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.
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.
The best WordPress login widget plugin
The 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.