Part of the goal of redesigning widgets in WordPress is to make the connection between widget areas, and their presentation on the front-end of your site, more obvious. It’s clear that there’s a big disconnect between the narrow column of sidebars (or widget areas) in wp-admin, and their location within your site’s theme. Here’s an idea that presents a blueprint of your theme’s templates, allowing you to add widgets to the available widget areas:
During some recent user testing, it became clear that the current UI for managing widgets does little to make it clear that widgets must be placed using drag-and-drop. It seems that re-ordering widgets using drag-and-drop is intuitive, but the initial placement of widgets is more cumbersome and not so obvious. This design tries to solve that problem by relying on the “Add Widget” button for each area. You can drag-and-drop widgets between areas, or click on the “Add Widget” button to popup a media-like modal from which you can choose widgets.
My hesitation with this approach, and with the general concept of front-end editing in general, is that it puts a lot of “stuff” in front of your face. This approach makes a lot of sense for managing the location of widgets, but not so much for managing the content of widgets. What do you think?