ISITE Insight Article - The Widget Revolution

The Widget Revolution

Flexible, extendable and light on their feet, widgets are changing the web as we know it. Ready or not, here they come.

In the dot-com boom era, we were consistently reminded that "content is king." Now that web 2.0 is upon us, things haven't changed all that much. But if content is the king of the World Wide Web, widgets are the wizards.

Well written, relevant content is still the essence of the web, but widgets transform a sea of information into an engaging, interactive experience that allows the user to contribute, manipulate, sort, or search this information.

This is fundamental to the web experience of today, as we are no longer passive consumers wading from link to link, but we get to actively engage with critical life information, our favorite brands, our family and our friends.

Widgets, widgets everywhere

Generally speaking, widgets are defined as a discreet piece of functionality that allows the user to interact with a graphic user interface. Whether it is the airline price finder on your favorite travel site, or a stock ticker that tracks the hot stocks of your choice, widgets have been popping up everywhere on websites, operating systems, and hand-held devices alike.

Embracing the concept of the widget is one way we are responding to the information overload that exists today… it provides us a way to slice, dice, make or mash content to suit our needs.

They also provide a way to exponentially increase your reach, as widgets can be easily distributed across web sites, blogs, desktops and devices.

While the widget is revolutionizing the way we use the Web, we must also acknowledge that every hero has a dark side. Our little friend is flipping standard marketing models upside-down.

Traditionally, banner advertising was measured by "impressions" that were driven by page views. Now that web technology has evolved, widgets allow us to call and display pertinent information without a page reload. While widgets are praised for making a more fun and engaging user experience, they are also currently demonized for destroying ad revenue streams on the web. For better or worse, they are forcing marketers to find a new way to generate revenue via the web.

How many widgets will a web whiz code…

Widgets also have benefits that pertain to the web development cycle, and ISITE Design has embraced the widget to the benefit our clients. Multiple developers can work concurrently on independent widgets, which can be stacked together like Legos. This allows for a quick and efficient turnaround for more complex sites.

Additionally, we find that these independent pieces of functionality can be reused throughout a deep site or across multiple sites such as an intranet, external site, or a partner site to provide consistent and concise interaction points embedded within a much larger context. Providing that the "killer app" is the best way to make sure that your customers have a compelling reason to visit your site again and again.

Wide Eyed for Widgets

As we mentioned a few full moons ago, Time Magazine declared that YOU were the Person of the Year for 2006 because of user-generated content infiltrating the media mainstream. With all of that content, it only makes sense that you need a sidekick to help you in your online battles. Supporting our theory that widgets are the heroes of the Web world, Newsweek has already declared 2007 the Year of the Widget.

While widgets bring tangible value in the context of delivering exceptional sites to our clients and making our day-to-day web development lives just a bit easier, there are many people who believe that the development of a widget can help change the world.

Several members of the ISITE team hope to attend the "Widgets for Good" Challenge at this year's SXSW interactive where they are taking "wacky, willing techie developers" and challenging them to create a new widget based on the specific needs of a nonprofit organization in an hour. We'll keep you updated on how well they do.

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