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Add a Widgetized Footer to Your WordPress Theme

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The inspiration for this tutorial comes from a tweet I received with feedback for the soon-to-be-released RS12 theme.

zakmorris twitter response

Although the widgetized footer did not ultimately make it in the release of the RS12 theme, I decided to write this tutorial to show people how exactly to add a widgetized footer in your theme. In this guide, you’ll learn:

  • The HTML and CSS code needed to produce the widgetized footer
  • How to add commonly used WordPress template tags as placeholders
  • How to widgetize the footer and place widgets inside it

There’s going to be a lot of code in this post, so if you’re up for it, read on…

I’ll be using the Green Rays WordPress theme as my example in this tutorial. At the moment, the footer just has a standard “copyright” message and credits.


The first step is to add the HTML markup. Let’s say we’re going to have three different sections in the widgetized footer with lists of Most Recent Posts, Monthly Archives, and Daily Archives. We’ll place this HTML code above the current “copyright” line.

<div class="footer-item">
<h3>Recent Posts</h3>
<li><a href='#' title='Featured post'>Featured post</a></li>
<li><a href='#' title='Blockquotes'>Blockquotes</a></li>
<li><a href='#' title='How the ‘more’ tag works'>How the ‘more’ tag works</a></li>
<li><a href='#' title='Order or Unorder'>Order or Unorder</a></li>
<div class="footer-item">
<h3>Monthy Archives</h3>
<li><a href='#' title='March 2008'>March 2008</a></li>
<li><a href='#' title='February 2008'>February 2008</a></li>
<li><a href='#' title='January 2008'>January 2008</a></li>
<li><a href='#' title='December 2007'>December 2007</a></li>
<div class="footer-item">
<h3>Daily Archives</h3>
<li><a href='#' title='March 7, 2008'>March 7, 2008</a></li>
<li><a href='#' title='February 9, 2008'>February 9, 2008</a></li>
<li><a href='#' title='January 4, 2008'>January 4, 2008</a></li>
<li><a href='#' title='December 22, 2007'>December 22, 2007</a></li>
<div class="clear"></div>

Basically this code puts each “widget” in a div. Inside each widget is a heading and an unordered list with links. Yes, I know the links don’t go anywhere. We’ll later replace this with WordPress template tags. Here’s what we have so far:

Green Rays Footer 1


As you can see, this isn’t looking so good without any CSS styling. Add the following code to your stylesheet.

.footer-item {
float: left;
width: 33%;
padding-bottom: 10px;
.footer-item ul {
padding-left: 15px;

What this code does is float each footer item to the left, which basically means they can be side by side. The width is set to 33%, which gives enough room for three footer items in a single row. There is also a little bit of padding added below each footer item. The second piece is just padding the lists 15 pixels to the left.

Now you can see the HTML and CSS are starting to come together. Here’s what you should have so far:

Green Rays Footer 2

WordPress Code

At the moment, we have a bunch of empty HTML links, with no actual WordPress code. Let’s replace the lists under Recent Posts, Monthly Archives, and Daily Archives with the WordPress template tag equivalents. Replace what you currently have with the following:

<div class="footer-item">
<h3>Recent Posts</h3>
<?php wp_get_archives('type=postbypost&limit=4'); ?>
<div class="footer-item">
<h3>Monthy Archives</h3>
<?php wp_get_archives('limit=4'); ?>
<div class="footer-item">
<h3>Daily Archives</h3>
<?php wp_get_archives('type=daily&limit=4'); ?>

The parameters should be pretty self-explanatory, but if you’re not sure about any of them, try looking up wp_get_archives in the WordPress Template Tag Lookup Tool. Remember, I’m just using the wp_get_archives() template tags as a placeholder. We’ll be switching these out with other WordPress widgets later, after we widgetize the footer.

Widgetize It

For this section of the tutorial, I’ll be borrowing parts from my previous widgetizing themes tutorial.

