There is a whole lot of talk about widgets and gadgets as new methods of interaction; it is a very enticing topic that takes in a couple of major trends in the online world. Central to it is the idea that we no longer live in a “push” economy where people are willing to be dictated to in terms of content. Everyone is discriminating in what they choose to receive, and they will be the barometer of what is important for them to invest their time in. Plugging something into a social network (e.g. Facebook) and RSS for easy updating and easy choice are both very “2.0” and of the moment. To take a little barometer about where things are at the moment in the widgetsphere (*tm bmcnulty), the growth in widget usage is pretty exponential, a 7% usage increase of the worldwide online population from April to June of this year (to 239.1 million people).
There are 3 major platforms for widgets; namely the web, desktop and mobile (the iPhone makes the mobile more interesting), however the majority of widgets are being plugged into social networking sites (in fact the top 15 social networking sites make up 90% of the installed widgets.
Your widget can be either static or updated from new content that you update. The static form of the content can take many forms, from novelty (a bug walking around your desktop), sticky notes to a currency convertor. Good for branding, potentially advertising and accessing your database
The updateable content is more RSS driven, e.g. weather, blog posts, top movies, the list is endless. Taking all the content you have and condensing it into a miniature version that appeals is a difficult proposition. You may get all the cool rounded corners and “Apple”-like sophistication, but people still have to have a hankering for what you’re looking for. How to make it viral to ensure significant distribution is a difficult proposition.
Which brings us to distribution; there are a number of sites set up for widget distribution at the moment, but I’m not sure if there is anything failsafe (except for having something that really appeals to a basic need people have, and letting it go virally). I think you have to leverage your current audience and get them to interact with it first and foremost. Using that will also move you up the barometer on Google or Facebook and ensure that you’re one of the more popular options.
I’ve been reading a couple of sites which are pretty interesting in this area.