Once upon a time, a widget was a small mechanical device, something whose name you couldn’t quite remember. Or it was something that stood in for a manufacturer’s product – as in “the widgets coming off the assembly line.”
Now that much of our designs take place in the digital world, it makes sense that widgets have become virtual as well. Widgets are used throughout the Web world – cropping up all over the place. So what do you call widgets now?
Think of widgets as a mini-application or a small piece of functionality on your Web site, phone or TV. One example that many of you have seen are Twitter widgets, which are becoming more and more popular as many Web sites -- from personal blogs to corporate enterprise-wide sites -- try to build a community around their brand, product or service. In this case, the widget is simply a block of content that displays the latest status update from twitter.com.
Here, for instance, is how the Twitter update widget is displayed on the eMarketer blog site
It’s important to notice that the information originates on a different Web site. Typically, widgets display data from third party Web sites onto a site that you have control over. You place code from the third party site onto your own, and the updates appear in real time.
Widgets are a great way to bring up-to-date information to a Web site or blog site, while at the same time reducing the effort required to maintain them. Other examples of widgets are advertisements (banner/Google ads), RSS Feeds (Industry News), shopping cart widgets in e-commerce solutions, among many others.
IMA’s approach to widgets
The use of widgets has become practically a standard here at IMA. As the internet matures and Web sites transform into Web applications, there is an increased need to include information from external sources.
Boston Ballet’s recently released Web site contains a number of widget examples. The site is created from two main application systems: The Ektron CMS for content and the Elastic Path eCommerce software for eCommerce. When you use one system, you generally do not have access to the other. Here at IMA, we use widgets to bridge the gap.
The shopping cart widget, displayed at the top right of any page, shows basic cart and customer profile information and the data is updated depending on previous activity in the store.
The custom calendar widget displays event information that is stored in the Ektron CMS and is accessible on the Elastic Path side.
What really makes these two widget examples work for our client is that they behave the same no matter which system is currently in play. So the same information is available to both applications to be used as needed. In this way, the use of widgets really helped us facilitate a seamless integration between the site’s content and the store.
Do you have questions about how widgets can work for you? Contact us at 973-539-5255, extension 1 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
, and we’ll be happy to discuss it with you.