How to display (some) WordPress sidebar widgets in random order

Do you need a plugin to display WordPress sidebar widgets in random order? You won’t find it. Or you will find messy scripts which need to be tweaked to return some kind of result.

That’s why I made my 22 lines script to display my sidebar widgets in random order. And not just in “random order”, because I needed to keep some widgets in fixed positions, and having the remaining ones rotating.

Motivation

Once I removed Adsense and network ads from the blog I received a lot of sponsorship requests.

There’s nothing wrong with the ones I denied, it’s just they do not match with the content of the blog.

Anyway, as I am doing some minor changes to the blog, I am starting to place the supporters in the sidebar.

Every block is a widget created from the Appearence menu this way:

And what I want is having the first and the last widgets (respectively the twitter “Follow me” button and the Facebook fan widget) to remain fixed in their first and last position, while the remaining widget should be displayed in random order.

Saying it quick, I needed a script to display in random order widgets from the i-th to the j-th

The theory

If you theme is designed according to WP guidelines, your sidebar.php file should contain something like this:

Where dynamic_sidebar function calls each of the active widget callbacks in order, and outputs the sidebar itself.

The generated html is something like this one:

  • 1st Widget content
  • 2nd Widget content
  • ...
  • i-th Widget content
  • At this time, since there aren’t hooks to handle widget output, we have to save the generated html, break it into individual widgets’ html, and mix it as required.

    The code

    The following code shouldn’t be copied and pasted, and assumes you haven’t lists inside your widgets. But it can give you a brief idea of what you’re supposed to do.

    First, call your sidebar in sidebar.php this way:

    I am calling random_widgets function rather than dynamic_sidebar.

    The arguments are the sidebar name, the index of the first widget to be shuffled and the index of the last widget to be shuffled. Every widget outside such indexes won’t be shuffled.

    random_widgets function is defined inside functions.php

    function random_widgets($sidebar,$random_start,$random_end){
    	ob_start();
    	$widgets = dynamic_sidebar($sidebar);
    	if($widgets){
         	$html = ob_get_contents();
         	$widgets_array = explode("
    

    What happens? I am saving the output inside a variable called $html. From such variable, I create an array with all widgets, break the array into sub arrays, shuffle the required array and rebuild the final code.

    And that's it, without installing any plugin. You can see the result refreshing the page, sidebar widgets will shuffle, with the only exception of the first and the last widgets, which remain in their place.

    Get the most popular Phaser 3 book

    Through 202 pages, 32 source code examples and an Android Studio project you will learn how to build cross platform HTML5 games and create a complete game along the way.

    Get the book

    215 GAME PROTOTYPES EXPLAINED WITH SOURCE CODE
    // 1+2=3
    // 100 rounds
    // 10000000
    // 2 Cars
    // 2048
    // A Blocky Christmas
    // A Jumping Block
    // A Life of Logic
    // Angry Birds
    // Angry Birds Space
    // Artillery
    // Astro-PANIC!
    // Avoider
    // Back to Square One
    // Ball Game
    // Ball vs Ball
    // Ball: Revamped
    // Balloon Invasion
    // BallPusher
    // Ballz
    // Bar Balance
    // Bejeweled
    // Biggification
    // Block it
    // Blockage
    // Bloons
    // Boids
    // Bombuzal
    // Boom Dots
    // Bouncing Ball
    // Bouncing Ball 2
    // Bouncy Light
    // BoxHead
    // Breakout
    // Bricks
    // Bubble Chaos
    // Bubbles 2
    // Card Game
    // Castle Ramble
    // Chronotron
    // Circle Chain
    // Circle Path
    // Circle Race
    // Circular endless runner
    // Cirplosion
    // CLOCKS - The Game
    // Color Hit
    // Color Jump
    // ColorFill
    // Columns
    // Concentration
    // Crossy Road
    // Crush the Castle
    // Cube Jump
    // CubesOut
    // Dash N Blast
    // Dashy Panda
    // Deflection
    // Diamond Digger Saga
    // Don't touch the spikes
    // Dots
    // Down The Mountain
    // Drag and Match
    // Draw Game
    // Drop Wizard
    // DROP'd
    // Dudeski
    // Dungeon Raid
    // Educational Game
    // Elasticity
    // Endless Runner
    // Erase Box
    // Eskiv
    // Farm Heroes Saga
    // Filler
    // Flappy Bird
    // Fling
    // Flipping Legend
    // Floaty Light
    // Fuse Ballz
    // GearTaker
    // Gem Sweeper
    // Globe
    // Goat Rider
    // Gold Miner
    // Grindstone
    // GuessNext
    // Helicopter
    // Hero Emblems
    // Hero Slide
    // Hexagonal Tiles
    // HookPod
    // Hop Hop Hop Underwater
    // Horizontal Endless Runner
    // Hundreds
    // Hungry Hero
    // Hurry it's Christmas
    // InkTd
    // Iromeku
    // Jet Set Willy
    // Jigsaw Game
    // Knife Hit
    // Knightfall
    // Legends of Runeterra
    // Lep's World
    // Line Rider
    // Lumines
    // Magick
    // MagOrMin
    // Mass Attack
    // Math Game
    // Maze
    // Meeblings
    // Memdot
    // Metro Siberia Underground
    // Mike Dangers
    // Mikey Hooks
    // Nano War
    // Nodes
    // o:anquan
    // One Button Game
    // One Tap RPG
    // Ononmin
    // Pacco
    // Perfect Square!
    // Perfectionism
    // Phyballs
    // Pixel Purge
    // PixelField
    // Planet Revenge
    // Plants Vs Zombies
    // Platform
    // Platform game
    // Plus+Plus
    // Pocket Snap
    // Poker
    // Pool
    // Pop the Lock
    // Pop to Save
    // Poux
    // Pudi
    // Pumpkin Story
    // Puppet Bird
    // Pyramids of Ra
    // qomp
    // Quick Switch
    // Racing
    // Radical
    // Rebuild Chile
    // Renju
    // Rise Above
    // Risky Road
    // Roguelike
    // Roly Poly
    // Run Around
    // Rush Hour
    // SameGame
    // SamePhysics
    // Save the Totem
    // Security
    // Serious Scramblers
    // Shrink it
    // Sling
    // Slingy
    // Snowflakes
    // Sokoban
    // Space Checkers
    // Space is Key
    // Spellfall
    // Spinny Gun
    // Splitter
    // Spring Ninja
    // Sproing
    // Stabilize!
    // Stack
    // Stairs
    // Stick Hero
    // String Avoider
    // Stringy
    // Sudoku
    // Super Mario Bros
    // Surfingers
    // Survival Horror
    // Talesworth Adventure
    // Tetris
    // The Impossible Line
    // The Moops - Combos of Joy
    // The Next Arrow
    // Threes
    // Tic Tac Toe
    // Timberman
    // Tiny Wings
    // Tipsy Tower
    // Toony
    // Totem Destroyer
    // Tower Defense
    // Trick Shot
    // Tunnelball
    // Turn
    // Turnellio
    // TwinSpin
    // vvvvvv
    // Warp Shift
    // Way of an Idea
    // Whack a Creep
    // Wheel of Fortune
    // Where's my Water
    // Wish Upon a Star
    // Word Game
    // Wordle
    // Worms
    // Yanga
    // Yeah Bunny
    // Zhed
    // zNumbers