I didn’t mean to be. But I can’t help myself. More and more often I find myself talking to startups and I hear myself selling them on Widgets. Widgets are a great way to “get viral”. A widget can display your service/site/product in front of more eyes than anything else on the web that you can buy right now.
I’m really hard pressed to find a business that can’t benefit from creating a widget – if you are building something social, it’s hard to beat a widget. Widgets are relatively cheap – basically you write a small amount of code that re-packages some existing code (functionality) from your web site. And others can display that section or your site on many other sites. It sounds too simple to be true. It isn’t though – at least not yet – not until the space is so crowded that there just isn’t room for yet another widget. We are a LONG way from that, I think.
I’ve had three conversations with social startups this week – and in each case one of the things I recommended is that they develop a widget. Why? Widgets are an extension of your web site – a way to put part of your site on MANY sites. For very little incremental cost. There are tens of millions of blogs – giving blogger’s a widget is like taking candy from a baby. It costs you very little, and it adds value to the blogger’s site. Win-win.
So today I registered widgetvangelist as a domain name, and as both Blogger and WordPress blog names. No idea what if anything I will do with them. But I get carried away with domain names at times. And now blogging URLs are getting to the point where they are damn near as valuable as the domain name. When in doubt, register.
So I am “The Widgetvangelist” now – and I’m going to share something with you that I’ve been working on (I will share no code – my code is ugly – but it should be easy for anyone knowledgeable in the art of software design to replicate this.)
I’ve been working on my own little “widget engine” – a generic engine that allows anyone to quickly add a widget to their site that adopts the “look and feel” of the target site (blogs, currently) and applies that look and feel to the widget. Basically, you just suck in the CSS from the target site, apply it to your widget (thereby customizing it on the fly for your target site – your customer)… and you spit out Widget code that looks like it is native to the target site.
The target site doesn’t have to do anything to enable this other than providing the URL to the site. The widget then adopts the colors, font, sidebar width (since it is assumed the Widget will be placed in the sidebar), etc of the host site (in my current test case either a WordPress or Blogger blog – but it could be extended to any site that uses CSS).
Is it valuable for you to write widgets that adopt the look and feel of your customer’s site? Certainly. People spend a huge amount of time getting their sites looking “just so”. If you can adopt that look and feel, with no significant effort by the website owner, you are increasing your attachment rate. You are reducing the barriers to entry. You are enticing. You are selling.
I was inspired to try this by Windows Live Writer (a great blog posting tool). WLW reads my CSS and allows me to preview my blog post in my template prior to me posting. I figured if they could do it for a blog post, I could do it for a Widget.
So can you. And I would love to see some code popup in the public domain to allow this. Some code written by a programmer – not someone like me 🙂