The first step is to register the “sidebars.” To do this, simply replace the current contents of the functions.php file with the following:

if ( function_exists('register_sidebar') )
'name' => 'Sidebar',
'before_widget' => '<div class="sidebaritem">',
'after_widget' => '</div>',
'before_title' => '<h3>',
'after_title' => '</h3>',
if ( function_exists('register_sidebar') )
'name' => 'Footer',
'before_widget' => '<div class="footer-item">',
'after_widget' => '</div>',
'before_title' => '<h3>',
'after_title' => '</h3>',

Now we’ll go into sidebar.php and replace the current dynamic sidebar conditional tag with this:

<?php if ( !function_exists('dynamic_sidebar') || !dynamic_sidebar() ) : ?>

With this:

<?php if ( !function_exists('dynamic_sidebar') || !dynamic_sidebar("Sidebar") ) : ?>

Now we’ll go into our footer.php file and wrap the footer items in it’s own respective sidebar conditional tag. Right before the first “sidebar-item” div, add the following.

<?php if ( !function_exists('dynamic_sidebar') || !dynamic_sidebar("Footer") ) : ?>

Right after the final closing “footer-item” div (and above the “clear” div which we added earlier) we’ll add the following:

<?php endif; ?>

Okay, now our sidebar and footer should be widgetized. Let’s test it out by adding a few widgets in the footer. I’ll add a Blogroll widget, Recent Comments widget, and a text widget. Here’s what it should look like:

Green Rays Footer 3


Well, that’s the basics of adding a widgetized footer to your theme. You may want to add separate styling rules for other types of widgets such as the calendar or search box. This probably won’t work with every theme, such as the RS12 theme for example, as it had a non-expandable footer.

If anyone wants the updated Green Rays theme by any chance, you can download it here. This way you can see where exactly I added the code. You can compare it with the original theme as well.

Hope you liked the tutorial. Will you be adding a widgetized footer to your theme? Is there anything in the code I used above you would do differently? Questions, comments, suggestions, and criticisms are all welcome, so feel free to sound off in the comments.


Leland Fiegel was the original founder of ThemeLab. He is a web developer who loves WordPress and blogging.

  • sriganesh

    nice tutorial, i’ll try this, cos i need something like that. visit my site. i like to have same as it mentioned here.

    • FaS

      Don’t get me wrong, I love the tutorial and all…but to be completely honest, I feel you kind of hoed us out…like we want to know how YOU did YOUR header you know? This is no personal attack, but I just feel a little jipped getting a measly boring text footer….

      If you could please, tell us how you did YOURS, that’d be great. And not just throw in “put your image behind it…” I mean how youuuuu did it for real. Thanks….

      • FaS

        I did all of what you said and I don’t know how to “drag” the widgets…? I don’t see anywhere to drag them to….

        • Leland

          You do that in your WordPress admin panel on the widget page. By “dragging” I just mean putting the widgets in the various widgetized areas.

          Sorry you feel “hoed out” but I wanted to write a tutorial that could apply to almost any kind of theme.

          FYI, I don’t even use any WordPress widgets in the footer and header of this site, they’re hardcoded.

    • Geds

      I’m not sure how much more detailed he could have been. If you’re a web designer and have an idea of what wordpress is, they you would know how to get the rest accomplished. His tutorial was perfect.

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  • Leland

    @sriganesh: Sounds good, let me know how it works out for you.

    • sriganesh

      thanks. iam using now elegant theme.which i won in contest. see my theme footer.. thanks alot. , i mini problem-i added my flickr photos. but its irregularly other professional site with border, i cant align it. can u help me in this. past three months i tried my own and added codings but nothing happen.

  • ezg

    I used your tutorial in my blog. It looks really cool.
    Thanks for your lesson. :)

  • Leland

    @ezg: Nice! Just wondering, which blog did you use it on? I checked the URL you used to comment here, but didn’t see the widgetized footer.

  • ezg

    You didn’t see it, cause I’m not using it now. But when I turned it on, it really looked like great. Later, when I will think about what widgets to use I’ll turn it on.

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  • Jeffro

    I’ve been waiting for a post like this for a long time now. I figured it out on my own but it’s always nice to have a reference to fall back on. I submitted this puppy to StumbleUpon :)

  • Leland

    @ezg: Ah…well glad it worked out for you.

    @Jeffro: Thanks, appreciate the stumble, and glad you liked the tutorial.

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  • Hannah

    Great tutorial! I’m trying to widgetize my footer using your step, but when I add the code to the functions.php, I keep getting the error message:

    Parse error: syntax error, unexpected ‘}’ in /home/………..redacted………/functions.php on line 230

    I’m sure this means I just have a ‘}” out of place, but removing it doesn’t seem to work. Help?

