Widget, blidget, gadget: Sticky for your Web site
ONLINE COLUMN: Web Savvy
Published: August 19, 2008
A common goal for many of us who operate a blog or Web site is getting the visitor to hang around. While embedding links to external sites is a plus, it's also smart to feature interesting content that's created by someone else. A widget, blidget or gadget—near-interchangeable terms for the same item—is a great way to do that.
Images from the Hubble telescope are featured on a blidget created by Michael Thompson. I grabbed Thompson's Hubble blidget for my own blog from the Google gallery. This image of the Cat's Eye Nebula is available on the NASA website. Images such as this are available for those who want to make their own widget or to simply use as a graphic for your website. When using public domain content, you must still take care to credit your source
Widgets came into their own as a useful tool on your own desktop, a means of adding a clock, weather forecast or news feed for your personal pleasure. But with the proliferation of blogs, widgets morphed into a means of adding content that frequently updates all by itself. The term 'blidget' is simply a hybrid of the words 'widget' and 'blog.' Google calls it a 'gadget.' These items are available in a range of topics that is virtually unlimited—weather, headlines, Georgia O'Keefe's artworks, NASCAR, games and everything else under the sun. The Centers for Disease Control even offers a gallery of widgets and gadgets, as do some other government agencies and corporations. Select what may be of interest to your visitors.
Google maintains a huge gallery of gadgets that you can grab for free. The process is simple. You simply select your gadget, customize the size and colors, copy the code and paste it onto your website. That process is fairly uniform no matter where you pick up the content.
One of my newest favorite sites is Widget Box. You can grab a widget from the site, or make your own via an easy to use interface. I was brave enough to make one for my own blog to add to my applications at my Facebook page—the process was lengthy but Widget Box walks you through it in a very easy-to-follow process with a dual screen containing your widget and your Facebook page.
If you choose to add content to your page, always check your page in another browser, or even better, another computer to make sure the content doesn't slow down your load time. Web visitors are impatient-no one wants to sit while a page loads at dial-up speed in our instant gratification age. In addition, be careful to only use content from trusted sites. I've used Google gadgets and Widget Box, so I'm comfortable recommending those. There are many other sites that offer this content, so do a search first to determine if there are any complaints and also keep your own security program updated. If you're on a site that features popups requesting personal information, be careful. Most sites will simply ask you to set a user name and password and provide your email for verification.
Widgets are a great way to add sticky to your site—to entice your reader to hang around for awhile and maybe even check out your ads if you include them on your pages. They're free, they're fun and they help your visitors interact with your content.
Links to related sites
Google Gadget Gallery
Centers for Disease Control widgets
--Aug. 19, 2008
In our next Web Savvy, we explore the dilemma of writing for free, a trend especially popular with political websites. Should you or shouldn't you? Join us for an analysis.