Lawrence has a great post over at Sexy Widget on “Building a Web Service in a Distributed World.” While he raises more questions than answers, he does provide details and a viewpoint based on his experiences and his company, RateItAll.com. We agree that there isn’t a one size fits all solution and that each company will have to look hard to see what model fits their business.
Here’s a excerpt from the post to wet your appetite.
So what’s the right model? Fully distributed like Zynga or a focus on a core community with only marginal outreach to the SNS like Yelp? And how should you manage your various user bases? Should a user on one SNS be able to interact with a user of another SNS via your app (Zynga)? Or should the user bases be kept separate (iLike and Flixster)? And what should be the ultimate goal of your distributed business? Reach or feature ownership? And what brings a higher chance of success porting an existing web service to the social networks (Flixster), or building something native (Renkoo)?
It’s unlikely that one size will fit all. But I have come to some conclusions in regards to my own company.
It’s called Hub and Spoke.
Head on over to read the entire post.
We came across the Google best practices via Sexy Widget. And, as with the previous post (5 Questions to Ask When Selecting a Widget Platform), here are the first three items. Visit Google for the complete list.
Google – Social Design Best Practices
1. Engage Quickly
Across containers, there’s a common tendency for a user to take a chance on an unknown application, and shortly thereafter remove it if no immediate value is found. The lesson to be learned from this interaction is that first impressions really do matter, and it’s necessary to engage the user quickly before attention is lost. To this end, we suggest you focus on the 30-second experience; before distracting the user with expert features or sending invites, slow down and give the user a simpler taste of what your application is about. Try the following:
- Show value and identity by making the purpose and core features of your application absolutely clear.
- Populate the application with fun or interesting content (especially content from friends) that makes for a browse-friendly experience.
- Make it easy for the user to add content, change settings and feel ownership of the application. This increases a user’s desire to keep the application on his/her profile.
2. Mimic Look and Feel
Across OpenSocial containers there can be a lot of variation in the look and feel of pages and profiles. When designing your application, it can help to attempt consistency with the container UI by using similar fonts, tabs and buttons.
In cases where applications strive for stronger identity, it can be good to create a UI look and feel which is slightly distinct but still aesthetically strong to play on a user’s tastes and need for self expression.
3. Enable Self Expression
The profile page in a container is often a representation of a user’s identity, interests and tastes. From the perspective of the owner, it’s a means for self expression and a starting point for exploring the social graph. From the perspective of viewers, it’s a place to learn, communicate, and find shared interests. Applications best take advantage of the profile by enabling self expression through common interests around entertainment, brands and groups. Self expression is also enabled through specific forms of communication like gestures and gifts or conversations around special topics.
Don’t forget our own 10 Things to Consider When Building Widgets.
Lawrence over at Sexy Widget has compiled a great list of widget related ventures and those who are funding them. With the diversity in companies and sources of financial support, widgets are here to stay.
Here’s the first 5 from the Sexy Widget list. Head over to Sexy Widget for the complete list.
Benchmark – Benchmark has invested in avatar company Gizmoz, widget distribution platform Gigya (review), and start page / widget aggregator PageFlakes.
Sequoia – Sequoia has invested in widget powerhouse RockYou, and is also rumored to have invested in Widgetbox.
Mark Cuban – Mark Cuban is an investor behind Goowy, which is the developer of widget platform and aggregator YourMinis. Cuban has also invested in file sharing service Box.net (review), the developer of one of my favorite widgets.
Union Square Ventures – Union Square Ventures has invested in Feedburner (sort of a widget company), Adaptive Blue (review) (a toolbar / widget powered service), and avatar company Oddcast.
Trinity Ventures – Trinity was the lead investor in Photobucket.
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.