  • Leland

    @Hannah: Yes, that’s what it means. Although it’s kind of hard for me to diagnose the problem if I can’t see the exact code. Could you possibly paste the code of your current functions.php file to some sort of pastebin? Something like – thanks!

  • Terri

    yyyyes! Thank you!

  • Leland

    @Terri: No problem! Nice widgetized footer, by the way. :)

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  • Lance

    Hi – Thanks for this turorial but I’m confused. Where do I put the HTML code that you have at the beginning?

    I have the css and the footer files and I know I can put the code in there. But where does the actual HTML code go?

  • Leland

    @Lance: It would depend on the theme, but it would be somewhere within the “footer” div (whatever it may be called).

    It looks like the footer on your site has a fixed height, so you’d probably have to fix that before using this code.

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  • Mega-Doodle Inspired

    This tutorial rocks my world! I have not seen such a thorough explanation of how to do this. I am in the process of creating a new look for my blog and wow…this is totally what I needed. Thank You so much!!

  • josh909

    Stumbled across this by accident – great tutorial in terms of both content and writing style – well done.

  • Dave

    “I too am trying to widgetize my footer using your step, but when I add the code to the functions.php, I keep getting the same error message:

    Parse error: syntax error, unexpected ‘}’ in /home/………..redacted………/functions.php on line 230

    I’m sure this means I just have a ‘}” out of place, but removing it doesn’t seem to work. Help?”

    I am experiencing the same problems. Could you offer some advice?


    • gary

      did you ever figure that out? I’m also having the same problem but it happened when I changed my sidebar.php code.

      how did you fix it?

      I’m running 2 sidebars thus I have 2 sidebar.php files. I tried reverting the code to its original state but no dice. I guess I’ll have to upload my backup php file, but that will not solve the problem, it will only let me continue working on my site.

      if there’s any advice, I’d appreciate it.


  • Hannah


    Here’s the pastebin link for my functions.php file. I posted it sans your alteration. Your help is appreciated.

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  • S.P. Sullivan


    Thanks for your comment on my post. My only problem with this tutorial is I don’t know where the initial “HTML” markup goes. Is it in the functions.php?

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  • Tammy

    Hello, Could I use this with Thesis Theme? I purchased it and I am trying to learn how to use all it’s features such as Thesis OpenHook. Let me know.

    Thanks, Tam

  • Dhunia

    Really great article, finally its worked for me, Now its implemented in my site, Its helped me to design existing theme as i like instead of searching for suitable theme. Once again thanks for giving this.

  • gary

    Nice tutorial. I am also stuck on the widgetizing part. I have multiple sidebars in my site so I have two sidebar.php files. I tried adding the sidebar HTML to my “sibebar1.php” file, but now I get an error similar to what others have posted.

    what am I doing wrong?

  • Rocky


    I can seem to get through the widgetizing part of the tutorial. And now my site is plagued with errors. I followed the steps exactly how you explained them.

    Can you write back so we can go over what went wrong?

    Thanks for making this tutorial. I’m looking forward to making this work for my site. It is a good idea.

  • Saeed

    Thank you so very much for this nice tutorial, Leland! :)

    Do you think you could guide me about how I could add separators between each block (div) of links or widget, as in the footer of this page?

    • sibble

      @Saeed: All you’d need to do is change your CSS.
      You could do something like:
      .footer-item { border-right:1px solid #000; }
      Or you could always apply a background to each footer item.

      @Leland: Stumbled upon this post, trying to do something a little extended and was looking for advice. Say the user wants to add more than 3 widgets (for example) and the width of the footer container can only handle 3. I want the next 3 widgets to drop directly below. Where I’m getting stuck is that when the 4th (and on) widgets are added, that they are not vertically aligned properly… because of the top 3 widgets not having a fixed height. But I don’t want the widgets to have a specific height, I want it to be dynamic.

      The only thing I can think of is to have a function grabbing widgets for the footer in groups divisible by 3, and wrapping them in a div container. Can you help with that? If not, do you have any other suggestions how I can tackle this?


      • Leland

        Jeff, what I would do is make three separate widget areas, one for each column. That way you could put as many widgets as you want in each column and they would be aligned properly.

        • sibble

          Great idea! Thank you

  • Hank

    Thanks for the post. I tried so many other peoples ideas on how to do this and pretty much spent most of my time fixing what they had srewed up. This works like a charm and now I have it on all of my sites. Thanks

    • Leland

      Hank, glad to hear it worked for you!

