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I am very new to using WordPress and I was wondering what the benefits of using widgets is? Looking here it sounds like they are for people who are not programmers that want to add plugins to their site. Is that correct? or do widgets allow the site to be more robust in some way?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 5 down vote accepted

I battled with this very same question. I'm presently developing my own ability to develop WordPress sites. My employer is launching numerous websites on the engine, and is moving me from general PHP work to focused WordPress development. The thing is, these sites will all be managed by other people, and not myself.

Using widgets allows the non-programmers to help develop the site without potential of breaking things. For instance, they can move things around in the sidebar, change up the contents of the footer, and so much more. That being said, I wish I could prevent them from doing some types of editing, but permit them to do others. While they can't break the site (to my knowledge), they could really make it ugly.

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Agreed Johnathan. Thats kinda what I was thinking it was for, so thank you for confirming that. Good thing is, I don't have to work with any non programmers :). –  Metropolis Oct 2 '10 at 3:25
    
Once you've built a good system, though, it's nice to position elements with a drag-and-drop interface. Just because you can program the widget yourself doesn't mean you want to do it every time. Widgets help you package functionality for quick re-deployment. –  EAMann Oct 2 '10 at 3:51

I have been subject to creating custom widgets and widget areas for clients for the sake of not breaking websites myself. While it can seem a bit tedious, I can understand the value. I even set out on my own to create a contact form widget that wraps the user-submitted information with microformat classes. I wanted people to be able to simply insert their info without breaking the valid hcard information.

When used effectively, they are good to use.

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I think "widgets are for non-programmers" is terrible description of their purpose.

Widget API purpose is to provide way to package code and expose consistent and convenient controls for it. With decent object oriented approach on top.

Widgets are not there for dumb people. They are there for creating good, convenient and reliable functionality.

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@Rarst: I will say, however, that they admin user interface for widgets leaves a huge amount to be desired. I find using widgets ends up being extremely confusing for users that might need to edit/update their content/what they generate since there's not easy, direct way for an end-user to find their way back to the correct widget configuration panel. They "just have to know", and that's not a good user experience in my book. –  MikeSchinkel Oct 2 '10 at 23:49
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@MikeSchinkel I am lazy to look it up in Codex, but I remember that in some article it even encourages to provide your own controls for widgets. Not even mentioning that widgets can be used directly in code with the_widget(), bypassing admin interface altogether. Yes, widgets are not perfect. But they far from boring tool for users as some developers seem to describe and dismiss them. –  Rarst Oct 3 '10 at 14:11
    
@Rarst: My point is that Widgets are not without significant cons for users. That definitely could (and should) be corrected but currently I think the cons outweigh the pros in more than a trivial number of use-cases. At last IMO, that is. :) –  MikeSchinkel Oct 3 '10 at 22:24

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