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10 Things to Consider When Building Widgets

July 17th, 2007 6 comments

Here is a list of 10 things to consider when building widgets. The items are not in any particular order (hence no numbering) and it does not necessarily mean you have to meet each item. However, we do believe that each item should be considered and conscious decisions should be made regarding each point. Each widget, project and company has its own set of requirements and time lines, so as long as though was put into the process, a widget can meet your goal without delivering on every element listed.

  • Compelling content for reader and publisher

    If the content is not interesting for anyone, then why would anyone bother to use or spread it? It’s not just about RSS feeds and cute badges, the possibilities are endless.

  • Remember it’s a three way relationship; engage the reader, benefit the publisher and brand yourself

    Many forget that this is a complex relationship. Not only do you have to brand yourself through the widget, but you also have to give a reason for a publisher to use the widget. Are they getting cool content, new features or something unique? What do the readers get out of this?

  • Customizations, the more the better

    Beyond branding for yourself, keep in mind that widgets live outside your domain. This means that the more customizations available the more seamless publishers can integrate the widget with their own site, brand and design. Whether it be size, color or headers, flexibility is the key.

  • Distribution mechanism, embeddable everywhere

    Why limit your audience? As technology barriers are lowered, more and more people become potential “publishers.” This can be anyone with a profile page, blog or full fledge site.

  • Internalize functions, keep as much in the widget as possible

    While your brand, product and site are important, so is the publisher’s. It’s a fine line and a balancing act, but if you can strike a mutually beneficial feature set that is able to keep the readers attached to the publisher while driving traffic home as needed, then you have a potentially successful widget.

  • Remote updates

    The ability to update widgets in the wild remotely is important. Widgets must be able to evolve as conditions change and if you are not able to push updates remotely, you risk hurting your brand with outdated or broken widgets.

  • Performance

    Everyone is vying for everyone’s time. The web is no exception. The widget must perform without delay for both the reader and the publisher. The reader will not wait for content and the publisher will not tolerate a widget that bogs down their entire page.

  • Tracking and analytics

    You do know where your widgets are and how they’re doing, right?

  • Business and marketing goals

    What was the purpose for the widget? If you didn’t know that to begin with, how can you start to measure the usefulness or success of the widget? Or, even build a widget in the first place…

  • Lastly, don’t forget about the users

    We mentioned this earlier, but it’s worth stating again. Don’t forget about the users. In this case, the user is anyone that will have anything to do with the widget, publishers and readers.

Categories: Widgets Tags: ,

Must Read for Widget Developers and More

May 15th, 2007 No comments

If you have anything to do with developing or utilizing widgets, you must read following two posts. The first was posted yesterday by Ivan over at the Snipperoo Blog. Ivan lists his “Ten Sins of the Widget Makers“. We happen to agree with all his points. Widget makers need to be more aware of how their widget can and will be used. Just because it’s a widget doesn’t mean it doesn’t deserve the respect and attention that is required.

“It amazes me that, despite all the love and attention that is put into widgets, most widget producers don’t seem to pay much attention to the needs of their customers – the widget users.” - Ivan

The second must read was posted today by Lawrence over at Sexy Widget. In his post he dissected the RateItAll widget that is currently in beta. He does a great job of going through each element of the widget and various decisions made for each. The insight into that process is invaluable. Everyone should put that much focus on their widgets.

“Any widget that expects to earn real estate on a blog must bring something to the table for the host site.” - Lawrence

The bottom line is that widgets have a major role to play and all those involved need to be aware of various aspects of a widget. The widget needs to be evaluated and planned just as much as any other major feature or project. Its development should not be done completely devoid of business needs and goals nor should it be released without review against some technical guidelines. While there is no magical check list, if you are able to marry the technical with business and make informed decisions, you will have a much better chance of long term success.