In WordPress lingo, the terms plugin and widget are often used interchangeably. But, there are differences between them. To further confuse the issue, a place on a site that can accept a widget is often called a widget too. Here’s a short description of these terms that will help you sound more a like a geek-in-the-know when you talk about these little helpers on your WordPress site.
A plugin is an app that extends the functionality of WordPress. The term app is short for application, meaning that it is not a fully autonomous piece of software that can run in standalone mode. It requires WordPress to run.
A plugin is a behind-the-scenes tool that is usually visible only to the admin of the site, such as a backup plugin, or a text editor plugin. It does not interface with the public in a visible way on the site.
A widget is a plugin, or built-in app, that interfaces with the public on the site. In other words, it displays something that the public can see and/or click on. Examples are a list of recent posts, or a box that shows your Facebook followers with a link to join in.
All widgets have plugins or built-in app code. All plugins do not have widgets.
A widgetized area is a place in the code of your site that can accept a widget. The most popular widgetized area is the sidebar. In the past two years widgetized areas have become popular in the footer, header, and even in the content areas.
The Home page of a magazine style theme is completely widgetized, meaning that the content displayed on it is fully dynamic and is generated entirely by widgets. These include Featured Page, Featured Post, and recent posts in specific categories. In other words, you never input any static content directly on the page. In fact, you won’t even find the title Home in the pages list and you cannot edit it directly.
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Part of the learning curve in website ownership is becoming familiar with industry-specific lingo. Did you find this post helpful? Are there other terms you would like to get a little clarity on?
Want more help using plugins and widgets? See BlogAid’s WordPress Video Tutorials.