Content Marketing

WordPress: How To Disable The New Widgets Administration

Every once in a while there’s a new feature in WordPress that just doesn’t appear to be well thought out. I believe one of these was when WordPress decided to go full-force with its Gutenberg editor and apply it to widget administration as well. I shared this recently in an article on the challenges of using WordPress as your CMS.

There are quite a few scenarios where this new feature is unmanageable:

  • Browser notifications – I have a nice browser notification service that pops up when you visit the site… so every time the Gutenberg block editor displays the widgets, all I see is the damn popup.
  • Cookie permissions – I have another nice popup that asks visitors for their permission to track them with cookies. This, too, is displayed in the block editor.
  • Multiple sidebars – I have category-specific sidebars to publish offers specifically by category. That winds up making the widget administration virtually impossible as it loads forever and is slow as hell.
  • Multiple widgets – If you’re using a ton of widgets, it also slows this page down and makes it virtually impossible to manage.

If the team at WordPress is reading this, I think the new administration could work if each sidebar was listed, each widget within, and you had to actually select that sidebar and widget to preview it. That’s the way the customization page works for themes.

How To Return To The Classic Widgets Administration Panel

With this in mind, you can actually disable this functionality in your theme or child theme’s functions.php, just add:

// Disables the Gutenberg editor when managing widgets.
add_filter( 'use_widgets_block_editor', '__return_false' );

Alternatively, you could add a WordPress plugin that’s actually written and supported by the core development team at WordPress, called Classic Widgets. The team states that it will be supported and maintained until 2024, or as long as necessary.

Download Classic Widgets

Personally, I don’t like the overhead of a plugin for something as simple as this, but if you’re not familiar with WordPress themes and don’t want to edit code, you probably shouldn’t.

Side note: I do want to note that I am a fan of the Gutenberg editor. While others complained quite a bit about the change, I really like it. Especially the fact that I can build global content and insert it. It’s just not a great feature for use with the widget administration and I believe that WordPress should add a setting for this to enable or disable it rather than setting it on by default.

Douglas Karr

Douglas Karr is the founder of the Martech Zone and a recognized expert on digital transformation. Douglas has helped start several successful MarTech startups, has assisted in the due diligence of over $5 bil in Martech acquisitions and investments, and continues to launch his own platforms and services. He's a co-founder of Highbridge, a digital transformation consulting firm. Douglas is also a published author of a Dummie's guide and a business leadership book.

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