[Original article source: JamesICT]
According to the original widget source, a WordPress Widget is:
“…just a silly buzzword we’ve chosen for this sidebar-chopping plug-in we have developed. They could have been called Gadgets or Gizmos or Wizbangs or Whatevers. On the surface, they’re just things you can use to personalize your WordPress site without knowing HTML. Way down deep, they may be something entirely more significant.”
However, this explanation may not make you any the wiser in my opinion. So, what exactly is a widget then? Well, they are really nothing more than a “sidebar addition’ or, an “accessory and they apply to the plugins on your site. The term “sidebar’ can also be a bit loose too, in that many sidebars actually extend to the bottom or footer of a site, so just be aware that they do not always only apply to a left or right sidebar system.
What widgets do though, is make it easy to add “design elements, gadgets, content, images, and more to your WordPress sidebar to personalize your blog without knowing HTML, PHP, or any code. Many WordPress Plugins now come with a Widget version to allow easy addition to the sidebar.” [source]
The downside with widgets is that they can sometimes work against you when you want to lay out the varying elements in your sidebars, and if you do not understand the code, you cannot see where they are applied. Take this site for example – there is a mix of widgets and code in place within the sidebar. Mainly code in the right hand sidebar and mainly widgets within the left sidebar. The trouble arises when you want to include some code of your own between the widgets code. But fear not. The easy way around this is to use the Text Widget which can incorporate code itself and therefore make it possible to add whatever you wish between whatever widgets you have in play…