The best WordPress login widget plugin

April 28, 2020

Finding the best WordPress login widget plugin should be a simple task. But when I did it today, it took longer than I expected and most of the plugins weren't worth bothering with. I'm writing this post to share what I learned.

Having just set up a WordPress membership website using the S2Member plugin (fantastic, by the way - unlike WishList Member which is a nightmare to get right, S2Member worked first time), I wanted to add a sidebar widget that allows users to register or login without going through a login page.

Surprisingly, no sidebar login widget is provided by S2Member so I decided to look for a plugin. I wanted something simple instead of a full SSO solution; maybe with some JavaScript AJAX for a good user experience. This way, users can log in directly from the homepage e.g. example.com instead of from a separate login page.

Instead of heading over to Google search, I searched the WordPress plugin repository for sidebar login widgets and tested a few. This is what I found.

Tried and failed

  • Default WordPress meta widget - Not great. I tried this first as it's best to use built-in features where possible to avoid complicating your site with too many plugins or addons. Unfortunately, having designed dozens of WordPress websites, I haven't yet found a site where this widget is appropriate. Although it does the job in terms of logging in, it contains lots of irrelevant links which can't be removed such as 'Entries RSS', 'Comments RSS' and to WordPress.org.
  • Custom WP Login Widget - 5 stars but only 4 ratings, so a bit risky. I prefer plugins to be more tried and tested than this.
  • Tabbed Login Widget - This looked good and a bit unusual, with ten 5* ratings. But it generated a major error when I tried to activate it, saying the plugin file didn't exist.
  • Login-Logout - Strangely, this sidebar login widget plugin didn't automatically display the background that is used on my other widgets. You could barely see the text against the website background. Rather than customising it, I decided to find a plugin that would do the job straight out of the box.
  • Simple Login - This plugin lets you customise the login widget title and choose where to redirect users after logging in, but contains an unfortunately link to the 'Site Admin'. This is not appropriate for websites where you don't want users to access the WordPress back end - i.e. most professional websites. Of course you can customise the plugin to hide this, but that would prevent you from applying any future plugin updates. I wouldn't expect to have to customise such a simple login widget plugin with anything other than simple CSS code.
  • Login with Ajax - This was the runner-up favourite WordPress login widget plugin. I like the way it uses JavaScript Ajax and has a choice of options such as where to redirect the user (by setting a redirect URL) after logging in or out. I like the way it shows the user's profile photo, too - a nice touch. The only reason I didn't use it is that it put a strange border around the contents which I would want to remove to look professional. Although this is possible with a little CSS styling, I decided to leave it deactivated in case I couldn't find anything better, but ended up improving on it with Sidebar Login.

The best WordPress login widget plugin

WordPress-login-widget-pluginThe WordPress login widget plugin that does the job is Sidebar Login.

Unlike most of the WordPress login widgets, a whole plugin options page is provided with various widget settings. This allows you to set different headings for logged in and logged out users, and set the URLs that users should be redirected to after logging in and out using the href attribute. You can choose whether to display a registration link (that takes the user to a registration form), forgot password link, or the user's Avatar (photo) in the widget. You can even add some custom links to appear at the bottom of the login widget.

The widget automatically integrated with the website theme, so it looked good straight away. It added a simple login form to the sidebar on the homepage (e.g. example.com) as shown in the screenshot above. The only improvement I would make is to add a space between the check box and the 'Remember me' button by adding CSS to the stylesheet - but then again, I am a perfectionist!

So my vote is that Sidebar Login is the best WordPress login widget plugin to add a login form to your website and quickly authenticate users.

15 Comments

  1. Wim Hoekstra
    October 5, 2017 Reply

    Hi Katie,
    Seems like a good login widget is needed quite frequently, especially for membership sites.
    Seems to me a pity that you did not look that little bit further into "Login With Ajax" as that box you did not like is merely the border setting for Table Data in your theme. Normally it is set to 1 or 2 pix. Remove that and you have a totally clear result.
    I have actually modified the plugin quite drastically and extensively use the modal version. I have even included it in my menu at places.
    Believe me, it may be useful to revisit that plugin and have a better look.
    Kind regards,
    Wim

    • Katie Keith
      October 5, 2017 Reply

      Thanks Wim, I will do this! The article is mainly aimed at non-developers so I have judged each plugin based on what you can do without modifying code, but you can definitely make any extra styling changes yourself using CSS.

  2. Bareera Ahmed
    March 22, 2015 Reply

    Nice tips. I’m currently writing my first plugin and it helped me a lot especially for the upgrade system.

  3. sarks
    October 1, 2013 Reply

    Thank you Katie for this post. But it's a pity that there is no registration link...

  4. Thibault
    August 19, 2013 Reply

    Thanks very much. But how change blue color of link after login ?

    • Katie
      August 20, 2013 Reply

      Hi, the Sidebar Login widget uses colours and stylings set by your website's theme. You might need to get a WordPress web designer to make any styling changes as the plugin doesn't have its own settings for this.

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