How to create a great widget

A widget is an embeddable chunk of code that can be placed on a website, blog or social networking page. The ability to create a widget from scratch often falls outside the technical know-how of even some of the most advanced multimedia journalists and the process is often deferred to “the tech side.” If your newsroom doesn’t have the funds to hire a pricey widget developer (and who does these days?) there are a few inexpensive or free options to provide widgetized content to your readers.

Perhaps the most novice-friendly online widget creator is Widgetbox. The site not only provides a variety of widgets to browse for inspiration, but makes creating a Flash-, HTML/Javascript-, or web-based widget as simple as possible. For the Flash and web-based options, users can simply plug in the URL to the content to be widgetized and the site does the rest. Those users who want to create HTML/JS coding from scratch are assured their widget won’t be crap — Widgetbox reviews each widget and bounces malformed ones with suggested corrections before it is made available through the site.

Those who want to provide blog content in widget form can create a Blidget, or blog widget like the example on the right, in literally minutes. The blidget can be branded with a logo and a variety of colors and instantly be made available to fans of your content. A complete guide to creating widgets with Widgetbox can be found here.

iWidgets provides yet another reason to skip the pricey programmers. Multimedia techies with a basic knowledge of web development can create widgets that mimic the look and feel of social networks like MySpace and Facebook and move away from the basic rectangle look that many widgets have adopted. iWidgets touts its “PowerPoint-style drag-and-drop” approach to widget creation which is helpful for those budding widget developers. Creating widgets on the site is visually intuitive and offers great flexibility.

One other online widget creator worth checking is Sprout, which offers video, audio and photo integration. Sprout has a few widget templates to choose from or you can build your own using the site’s Flash-based editor (whose interface has the same feel as working in Flash). Best of all the online service is free.

No matter how a widget is created, it must be created with the user in mind. StickiWidgets has a definitive list of the ten things to consider when building a widget that everyone should read before embarking on a widget-making odyssey.

Now that you know how to create a widget, read this post to see what a good widget looks like.