WordPress Theme Flexibility with Dynamic Sidebars

Dynamic sidebar is a name for an area in your theme that can accept widgets.

Perhaps wrongfully called 'sidebar', it can be referenced anywhere allowing you great flexibility with your theme. Here is the example of available widget areas in a fully implemented dynamic sidebar setup.


Registering dynamic sidebars where you want them

The idea is to think of areas in your theme where you want to be able to easily use the functionality of widgets.  Prime candidates are usually footer, single post (before and after), sometimes even header.

Next step is to register the sidebar.  Let's say we want to create a dynamic widget area before your posts. Usually you will add something like this to your functions.php

 'name' => 'Single Top',
 'id' => 'single-top',
 'before_widget' => '
  • ', 'after_widget' => "
  • ", 'before_title' => "

    ", 'after_title' => "

    " ));

    Then open single.php and somewhere at the top of your post loop (before call to the_content() ) add:

      ' ; dynamic_sidebar('single-top'); echo '
    ' ; } ?>

    That's all !

    Now you have a dynamic area at the beginning of your post, where you can add as many widgets as you'd like.

    You can register any amount of dynamic sidebars in this way.

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    1. Apr 1st, 2012 4:02 PM

      I have read some good stuff here. Certainly price bookmarking for revisiting. I surprise how so much effort you place to create one of these excellent informative website.

    2. Feb 26th, 2011 7:01 PM

      Thanks for the helpful article - it helped clear up what the codex was saying.

      They really should deprecate the function name dynamic_sidebar/register_sidebar, and start calling them dynamic_widget()/register_widget ...

      Anyhow thanks again!

    3. LiebeTitian
      Sep 18th, 2010 3:03 PM

      Hello, sorry but I tried the above and it did not work. I finally managed to get it to work so thanks. But I think the problem lay in a PHP syntactical error:"

      "... 'after_title' => ",));"

      shouldn't it be:

      "... 'after_title' => "" ));

      closing the last array value with a double-quotation mark and omitting the apostrophe? Just thought I point this out because there are probably a load of newbies pulling there hair out after copying the code verbatim!


      • Sep 22nd, 2010 9:09 AM

        Well spotted, tutorial updated thanks to you

    4. Jennifer R
      Jun 26th, 2010 12:52 PM

      What is it different with "dynamic_sidebar( single-top) )" ? Could you explain for me? And is is necessary to put it on top of the post loop?

    5. aj
      Feb 3rd, 2010 12:28 AM

      I use these alot. Do you know how to prevent the opening and closing tags when using sidebars?
      As an example I just want to store some text and it seems to force the tags whenever I call the dynamic sidebar function....

    6. Caspar
      Jan 7th, 2010 7:53 PM

      is_sidebar_active is not a wordpress function: http://wordpress.org/search/is_sidebar_active
      So one will have to add it to the function.php if it's not already there.
      Here's the author of the function: http://wordpress.org/support/topic/251790#post-1042029

    7. Jan 3rd, 2010 9:31 PM

      So if I wanted to add these few of these to populate a page in WP...how would I go about it? Would there be a version of this I could use to create a "magazine" style blog page??? Because that would be super cool.


    8. gethin
      Dec 27th, 2009 6:32 PM

      how can i use this code with dynamic_sidebar, I want to tell wordpress to select different sidebar using the maybe page_id or any page identifier and dynamic_sidebar,
      Something like if you are @ homepage select this sidebar
      elseif you are at about page select A sidebar,
      elseif you are @ singlepost select B sidebar


    9. jesse
      Dec 12th, 2009 8:29 PM

      Nice, I just wanted to be able to have two sidebars but now I know I can put widgets just about anywhere.

    10. Oct 14th, 2009 6:23 PM

      This is based on hooks at various points in the PHP headers, index, and footers, etc. I would kill to be able to have a hook inside the loop. For example, on the index PHP I would like to RSS feed for 1 post for every 3rd or 4th post as a plugin instead of having to modify the index.php

      Where can this be done?

      Thank you.

      Chris Kilber
      Home of 101 Traffic Generating Strategies

    11. Oct 12th, 2009 7:32 PM

      Goog article. Thanks, am added code after article

    12. Oct 5th, 2009 4:52 AM

      Awesomeness - combine this with exec-php plugin and the use of conditional tags and you can put almost anything in any place dynamically :D

    13. Sep 28th, 2009 2:40 PM

      ...or you could use the Thematic theme framework. Looks like that's where your image came from:)

      • Sep 28th, 2009 2:43 PM

        The image came from my theme which was based on Thesis framework. However I would not recommend it for casual bloggers, even I have hard time finding my way around it.

        • Sep 28th, 2009 6:33 PM

          Totally agree with Vlad, although using Hooks may seem very easy at first but some php knowledge is desirable to use them properly. It took me around a day or two to get Thesis to work the way I want it to be (prolly because I'm just picky). Oh for the Thesis users, don't forget the OpenHook plugin haha.

    14. pushpinder
      Sep 28th, 2009 1:21 PM

      "dynamic area at the beginning of your post"

      any examples ?

      • Sep 28th, 2009 10:13 PM

        There are two in the post, what did you have in mind? :)

    15. John C
      Sep 28th, 2009 10:27 AM

      Thanks, this is going to be really handy in inserting things like Adsense. Until reading this, I had always just added the adsense to the single.php straight away, but this will help run things more smoothly!