Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Anatomy of a Blog: Widgets...What are They??

Welcome to another edition of our Anatomy of a Blog series. Over the next few weeks, we are going to look at two more items on the right side bar of our blog, the Meebo Chat widget and the Amazon Wishlist widget, but before going into detail about those in the upcoming posts, we thought we’d introduce you to widgets in general first.

Over the last few years the concept of Web 2.0 has continued to develop; programs and websites have started to become much more user friendly, and widgets are just one of the ways this user-centered and interactive focus has been emphasized.

Widgets are essentially applications created by a person or organization that can be inserted into blogs and websites (and technically, even your desktop!) as a way to easily integrate a specific function or to display information from a second party. That widget then tells the computer/website to show the information or perform a command based off the coding. For example, in the case of our Meebo chat widget (more on that in a later post), we are able to plop in the preset code provided by Meebo and voilĂ : now there’s a chat program on our blog. And the amazing thing is it only took about five minutes to set up! However, not only do widgets help make elements of web design a simple process, but they often allow for a more interactive experience from the users perspective. Just a few examples of organizations/websites that provide widgets are Amazon, the Weather Channel, LibraryThing (of course I included something library related!), and Facebook.

There are also generic widgets that can do things such as instantly display what other bloggers are saying about a topic you blogged about and even others that allow users to interactively flip through your photos in an actual "photo album" interface. A great source for discovering these types of widgets can be found at Google Gadgets. Google allows you to search through a multitude of free “gadgets” (a term essentially synonymous with widget in this case) and provides you with customization options and code so you can plug them right into your site!

If you’re interested in more about widgets for your own site or just want a more in-depth look at some of the concepts and sites discussed in this week’s post, watch the series below. It's the first of five short videos that offer some great insight into some of the widgets referenced here, plus many more!

Thanks to the versatile code that’s supplied for widgets, the possibilities for using them are almost endless!

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