on a single page of your site. The wp-admin widgets screen makes it easy to manage all of your widgets and sidebars in one place, but this comes at the cost of obviousness — there’s a major disconnect between the wp-admin widgets screen, and the front-end of your site.

    We’re exploring these, and more, options and would love more help. Join us on freenode channel #wordpress-ui each Monday at 20:00 UTC.


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  16. Tax Day Release: WordPress 3.9 to Drop on April 15

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  18. Gavin Cole

    Really looking forward to this. The WordPress Widget admin has irritated me from the start. Coming to WordPress as a Joomla/Drupal user the severe lack of control and the drag-and-drop interface was painfully inadequate.

    Being able to edit a widget before putting it live will be useful but I still feel the Widget Manager needs a redesign. A small site containing several widgets soon becomes cluttered even on larger monitors.


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