WordPress Plugins vs Widgets: What’s the Difference?

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Here’s the quick answer:

Widgets are sometimes included in plugins. They are not a type of plugin or separate extension for WordPress. Plugins can consist entirely of a widget, or add lots of functionality including a widget.

To further clarify, we need to cover exactly what widgets and widget areas are. Then the distinction between plugins and widgets will be quite clear.

What is a widget area?

A widget area is a part of a WordPress site where widgets can be added. The most common place for a widget area is a sidebar.

While you’re probably used to seeing widgets in sidebars, widgets can be added anywhere. For instance, the Apex theme has a sidebar that is the only “widget area”, and Apex Pro adds multiple new widget areas including an “After Post Content” widget area. Here you can see all the widget areas available in the Widgets menu:

available widget areas in Apex
The sidebar is just one of five widget areas.

And here you can see a widget displayed in the “After Post Content” widget area:

widget in the after post content widget area

The availability of widget areas on your site depends on the theme. More widget areas provide more flexibility for displaying content on your site.

Now that you know how widget areas work, lets briefly cover exactly what widgets are.

What is a widget?

Widgets allow you to add content to widget areas on your site. They are always used to display content.

For instance, you’re likely familiar with the Text widget that lets you add text to a widget area, or the Recent Posts widget that displays a list of your most recent posts.

Plugins vs Widgets

Widgets are included in plugins for displaying content in a widget area.

Some plugins, like the Image Widget plugin, contain only a widget for displaying images. Other plugins, like the Meta Slider plugin, add new menus and settings while also including a widget for displaying sliders.

Plugins are the way we extend our WordPress sites, and widgets give us a way to display special content outside of posts and pages.

9 Comments
  1. Amanda Paul Amanda Paul

    I am a new WP user and honestly this is very helpful information to me. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Thanks for sharing! I’m a newbie!

  3. Great comparison. Always wanted to know about this.

  4. Interesting thoughts. And I can see that for the non-technical WP user, it could be a confusing concept. In fact, from my own business, I know this to be true.

  5. Basic tip, but helpful for a beginner blogger like me 🙂

  6. Great information! I had always been confused between plugins and widgets. Thanks.

  7. I’m going to start referring people to this article, when they ask me about the differences/similarities between these two. Great explanation!

  8. Interesting article. I’m a newbie for wordpress and i should know about the difference between Plugin and Widget. Over all it is awesome. Thanks for the share 🙂

  9. Thank You for sharing and telling us difference between plugins and widgets. You explained beautifully and very help for newbie wordpress bloggers like me.

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