  • Vogue

    Hi Leland,
    How can i change it so that the background of the entire footer is a different color than the rest of the page? I tried using background-color in the footer-item section of the style sheet but it will only change the background of the areas occupied by widgets e.g. if the widget only occupies half of the widget area, the background too is only occupies half of the area.

    • Leland

      You would probably need to put another div around all the footer-item divs and set the background-color to that. Make sure the footer-item divs are cleared as well.

      • Vogue

        Thanks Leland
        I played around some more and was able to get it done. I had to put my tag at the beginning of the file and place the background-color style within it.

  • Alloysius

    Can i replace this footer with any wordpress themes’s footer

    • Leland

      Pretty much. There are some footer designs that aren’t very flexible though and it might not work on those.

  • Hank

    This post saved me. I tried so many other posts, I almost gave up and then I found yours. It works like a charm. Being a San Diego Personal Trainer, I have to be able to have info right there for people. Thanks again for the help. 2001 Iron

    • Hank

      Sorry, hit the submit button accident. Okay, thanks for the killer post. Do you mind if I put up a link for it. Thanks

      2001 Ironman Bodybuilding Champion, Hank Butler

      • Leland

        Glad you liked the post, Hank. Feel free to link back to it.

  • Laura S.

    Isn’t it a problem to just replace the contents of the functions.php file? Isn’t that one of the files I’m not supposed to touch?

    Also — what function call would I need in order to get a list of pages in each section of the website? I want a sort of “site map” footer, if you know what I mean (a horizontal list of top level links, each with its sub-pages listed below)

    • Leland

      You can touch it if you want but I’d make a backup before editing it as if you make a mistake, it can cause problems for the rest of your site.

      You’re probably looking for the wp_list_pages function or the “Pages” widget.

  • Shenna

    Thanks for the great tutorial. I do have one question. Adding the widgets is not a problem but somehow he doesn’t want to add a background to the whole footer. The part where the widgets are stays white with me. Anyway to fix that?

    • Leland

      Hmm…seems I forgot to mention putting .clear { clear: both; } in your stylesheet.

      That should fix the problem.

  • Andy

    Thanks a lot for taking the time out to do this! awesome post. The theme I am working with has been customised a lot so this should help me add the footer i’ve been after for a while!

  • a2vannoy

    Wow, I really don’t know that you could have made that more straightforward and simple. Excellent tutorial on a process that could have been much more difficult…10 mins and I’m up and running with brand new footer widgets. Thanks!

  • Ferdy

    The tutorial is wonderful, but I would like to know how to colorize the background where the widgets stand or how to add an image under them. If you could reply to this comment or send me an e-mail it would be great.
    Once again, great tutorial it worked perfectly for my theme’s blog and now I want just to paint it a little, if you know I mean.
    Kind regards and I am waiting for a reply from your part! :-)

  • Charla

    You said:
    “The first step is to add the HTML markup.” and “We’ll place this HTML code above the current “copyright” line.”

    OK…. add it to WHAT? Where do I put the html markup? What do I add it to? How do I find the file that has the “copyright” line?

    • Leland

      Try looking in your footer.php file.

      • Mark Wall

        Could you give me a quick rundown on the new 2012 default theme footer? I want to use this tutorial but the 2012 foot is freakishly long or “High” I want to ad 5 text widgets, and it has fluid template, i use the Full Page Template so i would like it centered. You can throw in a bag of chips with that if you like :P

  • mj

    My first attempt at widgetization, and this worked absolutely perfectly. Thank you! :)

  • Emma Larkins

    Wow, I actually got this to work! (Not a comment on your code, just a comment on my coding prowess). Thanks!

  • Mark Lovett

    Amazing job on your tutorial!

    One question:

    Why did you need to add code into the sidebar.php file when the purpose of the tutorial is adding three widgetized areas into the footer?

    • Leland

      Hey Mark, good question.

      This tutorial assumes you already have a widgetized area in your sidebar. When I mention the sidebar.php file, I’m basically recoding that widgetized area to have a unique name (in this case, “Sidebar”) to differentiate it from the new widgetized footer area we’re about to create.

      There’s more info on coding multiple widget areas in my WordPress theme widgetizing tutorial.