Widgets for the back-bone of any WordPress website. While the trend nowadays is to sacrifice the sidebar in favor of a content-centric website layout, especially for personal blogs, the sidebar and footer widgets still play a big role in conveying useful information to your visitors, such as subscription and social media buttons, as well as additional information about yourself or your website or blog.
At times, the default WordPress widgets just do not suffice. For that purpose, you can try a premium widgets plugin that lets you do more with your sidebar and footer areas than just boring default widgets.
In this post, I will be taking a closer look at one such plugin for WordPress users: Ultimate Widgets.
Ultimate Widgets: Introduction
Ultimate Widgets, in simple words, is a comprehensive WordPress plugin that lets you add custom widgets to your website or blog. It comes with several widget options, and you can tweak and customize the widgets to suit your needs.
The plugin offers both free and premium versions. In this post, I have used the premium version only. You can find the free version with limited features in the WordPress plugin repository.
So, what all does the Ultimate Widgets plugin bring to the table?
First up, the plugin comes with as many as 25 custom widgets that you can add to your website. Nearly all the widgets are straightforward with no rocket science involved. This includes, but is not limited to, the following options:
- About Me: Displays a piece of text along with photograph.
- Ads: Well, advertisements!
- Banner: Showcases a custom banner.
- Calendar: A custom widget for calendar.
- Contact Info: Displays your contact info.
- Custom Links: A set of arbitrary custom links.
- MailChimp: A subscription widget with MailChimp integration.
- Posts Slider: A slider of your blog posts.
- Posts Thumbnail: Thumbnails of your blog posts.
- Search: Search widget.
- Testimonials: A widget for displaying testimonials.
- Weather: A widget for weather services.
Beyond that, the plugin also offers custom widgets for social networks, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Flickr, as well as specialized widgets for SoundCloud and Google Maps. Here is a full run-down of the widgets on offer:
Ultimate Widgets offers 7 readymade custom widget styles for you to choose from, and if that does not work for you, there is always custom CSS at hand! The premium version of the plugin is backed by tech support.
Widgets in Action
Now, before we check out the back-end working of the plugin, how about seeing the widgets live in action?
For example, here are About Me, Posts Slider, MailChimp Signup and Contact Info widgets in action:
The login widget:
Flickr feed widget:
Twitter widget showcasing live tweets:
And lastly, the weather widget:
Now that we have seen the plugin live in action, how does one set it up?
As soon as you are done uploading and activating the plugin, you can get straight to work.
I first tried this plugin on my staging site, that was running WordPress 4.2.4 on an nginx server. No matter what I did, I just could not get the plugin to run. All it did was shoot down this error, each time I tried activating it:
Warning: require_once (…/wp-content/plugins/ultimate-widgets/assets/admin/redux-core/inc/class.redux_themecheck.php): failed to open stream: No such file or directory in …/wp-content/plugins/ultimate-widgets/assets/admin/redux-core/framework.php on line 62
Fatal error: require_once(): Failed opening required ‘…/wp-content/plugins/ultimate-widgets/assets/admin/redux-core/inc/class.redux_themecheck.php’ (include_path=’.:/usr/lib/php:/usr/local/lib/php’) in …/wp-content/plugins/ultimate-widgets/assets/admin/redux-core/framework.php on line 62
I first assumed this had something to do with Redux Framework, but I have other plugins active on that site using the same framework, so it made no sense.
I then tried it on a live site, running on Apache, with the same config otherwise, and it worked perfectly.
After activation, there appears in the WordPress admin panel a separate section called “UW Panel”. At this point, it is worth noting that this plugin uses the Redux Framework. As such, you might have already seen similar setup structure for other plugins that are based on the same framework.
The admin panel is nothing difficult: the first section lets you minify CSS and JS — this is a very welcome addition, as it lets you compress CSS and JS and improve the load times for your web pages.
Thereafter, you can choose the preferred styling, border color, padding, etc.
If that does not suffice for you, the very next section deals with custom CSS addition.
Lastly, you can import or export your plugin settings, for backup and restore purposes.
That is all that there is to this plugin’s customization. Once all is done, adding widgets is a breeze, much like you would add any other widgets. Just head to Appearace–>Widgets, and then pick the ones you need, and drag them to your sidebar or footer area. All done!
Support and Documentation
In terms of support, Ultimate Widgets does not have really extensive documentation to its credit. That is fine to some extent, because the plugin is pretty straightforward to use. However, a little bit of detail in documentation is always a good thing to have.
You do, however, have the support forums at your disposal. Questions about the plugin, including troubleshooting and bugs as well as feature requests, can be made via the support forums. I went through the activity log in the tech support forum, and I noticed that the developers have so far managed to reply to queries within a day — an impressive response rate!
Ultimate Widgets comes in two versions: the free version offers limited functionality, and gives you basic widgets such as Custom Menu, About Me, Flickr Feed, MailChimp Signup, and Contact Info.
The premium version, on the other hand, comes loaded with 25 custom widgets, and is priced at $19 for one regular license. If, however, you wish to use this plugin bundled within your WordPress theme and sell that theme off to end users, you should opt for the extended license, for $95 per license.
All said and done, Ultimate Widgets is a great utility plugin for all genres of websites, and you can use it to show different types of widgets on your website. It is surely worth giving a spin, especially if you are looking to improve the appearance of your website’s sidebar or footer widget regions.
What do you think of the Ultimate Widgets plugin? Will you give it a try on your blog or website? Share your views in the comments below!