Simple Dynamic Sidebars in WordPress Themes

on Nov 24, 2011 in WordPress | 0 comments

One of the things I loved right off the bat about WordPress is that it’s extremely flexible in terms of output and rendering, and that its built in functions are simple but also robust. Here’s an example of what I’m talking about. If you want to output a sidebar (widget area) you simply call the dynamic_sidebar() function and WP handles the rest. A practical example of that might look something like this:

It’s extremely simple to use and works well, no complaints here! When it come time to layout the styles your CSS would be similar to this:

And that would generally work, but if you’re designing a theme for someone else to use, they actually might not want to use your sidebar and if they don’t add any widgets their content is going to have an empty 210px wide column on the right-hand side. WordPress provides a way to handle this too by evaluating the return value.

Well that’s good too, but again, if you’re building a theme for someone else they probably don’t want to use your hard-coded links either! The good news is there’s a solution that involves only a little more code. And actually we’re still going to be using the return value to dynamically build our theme.

What this does is immediately evaluate the return value (boolean) and store a variable based on the value, e.g. TRUE means there is a sidebar, FALSE means there is no sidebar. That variable is then echoed in another item as a class. You might also notice that the #sidebar article has no white-space any more, that’s to allow some of our CSS3 to work properly, but it’s not necessary. Now let’s look at the CSS:

Only two more rules, none of which are overrides! The one that might look interesting just because it’s not too common yet is the :empty pseudo class. It’s a great little addition to CSS3 and you can read more about it, but again, you don’t need it you can just use widths.

So there you have it, if there’s a sidebar with some actual widgets in it, it will display, otherwise your content will look like it was never supposed to have a sidebar in the first place.

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